Thursday, December 8, 2011

Your Wedding Bands, Desserts and Photography

Hey Y'all! So I swear I have a bunch of blog goodness stored up in my head, but these past few weeks have been a blur of holiday events, my Baby Preston, (trying) to juggle my other bundles of endless energy, and plowing through a rebranding process...let's just say, I'm really looking forward to enjoying a few days off with the hubby ("the boss man").

But before I get ahead of myself, I wanted to share a few shots of our clients' wedding bands displayed with our candy. Going through the process of overhauling our site has been fun, but it's also allowed me to go through a lot of our past weddings and photos. One of the shots that I love to feature are when photographers play around with our client's wedding bands.  For me, candy=fun, and when a photograher can play off the items on our table, it's just great and most of all, something different.


And of course, special thanks to my friends over at Limelight Photography! They have also been overhauling their site & logo and everything looks fantastic. Rebecca and Michael's determination in this business is more than inspiring, please take a moment to check them out.

P.S: say a little prayer that Baby P gives us some sleep tonight ;)
P.P.S (a little confession): Due to Baby P, waking up and keepin' me busy this post has been written, rewritten, saved, done over...oh, about 5x's already! LOL!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Hello Everyone!! Hope all of you have had a great Thanksgiving Holiday! I know I have as I'm sitting here, three days later, in my stretchy pants. This has been a different Thanksgiving for us, family, Baby Preston, growing business...the list goes on. So in honor of the craziness, I thought I would share the three very things I'm *thankful* for today.

1. Love. Love. Love. Love for my husband, my best friend and my business partner. We met almost ten years ago, working together for a national, soccer league in Tampa. And today, we work together as partners with Chic Sweets. I have to tell you, there is something very special about being able to work with your spouse. Steve is not only my husband, but my true partner in every sense of the word. Someone I turn to as a friend, as a colleague, someone I can brainstorm fantastic (crazy) ideas with, and then someone I can come home, lay on the couch and watch "Dexter" with. I'm a lucky girl.

2. Children: Brendan, Spencer, Carson and Preston. I can't lie. It's crazy. It's busy. There are times when Steve and I look at each other and want to run for the nearest exit. But it's our life. And the craziness is our own and that is something we are extremely protective and proud of. This was our first Thanksgiving with Preston and all I can tell you, is that we are silly-happy with our lil guy.

3. My Work: Three years ago, I sat down on couch with my husband, debating what our next jobs would be. We both worked full time but had frequently picked up second jobs every now and then to bring extra income into our household. This time around was different. I didn't want to pick up a second job that didn't mean anything to me, that I didn't love and most of all, that I didn't feel fulfilled in. So after some brainstorming, Chic Sweets came about and I'll be honest with you...not a day has gone by that I'm not grateful for having made that decision.

Does that work ever end? Nope. Is it insanely much harder than I thought it would be? Heck, yes.

Do I love it? So much, my heart bursts.

For that, I'm thankful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preston George Clamp...20 days

So here I am with, laying in bed and staring at the most beautiful, bundle of goodness you can ever imagine. Can everyday be like this? It's been almost 20 days since Baby Preston came into our world and it's been a mixture of total bliss and exhaustion.

I gave birth about a week early before my due date. It's amazing, the process of child birth. This is my third son, and you would think I would be an ol' pro at the this, but every experience was so very different. My last birth was very quick, labor was under five minutes and without an epidural. So this time around, I was very much on board  and determined with going "all natural."

So finally, on October 28, I was induced at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital. My little guy didn't waste anytime because within the hour, I was grabbing the rail, drenched in sweat, both my husband, Steve and mother becoming a painful blur in the background. I could see their mouths moving, but was just completely lost in my pain that I couldn't hear anything. My wonderful nurse, Sandy, gave me a knowing glance and said, "Natalie, you are at 7cm. This is it, if we don't do the epidural, it will be too late. Don't worry, you have nothing to prove by trying to do this without the epidural." "Okay, she's totally right. Let's do this." Now, this is where it gets slightly funny. By the time my epidural was put in, my stubborn-self was already pushing. And within 20 minutes, Preston came into the world. Ironically, since the epidural takes about 20 minutes to take full effect, it only really kicked in, once he was born...yeah...I know...too funny. So there I was, holding my bundle of joy, but with no feeling left in my legs!

