Dream Catcher: Megan Pollard and Laura Ritchie

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BIO:

Megan Pollard and Laura Ritchie met when they shared a desk working in the fast-paced sales and design department of a DC catering company. After months of working as competitors, they had the opportunity to collaborate on a promotional event and discovered that their creativity and energy were a perfect fit when they worked as a team. The “what ifs” began flying and became the early seeds of a business plan for a full-scale events business providing clients with a complete design experience. After many shared family dinners, a few bottles of Malbec, and a logo idea sketched out on a cocktail napkin, Events in the City was born. Since launching in 2008, they’ve earned a reputation for planning the types of signature events that get featured everywhere and have received accolades ranging from “Ones to Watch” to “50 on Fire”. They work their magic out of two metropolitan DC locations, one of which is a collaborative studio for female entrepreneurs in Georgetown called Creative Collective, and have just launched a sister company called Etc. Coordinators.

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Q+A:

When did you know you wanted to pursue your business or venture? Laura: I knew in my senior year of college! I majored in Fashion Merchandising, which truly merges my love of design and fashion with business savvy. My senior year project was to create a company, from securing a real business loan to finding a brick and mortar space. I was the only one who created a service-based company, a wedding planning firm. Even back then I knew what I wanted to do, and got an A on the project to boot! I definitely made my dream came true.

Did your former career prepare you for running your own business? Megan: Our former career was related to our field so it certainly was a major component to our knowledge of the business. But it was not directly related to how to run a business. My dad was an entrepreneur my entire life, so I was always surrounded by the process. I was already accustomed to the long hours, dedication to the work, and times of elation and disappointment.

Did your original business plan change along the way or are you doing exactly what you set out to do? If it changed, how so? Laura: We are doing exactly what we always intended to do and have excelled far past our original dreams. But our business plan still changes frequently, as we stay flexible and open to new ideas and adventures that come our way.

What makes you different from your competition? Megan: Laura and I keep it very real. We are straightforward, relaxed, and full of energy. Many of our “competitors” in our market are in fact our friends.

“We don’t worry about capturing every client; we are more interested in capturing the client that is a perfect fit.”

What has been your biggest challenge to date? Laura: Figuring out how much to charge! We don’t have a physical item to show to potential clients so its hard to demonstrate what our time costs. I think we have a good formula now, but we always get nervous about increasing prices even though we know we deserve it and are worth every penny.

How long were you in business before you started to see real growth? What do you attribute that to? Megan: I would say that we really began to boom after about 18 months. Laura and I committed to attending every possible event, speaking to every potential partner, and utilizing social media to keep us popping up. It was sort of a “if you build it, they will come” kind of thing. We put out in the world what we wanted and in turn the clients started showing up!

How did you fund your dream? Laura: Megan and I each put $1000 into starting this company to get it up and rolling. Then we simply took every single event that came our way when we started out and used that money to fund the company. A simple start really, but we always put the company ahead by investing back in it as well as ourselves.

How do you organize your day to best optimize your time? Describe a day in your life. Megan: I carve out quiet time for myself each morning to prioritize my schedule. I get up at 5:00, about an hour and a half before my children and husband. I then work to clear out my inbox and prioritize the remaining tasks for the day.

Tell us about a time when you thought you should throw in the towel. What kept you going? Laura: We get asked all the time, “Do you ever have bridezillas?” I hate that saying mainly because planning a wedding is a high-stress time and we try to be sympathetic to people. But there have been a handful of clients and the occasional drunk guests who have treated us poorly. It’s not OK, and I have cried after being screamed at. It makes you rethink what you do and whether this job is worth that. But the good always ultimately outweighs the bad, so that is what I try to keep in mind.

The key to balancing it all is… Megan: Figure out how to throw the balls and not just catch them.

My proudest professional moment to date is… Laura: Pulling off a huge wedding where we made it snow, inside the ballroom, during the first dance. I cried like a baby!

 

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LET’S GET PERSONAL:

The three words that best describe me are…
Megan: Protective, Creative, and Driven.
Laura: Bossy, Creative, and Positive.

While on vacation I always…
Megan: UNPLUG! The away message goes on and the computer goes away.
Laura: Bring a million magazines.

On my playlist right now…
Megan: Broken Bells, Mumford and Sons, Florence and The Machine. But Disney is never too far behind – my daughters and I really get down to some singalongs.
Laura: Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Vance Joy, The Muppets (yes, The Muppets).

