In celebration of Black History Month’s theme, ‘Saluting our Sisters’ we are thrilled to get an update from one of our remarkable graduates and find out how she has been growing her business since we first interviewed her in 2021.
Mercedes joined our business start-up course back in 2019 and since then, we have witnessed her wedding and events company 4YaParty, flourish and make waves in the industry. Mercedes has not only overcome the challenges of being a business owner and a mother but also emerged as an inspiration for others in similar positions.
What sets Mercedes’ company apart is its commitment to sustainability. For the past two years, they have proudly maintained a carbon-neutral status, going the extra mile by utilising an electric van to minimise their carbon footprint. Remarkably, Mercedes’ company became the first stylist to receive accreditation from the Sustainable Wedding Alliance, a testament to their dedication to eco-friendly practices.
Mercedes’ efforts have not gone unnoticed, as she has been honoured with two global wedding awards, showcasing the excellence and innovation she brings to her industry.
Her journey exemplifies the triumphs and resilience of black women in business, and we can not be prouder to share her incredible success story during this special month.
Read Mercedes’ original story here.
Teacher to business owner
Starting the Business Start-up Course turned out to be one of the best decisions of her life! Find out how a leap of faith has paid off for Successful Mum Graduate Mercedes in her fabulous interview…
Can you tell me a bit about your business and what you offer?
My name is Mercedes. I’m a venue stylist for weddings and events. I dress venues and hire props which are usually handmade using recycled materials. I’m based in Beckenham and cover all of South East London parts of Kent, Surrey and Essex
At what stage was your business before you registered for the Successful Mums course?
It was still in the very early stages. It was an idea that could be something but I was too scared to make the commitment.
I had been doing freebies to build my portfolio but no paying clients yet. It was very much in the risk-free stage! I was scared to make that jump from unemployed to self-employed and lacked confidence in myself to believe that I could do it.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
I became disabled during my pregnancy with my son Amari, and I still rely on a walking stick almost 2 years later. I couldn’t go back to work after maternity leave, so I became depressed. I needed to do something to keep myself busy. I needed to get my creative juices flowing again so when the opportunity came for me to become a venue dresser, I jumped at the opportunity. I used to be a teacher, I taught Early Years and KS1 and I feel the creativity and eye for detail I developed as a teacher has made my new role really easy.
How did you hear about Successful Mums?
I saw an advert for the January 2019 Business Start-up Course on Facebook. I clicked on the link and immediately felt as if I’d fit in. Everything about Successful Mums is so welcoming and warm.
What was your experience of the course?
The course was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life! No exaggeration, it literally dragged me out of depression. The social aspect alone, of meeting new people and spending time with them weekly really boosted my spirits and got me out of a slump. The wealth of knowledge that Derryn (our tutor) had was invaluable!I graduated from University with 2:1 bachelors with honours in Business studies and I learnt more in that 6-week course than I did my 3 years at university. The Course was not just about learning about business, there was so much more to it. I left feeling empowered; like a confident, savvy, clued-up businesswoman and mum, after I’d walked in, only seeing myself as a disabled mum at home on benefits.
How beneficial was it to be in a group of like-minded women who were in a similar position and had similar goals?
As I mentioned before, the social aspect of the course was one of the most helpful parts for me and my situation. You have a room full of women all with the same agenda and the energy that builds up in the room is infectious. We bounced ideas off each other and had our own personal focus group, but most importantly you leave with a group of friends.
What were your next steps after the course?
The course is so thorough, I actually got so many of my ‘next steps’ done during the course that once the course had finished I felt like what can I do now!?
I was able to start organising and reaching goals that I always thought were going to be way down the line.
I would have never had the confidence to run my own event if it wasn’t for the Successful Mums course.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
I get to see my family and spend time with my family! I decide what I want to do and when I want to do it and I feel empowered! I own a business and it feels really cool to have something with my name on that I could possibly pass onto my kids.
What have you been most proud of since setting up your business?
I actually can’t believe how confident I’ve become. I know I keep going back to confidence but I’ve been going to networking events and striking up conversations with strangers which is something I’d never do before, planning this wedding and events fair. I’ve had to do some cold calling which is completely out of my comfort zone but I did it, I’m doing it and I’m doing it with confidence!
What have been your biggest challenges?
I think my biggest challenge is lack of funds which is the same for many start-ups. I’m a lover of learning and there are lots of opportunities for continuing professional development in the wedding and events industry but I just keep telling myself that I need to prioritise and work with what I have.
“The course was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life! No exaggeration, it literally dragged me out of depression. The social aspect alone, of meeting new people and spending time with them weekly really boosted my spirits and got me out of a slump.“
What’s been the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
Believe in yourself and believe in your worth because if you don’t your clients won’t!
How is your work-life balance now you’re running your own business?
My family are so much more spontaneous now. We are able to see a bit of sunshine and just go to the park or the farm without worrying about work. I am so much happier now.
Any next steps or new plans for the business you can tell us about?
As I mentioned before I am organising a wedding fair in Bromley, so I am networking and getting in touch with suppliers who may want to showcase their business. I’m really expanding my network and getting to know some great small businesses.
What one piece of advice would you give a mum in your position who’s thinking of starting their own business?
Know your product inside and out and once you truly know everything you need to know about your product or service, then you will know exactly who your ideal client is.
And if you get the chance to do this course, grab it with both hands, it truly is a fantastic opportunity!
If you’re looking for beautiful decor without the guilt then get in touch with 4YaParty today! Check out their sustainable Christmas party package to add some extra fun to the staff party!
If, like Mercedes, you have a brilliant business idea but lack the confidence to bring it to life, why not join us on our next Enterprise Course and take the first step towards your entrepreneurial journey?