After the labor, Steve and I settled into our hospital room and examined every bit of goodness, that I call Preston. I mean it. Serious. Perfection. There is just no way to describe it.  Although it was a two-day hospital stay, I truly cherished the time alone with Preston and with Steve. Then it came time for Spencer and Carson my little boys to meet Preston. Wow...10 months of preparing them is nothing when they got to hold them for the very first time. The look on their faces is something I will never forget. And of course, there just aren't any words to thank my parents for holding down the fort at home while we were at the hospital...I know it wasn't easy!

So since coming back from the hospital, our lives have been a total whirlwind. Adjusting to life with Baby Preston, introducing Preston to Spencer, Carson and Brendan (my stepson), breastfeeding, trying to not to feel too bad about still walking around in my maternity sweatpants, having a few whytheheckishecrying moments. And oh yeah, still running Chic Sweets. Is our life crazy? Um, yes. Would I have it any other way? No, in fact, I can honestly tell you as sleep deprived as we are right now, I could not feel more blessed than I do right now. This pregnancy and this past year, have been unbelievably difficult, yet, Steve and I have managed to come out of this, stronger and more committed to making our lives work. God is definitely GOOD.

On that note, instread of  turning this blog entry into an epic-novel, I opted to give all of you a slideshow of a few photos, played alongside a song that literally brings tears to my eyes everytime I play it.

Enjoy and THANK YOU so much for all of your support and sweet messages on my facebook page. My family, Steve's family, all of our amazing friends...Love. Love. Love.

Natalie and Baby Preston

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Real Event: Barger Estates Grand Opening with Confetti Events


Hey everyone! Wow, okay nearing my last hurrah with Baby Preston, so I'm determined to leave you with some great events before I depart (briefly). This next one is by one of my favorite, no seriously, I mean one of my most favorite people, Jamie Billig from Confetti EventsJamie has this insanely unique way bringing the best group of vendors together-- to create an event that really just took my pregnant self to another level.

This event was to launch the opening of Barger Estates. This breathtaking venue is now available for rental (weddings, corporate events/retreats, parties, etc.) The Barger Estate features elegant styling and architecture and yet has all of the modern amenities that make for the successful staging of almost any event....and yes, I did catch myself daydreaming once or twice about what it would be to live here ;) 

For rental information contact:
Facility Representative: Leah Barger
phone: 813-344-1910

Vendor Credits:
Event Planning: Confetti Events
Photography: Limelight Photography
Candy and Dessert Table: Chic Sweets
Floral and Vintage Furtniture: MMD Events
Linens: Connie Duglin
Entertainment/Music: Inspire Entertainment 
Video: The Cinematic Moment Videography
Cakes: Cakes with a Kick
Tables & Chiavari Chairs: Signature Event Rentals

For a complete list of vendors, please check out Confetti Events blog here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Photography and your Business


So one of the most frequent questions I get asked is "how did I start out with great photos on our site?"

The truth is, in the very beginning, there was nothing I could do but use a few digital images that I had taken when I volunteered to do a few tables for close friends, baby showers, my son's baptism, etc. Was I happy? Nope, hated all the shots but I had to start from somewhere. Eventually, once I established some relationships with partners in the industry (photographers, event designers) did I start to get requests to do photoshoots....

Photoshoots: Now this can be a beast in itself. I'll be honest, had no idea what a photoshoot or what was expected from my end. Luckily the very first shoot I did was partnered up with MMD Events and Limelight, two partners that were able to tell me exactly what the feel for the shoot was--color palette, overall style, design, etc. From there I realized that photoshoots were a great tool for me to decide the type of shots I wanted.

