Almost a year and a half after the pandemic's arrival in the United States, the country is slowly coming back to life. For entrepreneurs like Michelle Norwood, this taste of what life used to be like is a breath of fresh air.
As a New Orleans native, Michelle is constantly inspired by the diversity that surrounds her. She is a strong believer that our different cultures and traditions are what create beauty in the world. Her hunger for learning about the differences that create us fuels her travels, her mindset, and her career as an event and wedding planner.
Michelle Norwood Events is a small event planning and design firm that works with clients from all over the world. The company cherishes intimate events that evoke good conversation, highlight the menu and music, and celebrate couples' backgrounds and history.
This past year has not been a walk in the park for event planning companies as all social life came to a halt. Michelle Norwood speaks to us about the impact of COVID-19 on her business, the obstacles she faces as a female entrepreneur as well as her mindset and outlook on the industry since 2020.
Honne: Why did you decide to start a business?
Michelle Norwood: Believe it or not, I had a career in finance before I started my business. I had been a total rule-follower up until that point. I got a taste for events while planning one for the company I was working for, and I never looked back. My brand and business have certainly evolved over the years. But ever since I started my business, I have known that I’m doing what I should be doing.
What does a typical day look like for you?
MN: A typical day is fun! I usually take client calls and work through emails but a lot of my time is spent either working hands-on with my clients and my partners or enriching my brand and business. I do a lot of styled photoshoots with New Orleans-based creatives to help inspire my clients and continue to push the design envelope. I spend a lot of time focused on food and menus as well. If I’m not out at a menu tasting, then I’m home, cooking and capturing it on my Instagram for my clients and followers. It’s part marketing, part guilty pleasure!
Specifically, as a female entrepreneur, have you faced any obstacles since starting Michelle Norwood Events?
MN: Yes but not necessarily within my industry. The weddings and events industry is made up of mostly women business owners. That being said, I do think that as female entrepreneurs, we face obstacles within the startup community and beyond. I think that because my industry is made up of female founders and because it’s soft and pretty and celebratory, it’s not taken as seriously as other industries. Let’s just say that, if I were a man running a small finance business, I don’t expect it would be this way. As a result, we have really tight support groups within our industry that enable us to stay in the know on the small business landscape.
I can’t imagine having an event business during a pandemic is easy, how has COVID-19 impacted you and your business?
MN: Ha, yes. It’s an interesting time. Weddings and events have been monumentally affected as a result of the pandemic and there’s nothing we can do about that. I’ve postponed, replanned, canceled, rescheduled, and everything in between. Weddings and events are an innate part of our culture and if there’s one thing everyone wants right now, it’s a great party!
Last year, we welcomed a massive recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement. How has that impacted you and your business?
MN: The BLM movement has called upon all of us to speak our truths and explore race relations in our community and in our businesses. It definitely ignited conversation within the wedding industry, much of which has been healthy and constructive.
What were some of the biggest difficulties you faced in the past year?
MN: I’m an optimist but as noted above, this year has not been kind to the events industry. With discipline and a laser focus on my brand and my ideal clients, I have been able to not only sustain but grow my brand awareness during this time.
What mindset have you had since the beginning of the pandemic? Has it changed throughout the year?
MN: Optimism! I’m a glass-half-full kind of person and I have not let go through it all. There have been valleys but overall, I have been able to hold on to my true friends, family, and partners and keep the big picture in mind.
Has the pandemic changed your outlook on the event business and your approach to your job?
MN: Not really. If anything, it has emboldened me. More than ever, I know that the way in which I have set up my business and brand is right. And I know that I love what I do so much that I can take on just about anything!
What has helped you get through this past year and a half?
MN: Connections with friends, family, and industry pros from across the country. If it weren’t for my phone and Zoom dates, I don’t know what I would have done!
What advice would you give to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?
MN: Ask yourself why you want to have your own business. If the answer involves passion and having a positive impact on others, then go for it. Also, mind your finances!