International Event Producer to Wedding Pro: How’d That Happen?
Owner and Founder of Finerr Weddings and Events, Vanessa Narvios sat down with Jacqueline Farkas (Marketing/Personal Brand Consultant and Founder of Marketing Service Boutique LLC) to discuss her career and what led her to become the successful business woman she is today.
By all accounts, Vanessa has had a truly interesting and unique life and career path, all of which has helped her build her (soon to be) empire where she grew a company in China as an international event planner, to now wedding planning pro back in her old stomping grounds. Here we are going to go over what was discussed in the interview. So grab your popcorn, take out your notepad and get cozy as we get to know Vanessa and learn more about her experiences.
Jacqueline: I’m very interested to hear about where you started your career and how it led you to where you are today!
Vanessa: Absolutely! So I started out my career in the hospitality industry. When I was young, my family did not travel- we only went to Vegas and grandma's house essentially. So, when I graduated high school at 17, my mom sent me and my siblings on a trip to Mexico. That was the first time I had ever been to a proper resort and I was just blown away. Not only by the culture and the beauty but the hotel we stayed in just sparked an interest in me that I hadn’t experienced before. My life was instantly transformed from that trip. I realized at that moment that I wanted to be in the hospitality industry.
I went on to dedicate my college career to building that dream for myself and formulating a career in hospitality. I studied abroad a couple of times. I moved to Spain and then over to Mexico. I was thinking “okay, this is what I am going to do. I will focus my career in hospitality and it's going to be so amazing. I’m just going to travel the world and resort hop essentially” and of course, that’s not exactly how it panned out.
I finished my undergrad and went straight into my graduate program in International Business and I ended up getting the opportunity to move to China. I went over there thinking I would be there for six months, learn all about business and come back. The minute I got there I was like “oh my gosh, people have no idea how amazing it is here!” Instantly, I decided I was going to put all of my eggs in this basket and go full force. After completing my six month program- I ended up staying and living in China for eight and a half years!
Jacqueline: Wow! That is amazing. Was there any particular influence that made you stay in China for so long?
Vanessa: Yes! So right when I finished my undergraduate, I landed my dream job with Marriott. My 24 year old self thought I had it all figured out and was so excited. But, I quickly realized that corporate life was absolutely not for me. Honestly, I hated it. I had all these dreams and thoughts and ideas and quickly realized in the construct of a global massive organization, this was not where I was going to be able to fulfill these dreams and ideas.
So then I started working for an events agency focused on international sporting events across Asia. I was the Operations Director and my role was to help to put structure into the business to help it grow and scale and hire the team. In this position, I had a ton of freedom and was able to really put my brain to work to implement my knowledge and expertise and watch the company grow and be successful. I had the opportunity to organize massive events and quickly learned that this was really what my niche was- event planning. This role was truly essential in helping me build my career and get the fundamentals in event planning. All of this led me to create my own event planning company in China- which is what I did after spending 4.5 years after working for this company.
Jacqueline: So, you transitioned into creating your own event planning company?
Vanessa: I did! I built an event planning company that I ran in China for about five and a half years. I specialized in corporate events…so everything from fashion shows to Macy's annual ‘Big Meeting.’ I ran a global entrepreneurship competition across 9 different countries which allowed me to travel across Europe and work in amazing places like Tokyo and Sydney and Televiv. This was such a challenging and rewarding experience and really grew me as a person and business woman immensely.
Jacqueline: So did you have to learn any new languages?
Vanessa: Yes! So after my life changing trip to Mexico- I went in full force into the latin american industry. So right away, I learned to speak Spanish. And then, with my 8 years in China, I also learned to speak Mandarin as well.
Jacqueline: Wow! That’s amazing. So how did you learn to speak these new languages?
Vanessa: In high school, I did learn a little bit of Spanish as the state requirements. I took to it really naturally… math was not my strong suit, so it had to be one or the other, haha. So I took what I learned from there and once I immersed myself in the culture of Spain and Mexico in my study abroad programs- I caught onto the language very quickly.
When I went to Asia, I spoke zero Mandarin. I definitely downloaded Rosetta Stone and closed it immediately. It felt impossible and so I assumed I would simply never learn the language. Then after being in China for a couple of weeks- I realized it was vital to learn the language if I was going to stay. So I began taking classes on the weekends and hiring tutors to come to my house in the evenings. I worked really hard and eventually gained enough fluency to conduct business in the language and lead my team.
Jacqueline: So let’s get into your expertise! What are your current expertise?