What to do once you have pictures: Besides jumping up and down because you can FINALLY see your work through a professional photographer's lens, is decide how the pictures are going to be used. Is the intend of the photoshoot to submit to a great, wedding or entertainment blog, promote a venue or product, or was the photoshoot simply a tool to build the photographer's portfolio and of course, your own? There can be a multitude of reasons, but either way, just make sure that you are on the same page as everyone else on the team.

The shot (above) was submitted to a great entertainment blog, called The Cake Blog. Got me some great buzz off the feature and right from the start. Of course, the pictures were submitted only after getting the "okay" from the other photoshoot partners (Limelight/MMD Events) and in the end, they were thankful since everyone involved, recieves credit (no questions asked). Again, this goes back to building on those relationships!! If a photographer or other industry partner, sees the value in partnering up with your business, you'll find that the opportunities will start coming.

Other ways to use photography (with photographer's permission and credit): I created great photobooks that I take to all of my personal consultations and bridal shows. The books are my voice and I go to them constantly as a point of discussion, for inspiration, ideas, etc.

Investment: Every vendor's investment in the time, work, products/services put into a photoshoot are different.  In my case, my investment was not only time, but an actual product (candy/desserts). This forced me to evaluate my marketing costs and what photoshoots meant to my work. What is more valuable to me right now? Spending money on ad space in a magazine, or getting involved in a few photoshoots where I could build what, at the time was a weak portfolio. In my case, the answer was clear.

Trade-outs: Sometimes I was able to build on my portfolio without having to do a staged shoot. Whether it be agreeing to do a dessert table for a photographer's grand opening or a Holiday party for a networking group, I always ensured I would be able to recieve the images afterwards. Again, just simple ways vendors can create opportunites for eachother.

IMAGE CREDIT: CARRIE WILDES PHOTOGRAPHY/STUDIO LAUNCH's okay to be picky: Now that I've been in business a few years, I have adjusted a bit, but overall, I continue to wholeheartedly believe in the value of photography and what great shots have meant for my work. Are there times I say, "No?" Of course. Everything has be a great fit--is this the type of photoshoot you want to participate in? Is the timing right? Can you afford to do a shoot at this time? Is the ultimate purpose of the shoot in line with what you are looking to build on? Don't be afraid to ask yourself these questions (everytime).

Well, I hope I was able to provide a bit more insight into my relationship with photography and it's value to my work. Will touch on advertising in a few weeks...

Natalie PLUS Baby Preston (37 weeks and counting)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Real Wedding: Don Vicente Wedding by Kenzie Shores Photography

The Don Vicente Inn is one of my all time favorite venues. It’s the perfect combination of historic elegance and style and to be honest, some of the best dessert tables we've done have come out of here. And this next one, photographed by Kenzie Shores Photography, is at the top of our list.

Not only is the venue a great backdrop, but I absolutely love it when a bride isn't afraid to go out of the box with an intense, jewel-toned color palette. Throughout the process, Lauren had an incredible eye and had an opinion and vision for every aspect of this dessert table. She was a lot of fun to collaborate with and of course, inspiring to alongside with.


Vendor Credits:
Photography: Kenzie Shores Photography
Dessert Table Concept and Design: Chic Sweets
Linen: Connie Duglin
Venue: The Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Marketing--In the VERY Beginning

IMAGE CREDIT: My husband Steve. First chic sweets head shot taken in my home, on the floor of my foyer.

So every now and then, I receive a few emails from other designers wanting to know how I got started in the VERY beginning, how I started up my site with amazing shots and styled photoshoots of my work, referrals to great partners in the industry, and typically I hold off on responding because the truth is, there were quite a few steps in the journey so I thought I would share a bit of personal insight from when I started.

