Every great team has a great leader standing at the helm. And here at Aisle Planner, we are very lucky to have one of the most passionate, inspiring, and driven women in the wedding industry leading the charge! When Christina founded Aisle Planner in 2013, she truly could not have imagined exactly the magnitude of what she was building. Today, Aisle Planner has evolved past being a one-woman-operation to a small but mighty team serving a global community of wedding and event planners in over 52 countries around the world!
Read on to find out more about Tina's original inspiration behind Aisle Planner, how she has accepted the challenge of building a business in the ever-changing tech industry, and everything she is most excited for in the years to come!
After working in the industry as a wedding planner yourself, what was the motivation behind starting Aisle Planner?
I planned weddings and events for years using a mash-up of different tools—excel spreadsheets, word documents, google docs and a host of project management tools. Even with all the different tools, I was using at the time, I always felt really organized, and in fact, my couples (and all of my vendors) would compliment on how organized I was. As my business grew and the more events I booked, the more I found myself overwhelmed. It’s never a good place to be when you’re doing something you know you love and are truly passionate about, but are so stressed out that you’re no longer able to enjoy your work.
At the same time, I found myself dreaming of bigger and better things for my business, but frustrated by the fact that I didn’t have (and couldn’t find) the right resources and tools that were capable of moving my ideas forward. Add a husband and baby to the mix, and achieving the dreams I had set in motion all the while being a good wife and mom seemed impossible. And it turned out that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way—once I started to share my frustration with many of my colleagues and planner friends in the industry, I learned that most shared similar sentiments.
The extreme frustration—coupled with the fact that this was a widespread problem many were facing in the industry was really the inspiration behind Aisle Planner.
How do you feel previously working as a planner has helped you thrive in the work you are doing now?
As wedding and event planners, we are constantly faced with difficult and challenging situations on a regular basis. It’s no surprise that “event planner” is named one of the top five most stressful and demanding jobs ever! While many of the scenarios I’ve faced as a planner have caused sleepless nights and stress beyond compare, every challenge, struggle, and experience I have had as a wedding planner has contributed to who I am today.
For all the brides who wanted more than their budget could bear—I learned to get creative by doing more with less, allowing me to understand deeper the importance of building, balancing, and managing budgets. For the time that a wedding venue shut down a few weeks before a wedding, I learned to move quickly on my feet, recalibrate, and rebuild to keep plans moving forward. From the time the caterer accidentally threw away the bride’s cake topper (and family heirloom) into the dumpster, I learned the value of rolling up your sleeves and just getting the job done. Even the dirty work plays a big role in the bigger picture. For each time I had to calm a nervous bride or groom, I learned to be supportive and compassionate of the emotions of those around me.
Through all of this, I’ve learned that things won’t always go as planned, but regardless of what’s thrown my way, I can handle it—and live to tell a good story! I look back at the last fifteen years of working in the wedding industry, and I don’t think I could have been more prepared for my role here at Aisle Planner.
What is your favorite Aisle Planner feature?
While the Design Studio is certainly the most glamorous feature (and the one that I have the most fun with), the wedding planner part of me has a hard time choosing just one—especially since each and every feature plays an integral role in the planning process! The features that exist right now just scratch the surface of what we’ve mapped out for Aisle Planner. That said, what will be my all-time favorite feature may have not been released yet!
The tech industry is largely portrayed as male-dominated. How does it feel to be tackling a tech start-up with a team of women at the helm?
As a wedding planner (without a technology background) a big challenge was finding accessible educational resources, support, and mentorship—my tribe so to speak—that I could relate to as a female entrepreneur in the technology space. The local start-up scene (as supportive as it is) was and is still primarily male-driven, and while I can’t help but be inspired by all the amazing entrepreneurs doing amazing things, I look forward to the day when there will be more support for women in technology.
It’s all about perspective, and the fact that I am a female leading the charge of a tech start-up didn’t make me feel that I was any less capable of making things happen. If anything, it made me even more excited to be a woman-led business, building purpose-driven technology for an industry that is predominantly led by women.
I’m extremely proud to have attracted an amazing team here in the offices of Aisle Planner. The office brims of excitement and creativity on a daily basis. The fact that we all just so happen to be a team of hard-working, talented women may not have been completely accidental.
When you started building your team, what were you looking for?
In everything that we do, regardless of whether you’re planning a wedding or event, building a business, or creating a life you love, it all comes down to one thing—the people you choose to partner with on your journey. When it comes to building the right team, I’ve always felt that when passions, values, and motivation align, you can create the most amazing things. So quite naturally, these are things I look for as we continue to build out our team.
Success is not effortless. Our team carries this business on their shoulders every single day, no matter what crazy hard challenges we are up against. That takes true passion. I’m genuinely excited to continue to build out a team of like-minded individuals who are just as passionate about the wedding industry as I am.
What are the critical elements of your workspace you couldn’t live without?
