Many of you may know by now, I’m a proud Xavier University Alum! I earned degrees in both graphic design and photography from there, and always knew I wanted a career where I could combine my passions.
It was my sophomore year that I developed an interest in wedding photography. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be a photography assistant at a wedding and within hours I knew this is what I LOVED to do. After shooting that first wedding as an assistant I was so hungry for more. I loved it. I started shooting almost every weekend, and channeled a lot of energy into designing wedding invitations with my graphic design background on the side. I realized quickly that the wedding industry was the perfect place I could both a designer and photographer. With that I pursued getting my certification as a wedding planner.
In getting my certification I learned SO much about the ins and outs of wedding planning, traditions, timelines, working with other vendors etc. and realized just how many facets of wedding planning there are! Spoiler alert: A LOTTTTTT :) Shortly after getting officially certified I planned my first wedding. I went on to become the godmother of this couple’s first born, so yes, you can say it went well :) This experience was such wonderful confirmation that yes, this is what I was meant to do.
So, while a full time college student with a side job, and an internship at an awesome design company, I decided to officially start my own company. I remember sitting at my parents kitchen table, with my dad helping me register as an official business with the KY Secretary of State Office, and then going to the bank with me as I put funds from my part time job savings account into a business account. In 2014 OKOTA became official.
I was dreaming BIG. I knew this was going to be a success. So much so that I spent much more time crafting my business plan and marketing strategies than I did making copies of my resume and going on job searches. I realized quickly that what I wanted to do with OKOTA was not typical in the wedding world. One company that offered photography, invitation design, and planning was not typical. I was discovering brides LOVED the idea of a one stop shop when they understood it, but I realized I had a road ahead of me of educating couples that it was possible for one company to offer more than one wedding service. So I pivoted and pivoted my marketing, and in this time, right before graduation a KILLER full time job landed in my lap. I was offered a position a one of the top design agencies in the country, right in downtown Cincinnati, doing graphic design and photography for HUGE brands like Pillsbury. It took it of course, and lived the agency life while continuing to figure things out as far as next steps with OKOTA.
I always say the agency was my 9-5, but OKOTA was my 5-9 (5pm to 9AM that is). I would come home after a full day and get right back to work on things for my Couples, working all through the night. Of course with a schedule like this during the week and the weekends filled with weddings my work load got a little too crazy. All nighters became too frequent, and I never saw Kris, my then fiance. After a little over a year of doing this I had grown OKOTA enough to a point where I could quit my full time job, and focus on OKOTA full time. GUYS, this was sooooo scary! I was just about to get married and was quitting the stability (and pretty nice consistent pay) of this full time gig.
I knew I had to make OKOTA work. I knew I had a service brides needed. I was one myself! I wanted to be able to offer brides and grooms the ability to hire a vendor they knew they could trust, and have that one vendor provide multiple things for them. Planning has gotten SO hard and SO time consuming! Couples working, and going to school, and wanting a life they can actually enjoy, just simply don’t have the time to search through and meet with dozens and dozens of vendors, keeping track of timelines, meetings, contracts, and payments for each one.
With this new capacity, I was able to reach more couples, booking more and more weddings, perfecting my skill sets, and learning about running every aspect of business smoothly. I took a business class that made me write down what was different about my business. What made me stand out. I wrote down “One Stop Shop” and instantly realized when reading back what I wrote that I wasn’t a one stop shop! I was only offering 3 services of the many services a couple needs for their wedding day! Immediate new mission: offer more to couples. REALLY solve this problem of having to juggle a million vendors… Become an actual one stop shop!
It was surprisingly very easy to accomplish this. It’s like it was meant to be! I knew I wanted to focus on the services I could really bring QUALITY to. For me these were the design services of course. The aesthetic aspects of wedding day… clear next step: Floral Design and Dessert Bar Design.
With a background in food styling for Pillsbury it was easy for me to decorate immaculate looking desserts. I hired a baker, and then could design the icing style, the best sprinkles and toppings, the most popular flavors and what to pair them with as far as cake platters, table cloths. I started to design flavor tags that matched the invitations I was designing, so on and so forth. Whallla! OKOTA was creating dessert bars that have become absolute STATEMENT PIECES in receptions.
Floral design came even easier! My best friend conveniently worked at a flower shop for years and years. She was my next text and within a few months I had learned ALLLL about flowers. I read book after book, went to class after class, participated in online seminars, and in person workshops. I dove in 110% percent to make sure I would be able to offer the best of the best legitimate high-quality to my couples. I learned the varieties, their temperaments, their seasons, their prices, I met with wholesalers and flower farms and quickly built a team of amazing flower experts to bring the visions my brides and I came up with to life. Florals have quickly become one of OKOTA’s most popular services and I absolutely LOVE designing them! Plus, how cool is it that I can have my own companies awesome flowers as the flowers I photograph on wedding days?!
Over time I’ve been able to add more and more wedding design services to OKOTA’s offerings including: videography, hair design, makeup design, and now a studio!
We are continuing to grow, always looking for how to better serve my couples. The modern bride has a lot going on, and wants the wedding of her dreams, but also wants to have a life outside of wedding planning to actually be able to enjoy her engagement. You’re only engaged once and for a short period of time. Make sure you soak it in and enjoy it! It’s our goal at OKOTA in everything we do to make things as easy and simplified as possible for our couples. So you have one person, me, you know and trust, and know that I get your vision, and I work with my team behind the scenes across so many aspects of your wedding day to bring it to life!
There you have it! How OKOTA has come to be the wedding design company it is today :)