1. Research...Research....Research (FREE): This is a big, okay huge, one for me. I knew from the moment I decided to become a business owner, that I wasn't going to rush the process. As much as I wanted "the now," I was going to take my time. This led me to the big question, of "how the heck do I get myself out there?" I spent hours scouring different businesses in the industry: florists, photographers, planners, wedding blogs, event designers, venues, etc. High-end, low-end, I wanted to soak it all in. I made a spreadsheet with every site I had been to, along with all of their contact information. I also got in touch with NACE, a great organization (along with a few others) that seemed to cater to the businesses I had been researching.

2. Your Visual Brand ($50+): I did spend some time on this, even it wasn't pretty at first. And if you can invest in this step, I say go for it.  A few weeks ago, I dove much deeper in the topic of  visual branding here. I purchased my domain through Go Daddy and got going through Fat Cow, and had a friend help me with a template (my current site) which had basic functionality, to upload my content and my photos. I designed my current logo using Microsoft Publisher and clip art (if you can believe that). Using my logo, I also created my business cards ($50.00 to $250.00). In the beginning, yes it can be hard, but I told myself that it was more important to just get out there and when I could elevate the look of my product, I would.

3. The Big Plunge, Making Contact ($150.00 to $200.00): I knew off the bat that whatever came out of my hands had to beautiful. At this point, I had done less than a handful of dessert tables with some "okay" pictures but I had to make it work. I went to Staples and got white, glossy laminated folders, clear labels and photo paper. On one side of the folder, I made a personalized letter (not dear Vendor, Dear XX Events) and on the other side, I did a one page collage of the work, along with a mini-bag of jelly beans. I took my Excel spreadsheet of contacts and just went at it. Was this time consuming? Yes! Halfway through, did I want to give up? Um, yes, but then I figured if I stopped then I probably wasn't built to be a business owner in the first place.

4. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up (FREE): Two weeks after my mailers went out, I went back to my list and followed up with EVERY one of my conatcts via email. And it just wasn't any email. Every email was extremely personalized. After my "research phase" I would regularly visit my contacts websites so it was easy for me to say "Hello Amanda, my name is Natalie from Chic Sweets. Hopefully by now you've recieved a packet of information. Can I just say, that I love your latest blog entry from the wedding you did at XXX. Fantastic!....." Or something along those lines. And you know what? I was getting responses back! Once they responded, I went onto the next (scary) step which was scheduling meetings.

5. Face to Face Follow Ups ($20 to $25): Again, kind of nervewracking if you've done anything like this before, but as I mentioned before, I was determined to make things happen. Although there were a few that did not have the time to meet, for the most part I was able to catch up with quite a few. Before I went into each meeting, I always had a plan/agenda in mind:
  •  Introduce YOU: Be honest. Be yourself. Be Authentic. I made a point from the very beginning to put it out there. I was new; still working full time; still trying to make connections; still working on my (weak) portfolio. And you know what? As humbling as it was to be so honest, there wasn't a vendor I spoke with that couldn't relate at some level, which in return always made for good conversation and more importantly, great advice and further connections.
  • Get to know the VENDOR: Not everything can be about you, right? Just like a job interview, I went into each meeting, knowing as much as I could about that vendor. Visited their website, their blog, facebook page, other vendors they had worked with in the past. At times if I felt nervous or that there was a lull in the conversation, I would go back to what I knew about the vendor and take it from there.
  • Marketing Materials: Although I was working full time, I didn't want to spend a fortune on creating materials for each visit, so I kept it somewhat simple. Since I'm a "sweets girl" I created a small favor package full of sweets, with not my logo but THEIR  logo on the package. I just assumed that I was one of many "newbies" reaching out to these industry vendors on a weekly basis, so why not give them something that was personlized for them? Great response from this AND many times the vendor would go back (after our meeting) take a picture of what I had created for them and post it on facebook or twitter....with something along the lines of "chic sweets visited us today! Yummy sweets" Again, just another small tool that created a buzz.