My favorite type of workout is…
Megan: High intensity – running, spin, or interval training.
Laura: Barre!

I rejuvenate by…
Megan: Being alone.
Laura: Getting a facial.

Being a mom and an entrepreneur means…
Megan: Multitasking at its finest! Everyone deserves your 100% attention so you have to just suck it up and feel fortunate for all of the things that require your attention. They are all things you created, so just get better instead of bitter.
Laura: Balancing time and trying very hard to do everything well from being present during playtime to making sure I have plenty of daycare time when I need to work.

A woman who inspires me is…
Megan: My business partner, Laura Ritchie.
Laura: My mom. She passed away four years ago from breast cancer and it was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. But I hear her every day and can take lessons from her even without her physically being around any longer.

Lately I’m inspired by…
Megan: Business development. I am really excited to see all of the possibilities!
Laura: Others. Instagram has become an obsession of mine but serves as an awesome inspiration for design elements in events, home, and fashion. I am constantly taking screen shots and saving them for later.

 

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WHAT’S IN YOUR OFFICE? (Answers from Megan)

I share my desk with Laura and our event manager – they are most certainly the most important things that are a part of my workspace!

I’m never without a notepad for making notes – it’s helpful for me to have something to reference later.

Coffee or water – I always keep something to drink nearby to keep me going.

My phone. It is not uncommon to find me responding to questions on both my phone and my computer simultaneously.

And our office would not be complete without… Our crafting station! We keep a variety of goodies on hand to help produce all of the beautiful tangible components of our business.

 

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AND FINALLY…

Tell us what LIVING THE DREAM means to you: Megan: It means having a schedule that allows me to be a part of all of the exciting events that happen with my two daughters, and being able to take special trips and enjoy quality experiences with them. It also means securing a satisfying lifestyle for my team. It is incredibly important to me that they are taken care of, inspired, and compensated for their dedication.

 

Want to connect with Megan and Laura?

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Image: [Abby Jiu]

 

So what’s your Dream Catcher story?

What small business have you been thinking about starting up? Perhaps opening a bakery or a photography studio, or maybe building an app is on your “to do…someday” list? What about that book you have wanted to write? Need a little help building a following so a publisher will even consider you? What cause is close to your heart — could your compassion develop into a charity that will serve others? What first steps do you take? Maybe you’ve thought of using your voice to start a blog but are unsure how to actually make money doing it?

If you have answered “yes” to any one of these questions, then keep reading.

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If you are still reading, then you are ready to take action. We honestly believe the place to start is by signing up for an ltdWORKSHOP! We’re not just tooting our own horn, the proof is in the pudding. Women who have come to an ltdWORKSHOP with an idea have left equipped with information about the viability of their idea, their target market and competition, how to budget and measure financial success, and how to engage with social media to gain the brand recognition they need to launch or grow their venture.

Still want more? Read on!

ABOUT:

The ltdWORKSHOP is designed to help would-be entrepreneurs, writers, and creatives further develop their big ideas. You will walk away from our time together with a comprehensive action plan taking you from thought bubble to viable business, complete with the resources and strategies to make it all happen.

To allow for time to digest the information, and do a little homework, we meet once a week for three weeks. The schedule allows time to develop models, concepts, and strategies, better understand your market and how to connect with it, and discuss how to get the funds you need to start up.

The class size is intentionally small to provide each person the attention their venture deserves and the feedback necessary to further develop their business, brand, and bottom line, and ultimately launch (or relaunch) successfully.

 

SCHEDULE:

Week 1

You and Your BIG Idea: Getting your concepts in writing and developing your elevator pitch.

Welcome to Your World: Understanding your industry and competition.

Bull’s Eye: Identifying your target market.

From Strategy to Reality: Creating a strategy to both launch and operate your venture.

 

Week 2

Make Some Noise: Communicating with your target market.

Get Some Attention: DIY Public Relations, branding, advertising and yelling from the mountaintop.

Rules of Engagement: Your virtual identity–building a website and social media presence that produces results.

Give Back: How to make a social difference with your venture when you’re a for-profit venture, and why it’s important.

 

Week 3

Action Plan: Creating a living business plan (we’re talking 4 pages max!)

Raising Dough: Coming up with the funds you need through crowdfunding platforms, friends and family, and angels.

