In Malawi, a lot of people still have the preconceived notion that the wedding industry is predominantly feminine, which is very restrictive. To shake things up a little, Akossa Mphepo gets pointers on breaking into this seemingly glamorous business from Blantyre-based wedding planner Davie Phiri.
What exactly does your business involve?Ã‚Â
I provide wedding related services such as; consultation which involves giving bridesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ advice and direction every step of the way through the planning process. Our customised wedding consulting services range from a onetime consultation to planning the entire wedding ceremony, from menu to venue.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
I also carry a comprehensive full line of decorating products for hire such as chair covers, backdrops, platforms, tables and much more. I have been involved in this wedding industry since 1998. I worked with my mother for the first 11 years and started my own business last year.
Have you had professional training in what you do?
No, I do not need a degree to do what I do. To me decorating is one of those things; you either have it or you do not. I did, however, undergo a four-year degree programme in business administration at the University of MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ‚Â Polytechnic and a diploma course in logistics and transport at the Management Development Centre.
The BBA programme tackles almost all the critical facets of business, for instance, small enterprise planning and developmentÃ‚Â (strategically). On the other hand, the logistics and transport course focuses on timely related positioning of resources. Though this course is not directly related to what I do, it has some components which are vital and have given value to my business.
How busy are you?
My schedule is very tight! I have weddings almost every holiday and weekend. On average, I have about 13 weddings each month.
The wedding business looks glamorous from the outside but I am sure there must be challenges; what are these?
Planning and pulling of the perfect wedding is such a daunting task. You talk of money and resources , being innovative; a wish to provide high quality product that is unique and one that suit the occasion demands a lot of money. It is very hard to keep yourself comfortable as a lot of money is required to meet the expenses. Sometimes you may have the money but come across problems in getting the resources because the weddingÃ‚Â industry in Malawi is not fully developed.Ã‚Â
Dealing with people from different backgrounds and cultures is also a challenge. Some people are very intimidating; others are very quiet, which makes it hard to understand their personalities.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not forget the fatigue!Ã‚Â This is a very demanding and tiring job. Sometimes you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sleep for two consecutive days, its work all day, all night just to meet a deadline!Ã‚Â It requires a very hardworking spirit, otherwise you can join the race and quit early if you are not committed enough.
Defining roles and responsibilities, identifying who should do what or matching talent with tasks is also another challenge. You sometimes find that the person you believe could do the job is failing to do it. You find yourself doing too many tasks that you never planned to do.
There so many challenges involved but I would close with the challenge of fear of things going wrong, especially when doing deluxe decorations. Remember,Ã‚Â Ã‚Â I do not only look at impressing the bride and groom but I also have in mind, the invited guest, and the next customer on line. To me, it is always like am doing the job for the first time. You think of, what if I mess up, what will they say about me, about my business?