It’s the little things that keep us creatively inspired, so fresh flowers and lit candles are everyday essentials. By 2 p.m., it’s an understatement to say that we’re powered by dark chocolate. We work hard and love to celebrate our wins, so we always have a bottle of champagne (or two) in the fridge. And of course, I couldn’t live without our office dog, Kula (my golden retriever) curled up at my feet.
When the pandemic hit, what was it like for you and the team to transition to virtual work?
As timing would have it, we had just signed the lease on our brand new offices when the state (and much of the country) went on lockdown in mid-March, making the shift to a remote workplace immediate. We are a small team, to begin with, and half of our team is now spread across the US, so for some, the transition was seamless. For others, including myself, we had to completely reimagine the way we work, set up new online systems and processes, and explore ways to keep company culture alive and morale high.
A lot of trials and errors (and a year later), the desks in our new office are still empty, but we’ve found new ways to stay socially connected, motivated, and productive during this "new normal." Team meetings, happy hours, and even our annual holiday party went virtual this past year and though we’re far apart physically, it feels like our team has become closer than ever. I'm happy to say that even when we finally return to the office, many of the systems we've put in place during the pandemic will continue to keep us even more organized and efficient than ever before.
With the pandemic in mind, how do you feel that Aisle Planner has adapted, and is notable in terms of the flexibility it provides when working with others virtually?
The pandemic and social distancing measures have made online planning and collaboration more of a necessity than ever before, and we've seen record growth as wedding pros are looking for an online solution to help them not only manage their business but work better together with their team and clients from afar. Even after pandemic restrictions have been lifted, online planning and collaboration will continue to be a growing trend, so we've been hard at work building and adapting our tools to better support that online collaboration and communication process. The bottom line is that having a place where you can "meet" your clients online and share important information to help move plans forward together gives you and your clients more flexibility throughout the planning process and an overall better working relationship, no matter what is happening in the world around us.
What excites you the most about technology?
I’m excited by the endless possibilities that the right technology for an industry can enable. I am also excited about the possibility to support, improve and move forward in an industry that I’m passionate about. This brings me back to the reason we started Aisle Planner—to empower men and women in small business with technology that enables all the possibilities that do not exist with current solutions. I’m mainly inspired by our purpose—to build solutions with technology that allow small business owners to work efficiently and do more with their time, make more money, lead better lives and ultimately stay passionate about the work that they do because of it.
What most excites you about the future of Aisle Planner?
There are so many things that have me excited about the future of Aisle Planner. I’m always excited about supporting the growth of our community of wedding professionals. I’m also excited to continue to build out our team here at the offices of Aisle Planner. We’re always evolving and growing with great new features continuously on the way as we innovate.
What lessons have you learned along the way of building your business?
I’ve learned many things along this journey, and I continue to be humbled by the lessons I learn with each passing day. I’ve learned there’s no one right way to building a business and that as one person, you can do more than you think you can. I’ve learned that you can pave your own path, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. I’ve learned that those mistakes are the very things that make you stronger and in the long run, help you forge ahead. You can make things happen, even when the odds are against you, with sheer will and hard work.
“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”
- Coco Chanel
What book are you reading right now?
Currently on my nightstand: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner. While it’s a departure from the business books that I’m typically drawn to, this book has me hooked. I’m only halfway through, but there’s something about Coco Chanel’s story that resonates with me. From humble beginnings, Coco Chanel worked tirelessly to transform the way women viewed not only fashion life and their place in the world. It’s amazing to think that something like fashion can have the kind of impact that it does. Throughout the novel, I've found myself constantly reaching for a notebook and pen to jot down gems I've found. One quote in particular, in speaking about a popular hairstyle at the time which she pushed for women to no longer wear, she said;
"No horsehair frame to elevate one’s chignon? That would indeed be revolutionary. We spend hours each day having our hair styled. If we forego the effort, imagine what else we could do with our time?”, she goes on to say, "I worked my fingers to the bone to liberate women from our cloth chains, our minds remained as closed as ever to the possibility that we might deserve more than a husband, a child, and growing old cooking sausage.”
How can you not be inspired by such passion?
Coco’s perspective on the importance of women and their time parallels the dream we have for Aisle Planner. She knew her work was so much more than just fashion. She recognized the importance of highlighting women's independence, the usefulness of their time, their potential, and their overall contributions to society. We wholeheartedly standby this thought process. For all planners, both men and women, we work to create a platform that is much more than just planning and design tools. It's about what these tools enable their user to do, whether its to create spare time to spend with their families, focus on generating new leads and growing their business larger than they ever could've imagined, or taking the time to volunteer or explore a hobby that will help make the world a better place. Coco Chanel’s work had a lasting impact on the world, and I can’t help but feel inspired and encouraged by her life story.
I want to end by sending out a great big virtual hug to our community of Aisle Planners. I’m blessed to be doing what I love, and I don’t take for granted the support, love, and encouragement that you all continue to show us on a daily basis. I’m able to overcome hurdles and make the biggest strides forward because of this, and for that, I am beyond thankful.
All photos courtesy of Stetten Wilson