Okay, so I'm sure there are a few things that I'm missing, but hopefully this gives you a general idea of where I took my buisness for the first few months. Will aim to touch on my experiences with photography, press and advertising in future posts.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Halloween Inspiration: Daytime Segment

Hello Everyone!  This will be one of the last weekends before wedding season hits us in full force, so I can honestly say it feels beyond amazing to have a day, with minimal plans and with my family. BUT (big BUT) being the woman whose wheels are always turning, I'm gearing up for a Halloween Dessert and Fall dessert table in the next two weeks for a wonderful corporate client, which brings me back to a few segments I did for the morning show, Daytime with Cyndi Edwards and Lindsay MacDonald.

This was the first of a few segments that we did and it was an amazing, amazing experience that I will forever be grateful for.

So on that note, enjoy the segment and your weekend!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet the Team: Chic Sweets's Attendant/Designer/Stylist...the list goes on.


Very excited to (finally) have a moment to shed a little bit of light into those that help make Chic Sweets happen. People sometimes give me far too much credit for the work we do  and don't get me wrong, I'm always so flattered by the love but it would be dishonest if I ever gave anyone the idea that I do it on my own. And trust me, I'm still there at times, and there are quite a few days (I call them "the black-hole days") where we do everything out of our home and I look like a crazy-mess.  But as Chic Sweets starts to evolve I'm forever reminded of the constant help that we have and in trying to keep it real, I'd be nothing without them.

So let's start with Vanessa. I met Vanessa when I made the decision to collaborate with my dear friends over at MMD Events on a Style Me Pretty photoshoot with Limelight. It's funny, there she was...looking absolutely gorgeous and little did I know that months later, that we would connect again. And I'm not going to lie, I was nervous since up until that point, I had been at every wedding, every event, but  Vanessa managed right from the start (well, the first 5 mintues) to ease any fear that I have.

In addition to being a Chic Sweets' "Candy Girl/Attendant," Vanessa is also helping out on the creative side as well. She has set up tablescapes entirely by herself and her sense of design and style are just plain impeccable. Not to mention her personality makes for great company and well, let's face it y'all, dealing with a 3rd Trimester mommy and "the boss man" hubby is not easy. 

Lookin' forward to working with Vanessa for a long long time and am excited to share more about her, starting with a few questions...

WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT CHIC SWEETS? "Candy Girl" ;) I wear a lot of different aprons at Chic Sweets; I am an attendant, assistant, candy taster, roadie, expert bow tier, and table designer/stylist.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO US? The lovely Amanda Allen asked me to model for a Chic Sweets "Style Me Pretty" photo shoot! I had so much fun posing on rocks in heals while holding a jar full of gumballs that when Amanda contacted me and asked if I was interested in helping out. I jumped at the chance to work with the fabulous Clamp's and Chic Sweets some more!


CHILDHOOD CAREER DREAM? As long as I can remember I have wanted to be an event planner! For about 5 minutes in high school I thought I wanted to be in politics. I enjoy the discussion, but don't have it in me to go that route...parties are much more fun!

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE? In life: Working and being a full-time student for four years was one of the most challenging things that I have done, but I was determined to graduate on time and with no debt! SUCCESS!   With Chic Sweets: Neiman Marcus' Fashion's Night Out event, adults attack candy tables in a way that children never incredibly CRAZY busy that night!!! Out of tons of candy in only an hour and a half!

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST PART OF BEING PART OF THE CHIC SWEETS TEAM? This probably sounds cheesy, but honestly I have made two AMAZING friends! Natalie and Steve are awesome and have instilled so much faith in me. They have given me such a wonderful opportunity to learn about the industry and to have a REALLY YUMMY creative outlet!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Real Party: Chloe's Pink, Grey and Red Dessert Table!