Vanessa: So I moved back to the states in December of 2019. I was planning to travel the world with my business partner and do the whole digital nomad thing, working from my laptop. We were all set to move to Bali for 6 months, the Mediterranean for 3 and then to the Caribbean for 3 months! It was quite the epic plan! Then….a few months in, the world essentially exploded…. Along with all our plans, and before you knew it, I was on a one-way plane to California, a place I hadn’t lived in almost a decade.
Once I arrived back, it was definitely a fish out of water scenario, to put it lightly. I ended up working for an E-commerce company for a while and then for a local winery, and with both experiences, I was quickly reminded how challenging it is to be the employee not the employer.
I used those experiences to remind myself what I’m made of, the things I’d overcome and achieved. I couldn't help but think, now back in my home country, there is no way that I wouldn't be able to make it happen here and be successful doing what I love!
Thus, shortly after, my events company, Finerr Weddings & Events was born.
Jacqueline: What is the meaning behind the name Finerr Weddings and Events?
Vanessa: I have always really enjoyed the finer things in life. Working in the hospitality and events world, I was constantly surrounded by nice things and it gave me the opportunity to live a very remarkable and luxurious lifestyle. I have always had a passion for life and the beautiful aspects of the world and when thinking of a name, I thought “what do I really want to celebrate and have as a vision for my company?” It’s about celebrating life’s finer moments! So, I added that extra r in there for flair and created Finerr Weddings and Events!
Jacqueline: Getting into some of the challenges that you encounter as a small business owner- can you share those with us?
Vanessa: With my educational background being business, I do have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of finance, branding, marketing, SEO. For me, some of the biggest challenges of running a small business are things like time/prioritization. Finding the time to get everything done is such a challenge! My to-do list is always a million items long and finding enough hours in the day is always a challenge.
Another challenge would be promoting yourself as an individual and not just your company. Showcasing why you, as a person, are the right person to hire rather than just promoting your business as a whole.
Also focus! As entrepreneurs, we have the “shiny object” syndrome. We have so many ideas and want to do so many different things at once that sitting down and focusing your attention on one or a few goals at once can be a big challenge.
Jacqueline: Do you have any tips or tricks for these challenges that you can share for small business owners?
Vanessa: Yes! The secret sauce for time management- especially in these last few months as my workload has quadrupled- is hiring out for the things I do not have time for (or that I hate doing). It’s been an absolute lifesaver. Like for instance, I know a ridiculous amount about marketing- I just simply hate to do it haha! I can oversee all of it and make sure everything is getting done- but to sit down and write out an Instagram post is just something that I despise doing. But it’s something that has to get done, it’s mandatory for small businesses. So hiring out- even though it can be tough to give up that control- is absolutely necessary for growth and development of your business.
Which also leads into the next challenge of promoting yourself vs your business. Many businesses just promote their company and the services they provide when that’s really not why people buy your services. They buy your services because of who you are, your values, your quality and level of experience that you bring to the table. So, I am trying to get better at making that a focus.
Leading into a tip for my last challenge, which is focus. A lot of time, as entrepreneurs, it's hard for us to really hone in on our core values and what we offer to our customers…especially when you have many different areas of expertise. I think that it's very easy, especially when you are first starting out to add in too many services or avenues into your business.
Now, I do think that it is healthy to do a little bit of everything in the beginning so that you can really figure out what you like, what you don’t like and what you’re really great at. Then from there, you can hone in and focus your brand to what it is that you really want to work on.
Jacqueline: To wrap things up, what business advice would you give to small business owners?
Vanessa: I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give to small business owners, which I feel is seriously the most important thing for small business owners, is to put time and effort into growing and nurturing your network. The network of people that you have around you, like your ‘hype crew’, is what is going to get you through those difficult times as an entrepreneur. Those people who understand the struggles of entrepreneurship are oftentimes not your friends and family. That support will really come from your network and the people that you know in the industry. Not only just emotional support, but those are the people who will have your back when you're in a pinch and need help as well. Building those relationships in your industry and having people to trust, to recommend, to get recommendations from are crucial.
On the same note, you have to make sure to build relationships in your network that are symbiotic. It cannot just be one way and you’re always the one asking. You have to be giving to your network as well for the relationships to grow and blossom. You have to show the love to receive the love!
Jacqueline: Thank you so much for taking the time to learn more about Vanessa and her incredible journey to becoming an entrepreneur and building her business! If you would like to listen to the podcast, you can do so right here:
S3E5: Build your Networking Circle with Vanessa Narvios
About the Interviewer: Jacqueline Farkas
Jacqueline is the founder and owner of Marketing Services Boutique. Her goal as a Marketing/Brand Consultant is to help you understand how to market your business, establish your marketing content strategy for social media and build a personal brand.
Jacqueline is offering 10% off her services to readers! You can learn more about her business and services and get in touch with Jacqueline here: www.marketingserviceboutique.com