The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a blessing in disguise for Samantha O’Donnell.
She lost her job as an interior designer in October 2020, but took the opportunity to start a new business doing something she has always been passionate about.
O’Donnell founded Sumptuous house, a Center Valley wedding planning business, in January, and the business is booming due to wedding cancellations a year ago. Lavish Haus also serves residents of Bucks County, Philadelphia, and the Lancaster area.
She said event planning was her specialty in college before moving on to interior design and admitted that she still wanted to start her own business.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s also a great thing,” she said. “I have to be able to make decisions based on what I think is best about working for someone and what they think. I must now make these calls.
O’Donnell worked with SCORE Bucks County Certified Mentors, Steve Scialabba and Steve Morello, to grow the business.
SCORE is a nationwide network of small business mentors that offer free support to budding entrepreneurs like O’Donnell, with county-level mentors offering guidance to meet the unique needs of local clients.
O’Donnell said the knowledge the SCORE mentors shared and their past experience have been critical to her and to the success of her business.
Morello said O’Donnell is very disciplined, brings a lot of passion to her business and shows great initiative. He said he had brainstormed with her on a marketing and pricing strategy and guided her as she developed the business plan.
Scialabba said O’Donnell had always had the entrepreneurial spirit to start the business, but needed help most organizing her time and effort.
She really goes the extra mile to make sure the wedding day is special for the couple by offering a variety of services and charging an appropriate price for them, he added.
“I think she seems able to find out what the customer needs and goes the extra mile,” Scialabba said. “It will offer services that may not be common in this industry, but they certainly add value.”
Scialabba said his main role at SCORE is to help aspiring entrepreneurs determine the next steps in their business growth and what their needs are.
He said the diversity of career paths is the most unique part of mentoring all of these new entrepreneurs.
“I really like that people are in different places and that they just tap into that energy and feel that enthusiasm that they have for this kind of new business that they are getting into,” said Scialabba.
Morello said SCORE is a great resource entrepreneurs should take advantage of, especially since aspiring business owners can engage with a mentor for free.
“I have mentioned SCORE to budding entrepreneurs who have never heard of it and have all benefited from it,” he said. “I’m sure there are companies that have never heard of SCORE and could really benefit from it.”
Morello said the demand for SCORE mentoring is only expected to increase with more businesses reopening and others opening for the first time.
O’Donnell said her main role is to help her clients and work out the timing with the brides, as this is usually their first time planning a wedding and they need someone they are looking for. to lean on.
She said rescheduled weddings due to the pandemic have helped her business grow, but there are also very few planners in the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County areas.
“People may not necessarily know this, that this is something that should be provided,” O’Donnell said, adding that she is working to market her industry by “simply training (potential customers ) that it is beneficial to have a (wedding) planner.
She said most of her work is done from home, but she has made site visits and met with clients in person on occasion.
O’Donnell has said that personalizing the wedding with the couple is important to her, and she really tries to incorporate the details of their personal lives into their special day.
An example of this, she said, is creating a napkin design or sign with a pet photo on it for couples whose pet can’t be there with them.
“I think that’s one thing that’s really important to me is making sure that there are aspects throughout the marriage that really touch couples and who they are,” he said. she declared. “So that really plays into the design and creativity of myself. “
O’Donnell said she hoped to hire more staff after the wedding season to help keep the business growing.
For more information on O’Donnell and Lavish Haus, visit LavishHausCo.com.