Hey y'all! Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it...we've been burning the midnight oil here at Chic Sweets, so at 34 weeks pregnant I am going to admit that when I'm not working my tail off, hangin' out with the kiddos or decorating Baby Preston's nursery, I'm asleep with my swollen feet raised up under a dozen pillows!

So onto more interesting topics other than my venting, EXTREMELY excited to share with you this latest party. This table was for Chloe's 2nd birthday and was shot by her amazing mother Shay Cochrane, owner of Shay Cochrane photography. We were lucky enough to work with Shay on a previous photoshoot here with Every Last Detail. And if we go back even further, we first crossed paths during Making Things Happen with Lara Casey--a workshop and journey that has changed my life forever.

Shay also happens to be a genius photographer who was able to turn around some great images. I mean, really, I just keep on staring at these pictures...the lighting.....the daisies...the way all of the colors pop...the backdrop...I can honestly say that it's photographers like Shay that help bring my work to another level. So Shay, if you get a chance to read this: THANK YOU.

If you would like to read Shay's original post on her own blog, click here.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It's taken me some time to write this post. Just wasn't sure where it would go so I'm just going to stop overthinking everything and just let my fingers do the typing.

We just wrapped up a hectic week with midweek events, running on NO sleep, on edge, stressed out...near tears and breakdowns more times than I can count. Thank you God for my parents that have an amazing sixth sense, and were able to change last minute plans to come and help us both recharge. Mom and Dad--if you happen to take a look at this, there just aren't any words except I love you both. That's all.

So after everyhing is said and done, we were gearing up for my son, Spencer's first day at school and I can't even begin to tell you the emotions that ran through both my husband and I.  Here I was, with a laundry list of my own issues, and everything suddenly became very clear for me, and yup, the clouds parted. And that inner voice, crept up, reminding me as to why me and husband work our butts off and why we do what we do. It's so I can wrap my arms around Spencer and smother him with more kisses than he will ever want. It's to see that goofy smile of his and send him off to school. It's so he can one day look back and see everything his parents did for him and know that there isn't anything he can't do in life. And although life may be seem particularly tough at times, nothing will ever be important than family and the love shared between all of us.

Spence-y, I love you so much and I feel so amazingly proud to be you mama and cannot wait to start this journey with you, my silly, little goof ball.

And my breakdown when we said goodbye. My husband pushed me out of the classroom before I completely lost it..hee...hee.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rebranding and Lessons Learned

Hello everyone! Hope all of you are having a great week! I've been a bit scattered lately--you would think that having a slow week or two would be a much needed rest, but ironically it just reminds me of how much I need to catch up on....which in turn, makes me want to hide my 7-month pregnant butt under the covers!

In any case, some good news, website and blog are coming along wonderfully. Karrie Pyke has been ever so patient with me and it's just great to work with someone that just gets it. It also has involved a lot of homework on my end--what do I want the site to look like? Feel like? Ummmm....

To begin with, I was very cautious about entering the "rebranding" territory because I don't take that term lightly. It seems like everyday I'm hearing about a new site relaunching, but I'm a firm believer in that your logo, the colors, symbols, and tagline do not alone make up your brand. Honestly I wish it was that easy.  For me, a brand is the collection of everything you say and everything you do, all rolled up into what defines your brand. Changes in your approach, redefinition of core values--all of this happens below a level that your client would even notice. So bottom line? A name and a logo are key to getting recognized, but despite what many would think, they aren't the be all and end all, not by a long shot. And that my friends, has given me plenty to think about.

So on that note, above is a little glimpse into the site...just a glimpse. Still a long way to go but we are getting there. I just can't imagine how I'm gonna feel when this all comes together--to be honest I have so many feelings at this point, it's still hard to process. What else is there--let's see...updating marketing materials, continuously working on inspiration boards, narrowing down photos that will make the site and oh yeah and working on some different concepts that will be included as an add-on to our services. The ideas are there, just can't wait to see it all come together.