BLS interview with The Ravington, part 2
Derek continues his interview with Amber Gustafson the co-owner of The Ravington and former celebrity wedding planner from Los Angeles, California.
Amber Discusses What to Do at a Crossroads
Derek: Lets jump back to your Los Angeles days. I know a lot of the listeners will be at a crossroads themselves so I’m going to ask you a couple of questions. Tell me about, you said you spent almost a decade figuring out what it is that you wanted to do. What was that like, to actually go from the corporate world or from working for somebody else, then to just taking the leap, especially in a big market like Los Angeles?
Amber: I tend to be a fairly safe person, but I also move very, very quickly- and by safe, I mean, I kept my day job for a long, long time while I was building Amber Events. But when I finally got the light bulb ‘aha’ moment, that this is what I was going to be, I was going to be a wedding planner, it was very- I remember I came home and I told Eric, I said, “I know what I’m going to do, I’m going to be a wedding planner”. He said, “That’s so perfect for you, you’re so bossy”.
He said, “How do you do that?” and I said, “I don’t know but I’m going to figure it out”. So I started looking across the horizon and said, “Okay, so how does one become this?”. So I started training in areas that I thought could help me and it really helped me. On the weekends- so before I found my mentors in the wedding industry, I started working as a caterer server for caterers. I wanted to learn the background of basically food and, granted, in college I had worked as a server at a restaurant before. But catering for a large event is a different beast because you’re feeding hundreds of people at the same time and it really is- it’s kind of this magical thing that happens or it doesn’t happen. It all falls apart and people are angry and starving.
So I started training, working my weekends as a cater server at a Persian Jewish temple in Los Angeles. It was terrifying because I would serve scalding hot soup over a woman’s shoulder and she’d be covered in fur and diamonds. It was terrifying.
But then I found some mentors in the industry, the word got around that I was a good assistant, and a lot of wedding planners started to try to hire me to be on their team in their staff. I told them I appreciated it so much but no thank you because I’m building my own company, and in a few years I’m going to be your competitor. I was very honest with them but very thankful and appreciative of the knowledge that they gave me, and I did become their competitor shortly after that. They were my allies because I was always very, very honest with them. I don’t believe in stealing other people’s ideas, I don’t believe in burning bridges. I really believe that if you’re a good person and you’re good to other people, it’s going to help you in the long run. So those mentors are still some of my closest friends and they cheered me on and, wow, they just really supported me through the creation of my company.
Derek: That’s awesome. There are obviously so many hard workers out there but we’re an immediate gratification society too and it seems a lot of people don’t want to work up the ranks and do the dirty jobs or the assistant jobs to learn their way.
Amber: It’s crucial, it’s crucial, it’s crucial and I, maybe I feel like I’m sounding like a crotchety old lady these days because I’m saying, “These young kids, they just don’t know what they’re doing”. There’s so much to be said for learning the trade from somebody who really knows and is seasoned in it. Yes, being an entrepreneur is definitely- you have a backbone and you take risks and you kind of learn as you go it’s a lot of “fake it until you make it” and I believe in that. But I also really believe in doing some of the crap jobs at the beginning and really understanding. Get a work ethic; it’s really important, it’s really important.
Derek: What other advice might you have for someone that is looking at going into their dream career end and has not ever made that plunge?
Amber: Sure, I would say never, ever burn bridges. Then, be really- never underestimate the people in your community around you and what you can learn from them or glean from them. They can be your cheerleaders, they can give you leads, and they can really point you in the right direction. So if you’re a stay at home parent and you were thinking, “I really want to do something”, it’s not hopeless, you have this huge community around you. You have your church community, you have your parent friends. If you start putting out there what you really want to do and you start working towards it, it’s just amazing how things start clicking and falling into place. There is kind of an element of luck to life, but not really. I think a lot of it is just really, really hard work. Being positive and just blazing forward, just move forward, do something.
Derek: That’s awesome, that’s good advice. You mentioned earlier about- did you call it the wheel?
Amber: Yes, the wheel.
Derek: Tell me how important that bridge is. Especially for the majority of us listening, we’ll be able to relate to the wheel, even if we love what we do.
Amber: It is crucial, call it a sabbatical, call it a vacation, call it whatever you want but it really is important to step away from your life. Look at it and ask yourself, “Where am I going right now? Do I like the trajectory that I’m on? Do I need to readjust the compass? Do I need to scrap what I’ve been doing?” like, “Where am I going?”. And it’s definitely- when I first started Amber Events, I had these big goals and it was like, “I want to be making this amount of money per year, I want a celebrity wedding, I want people to know who I am, I want to have some media presence”. When I reached all those goals I got bored with it because I kind of hit the top, I kind of hit my ceiling.
I thought the only way that I can get bigger and better is if I throw my family to the wayside and be a workaholic on this and I’m not willing to do that. So it’s like I got to the top of my game and I thought, “Now I’m not- this isn’t fulfilling me anymore, so there needs to be another move and another change”. Thankfully, Eric and I were on the same team, same page, same team and we’re, crazily enough, starting a company together. Which, it’s kind of wild for a married couple and partners to start a business because it’s [laughs] definitely not recommended for a lot of people but we just decided, “Let’s start a new life”.
We are building the type of love where we can be present for our family. We’re basically co-parenting our daughter together, we’re expecting another child this summer, and we do it together. She has this kind of hippie upbringing because we’re always kind of taking her to meetings or bouncing around, it’s this crazy world but it works for us. We’re wanting to build a life where we can travel about two months of every year, so we’re wanting to build The Ravington in a way that we have staff managing it. That we can – and with technology and this amazing thing called the internet – we can absolutely travel and still run a successful company.