Make It, Track It, Keep It: Budgeting, sales forecasting and bookkeeping tools and tips.

People Skills: Building the team of people you need so you can work on your business, not just in it.

 

WHO:

Workshop leader Nada Jones is the founder of ltd365.comltdLIVE and author of Sixteen Weeks to Your Dream Business.

 

HOW MUCH: 

$500–that’s less than $29 an hour for launching your fabulous future! In addition to a crazy amount of content, the price also includes worksheets and other supplies needed throughout the class, a delicious gourmet lunch, and a few treats in your ltd goodie bag.

 

SIGN UP:

Click here to sign up for our next ltdWORKSHOP on February 26th, March 5th and 12th in Pasadena, CA.

 

SOUND BITES:

Still not sure? We get it! It’s an investment of time and money. Here are 10 reasons why we think it’s the best investment you’ll make for your future. Read what others have said about their ltdWORKSHOP experience with our founder, Nada Jones–it’ll give you a little more insight into what you can expect to walk away with.

1) “Nada Jones is water for the thirsty entrepreneurial soul.  Her approach offers sound advice as to how you can turn your dreams into reality.” –Jill, Art Director at the Walt Disney Company and Fine Artist

2) “A businesswoman with a heart! Nada truly cares that your vision is carried out in a way that best suits your business and life goals. She is very good at helping you articulate your creative thoughts!” –Diane, Founder of Crushtique retail chain

3) “I was instantly drawn to Nada’s positive energy and startup knowledge. Her seminars are filled with valuable information, but the most important takeaway was the feeling that I too could have my own business.” –Tricia,  Stylist 

4) “I took Nada’s seminar and came away not only feeling confident in my ideas and ability to realize my entrepreneurial dreams, but with a confidence and renewed belief in myself as a person. Nada has a gentle and intuitive way of helping you uncover your own possibilities.” –Rebecca, Aspiring Entrepreneur

5) “Nada’s seminar was not only eye-opening from a social media perspective (what to do, what not to do) but it also encouraged me that I can do this. I was able to sift through what I did and did not what my business to look like, work with my partner on those things, plan for it and move forward. So worthwhile, so helpful…and the sense of camaraderie in that wonderful group of women was a testimony to Nada’s leadership that we women need to stick together to make our dreams a reality.” –Jill, Founder of Jill.Cate Design and Letterpress

6) “I appreciated Nada’s awareness and knowledge of simple, down-to-earth tools and applications to launch my vision.  The clear framework she outlined on how to approach my venture was so accessible and her no-nonsense approach is refreshing.  All of these, in parallel with her approachable personality, is a powerful force that has enabled me to dare to be different.” –Diane, V.P. Human Resources HP

7) “Nada’s wealth of knowledge regarding launching new businesses as well as her dynamic and engaging personality gave me hope and encouragement for my personal vision. I would highly recommend seizing the opportunity to take one of her workshops, if at all possible!” –Rosalind, Writer and Aspiring Children’s Book Author

8) “Nada Jones is an empowering voice–not just to women entrepreneurs, but to all women wanting to find meaning and make a contribution through their lives! Her wit and wisdom and personable style are not only encouraging but empowering! She is a force to be reckoned with!” –Pam, PhD, Assistant Professor of Family Studies

9) “I loved Nada’s class. I have been to others that also have the exciting, inspired feeling, but the difference with her class is that you also gain tangible information and know-how to put into action immediately. You not only walk away each time inspired but with a new level of confidence that you can now achieve lift off.” -Ryan, Founder of Savoir Flair and Tin Parade

10) “I felt recharged and renewed after being with such fabulous budding entrepreneurs.  Nada facilitated so well and she has the art of distilling a wide body of opinions/facts into a small set of salient take-aways.  She also understands how to best utilize social media for your line of business, always with the bottom line in mind. You will leave motivated and much more informed than you dreamed when you walk out the door – ready to start your new venture!” -Tamara, Co-founder of Salt Ink & Press

 

Image: [Heather Kirsten]

Copy Editor: Noelle Hale is a writer/editor/proofreader/wordsmith who in a former life was a lawyer and senior sales executive for legal research and education companies. She has known Nada Jones for 20 years and one of their first collaborations was the ill-advised completion of the LA Marathon without actually having trained for it first. After many wonderful years spent living and working in New York and Los Angeles, Noelle and her husband and their two children are now happily ensconced in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado.

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