wendy zook

Tuesdays Together & The Rising Tide Society {How a Spontaneous Leadership Role Changed Me and My Photography Business}

When I moved to Rochester, New York, two years ago, I was at a wild crossroads. My identity was all over the place -- not only with new geographic surroundings and a new place to call home, but also with my still-new photography business that had just crossed state lines and plopped down in an entirely different area. Even my role as a mom was being flipped all over the place with my kiddos entering school and all those hours as Momma coming to an end. 

I wanted my wedding and engagement photography business to not just survive, but thrive. But I didn't know what tools I needed, which people I needed to make it happen. Just months before our move, I had started hearing about a group of creatives called The Rising Tide Society -- a national group of small business owners and entrepreneurs who were networking online and meeting in person during monthly get-togethers called Tuesdays Together to discuss a variety of business-related topics like Pricing, Relationships, Social Media and more. I wanted a place like that to be a part of my new identity. 
 

Over the next few weeks, I put myself out there by semi-stalking and reaching out to some local photographers and one day, in a coffee shop in Victor, three of us sat in a corner enjoying some amazing muffins and sharing our dreams and wishlists. We talked about Tuesdays Together and how we wish we had a chapter in the Rochester area. And in what felt like an out-of-body moment, this very-INFJ, super-shy, sweats-in-the-center-of-attention fish out of water said "I don't mind applying for us and leading if you want me to."

I thought the application and approval process would take months, but, in less than a week I was logged in as admin to a local Facebook group and was joining leaders' email lists and planning our first meeting, held less than one month after that first exciting coffee shop date. 

My first meeting went something like this internal dialogue:
6am: I am SO excited! Oh my gosh, why do I have to wait 12 hours?!
7:15am: I'm canceling it. This was a terrible idea. 
12pm: ::checks RSVP list::
12:02pm: This is going to be amazing. Fresh start! Woot!
12:03pm: ::checks RSVP list::
12:30pm: I should skip it. Maybe they won't notice.                                                                           4pm: OH MY GOSH, TWO HOURS. It's 10 minutes away. Should I leave now?
4:05pm: ::checks RSVP list::                                                                                                                5:30pm: OK, let's go. You got this. You're basically Beyonce. You're Eleanor Roosevelt. You got this.                                                                                                                                                      5:45pm: ::sitting in parking lot, lots of sweat::                                                                                  5:55pm: "Hi, I'm Wendy! I'm so excited you're here! Wow, I'm so glad you're here! Are you so excited?" (very high-pitched, very very quick)
6pm: ::Pathetic nervous fake clearing of throat::

I spent the entire meeting freaking out SO much. I was filled with self-doubt, insane nerves and constant thoughts of "These people are so good and SO talented -- why do you think you can lead them?"

It was somewhere around the 4th or 5th meeting that I had a moment. Nothing specific happened, although I had definitely grown more comfortable (I still got nervous in my 18th meeting!); I had made incredible connections; I had received some really sweet comments and expressions of gratitude. Over time, however, I realized it wasn't about me. I had joined this movement for me, but it became about so much more than my selfish need to feel like I belong. It was about a community, a network. It was about the way certain topics REALLY helped our vendor friends that attended -- the way you saw their businesses take off on social media or the pride we all felt when they shared a success with a difficult client or with their new prices. It was about the friendships we started to see forming, the way we all felt like equals. It became about greater things like giving back to the community last November during our Philanthropy month; it was about the way our Facebook group grew to nearly 300 people who had all needed a home; it was the laughs and tears and dreams and worries we shared around coffee shops and gallery couches. 

Photo by:  Lauren Carnes

Photo by: Lauren Carnes

 



No one believes me at meetings when I tell them I'm painfully shy and timid -- and that new-found courage and comfort is because of The Rising Tide Society and my small role in Tuesdays Together. I carry myself differently now. I believe in myself so much more nowadays.

And my business has taken off in so many ways, and so much of that is because of what I've learned in 18 meetings next to other people who just "get it." They get the long days and late nights alone in your home office; they get the commitment and self-motivation it takes for a small victory and the 15 setbacks along the way. They get the family-work balance and the tricky tightrope that can be. They get being "on call" so much of the time. And they give -- they give encouragement, support, positivity and love. 

 



A new chapter is leading our family away from Rochester, New York. We'll be living in and starting over again in the Frederick, Maryland area and I'm so excited to meet new people and photograph couples across Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. 

But with every new and exciting start comes the closing of a door. And it's time for me to pass on the Tuesdays Together Rochester baton. I know it's in good hands with Michelle Crawford and Denise Lazu co-leading it to amazing new heights. But part of me is sad to let go of this group, of this "thing" that has brought so much into my world. I hope to remain a part of The Rising Tide Society and can't wait to attend my first meeting in Frederick. 

I believe in #communityovercompetition.
I believe in Natalie Franke Hayes and her commitment to creating a safe haven for entrepreneurs. 
I believe in networking and gathering in person rather than just hiding behind a computer screen. 
I believe in getting out of your comfort zone now and then. 

And now, I believe in myself. And in my dreams. 


 

Vendor Visions {Wedding DJ & Entertainment Advice with Rochester DJ Kalifornia Entertainment}

Vendor Visions is a new collaboration between Wendy Zook Photography and various vendors from across the Rochester and Buffalo areas. These posts will feature one local vendor and their advice on planning wedding details in their field.

You can see past Vendor Visions posts HERE

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Photo by: Colburn Creative/Bethany Colburn

Photo by: Colburn Creative/Bethany Colburn

Joshua Volpe of Kalifornia Entertainment has always had a music-focused passion -- a passion that eventually (and surprisingly!) led him to a successful entertainment company in the local wedding and event industry. 


"At a young age, I had developed a love for all types of music and it's stayed with me throughout my entire life," he said. Josh first started as a club DJ, acting as resident DJ at just about every nightclub in Rochester. 


His nightclub gigs led to repeated requests for wedding gigs, to which Josh responded with a resounding "NOPE!," he shares with a laugh. "I was all about the clubs and not wedding music. But then the requests started to come in more frequently. It was crazy."
When a local DJ company didn't have room for him to join their team, he simply began Kalifornia Entertainment on his own. 

"I decided that if I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly," he said. "I went out and bought all top-of-the-line equipment and made sure I was doing things properly."

2017 is his 4th year doing weddings and he's already booking into 2019. "Every year, the number of events I do goes up by a large percentage," he said. "I'm booked every single weekend from the beginning of the year to around November. And then the corporate holiday parties go through December and January."



BOOKING YOUR DJ

Josh recommends booking your DJ about 12 to 18 months prior to your wedding date. For popular wedding months, like September and October, Josh is typically booked about two years in advance. 

"I'm a one-event-per-day type of DJ and never double-book," he added. 

Keep in mind that cost is not everything, Josh advises couples. 
" The most expensive doesn't mean you're getting the absolute best and the cheapest doesn't mean you're getting a great deal," he said. "There's a lot that goes into choosing the right vendor -- experience, reviews, referrals (both vendor and client), equipment, personality, customer service, knowledge and other things should all come into play when choosing your entertainment. Anyone can call themselves a DJ nowadays. The ones that really stand out are the ones who help you along the way and match your vision in every way possible."

The consult and booking process with Josh typically events meeting over coffee and asking lots of questions to ensure everyone is on the same page. "It allows them to see my personality and I get to see theirs," he says of the first meeting. "I try to get to know my clients as much as possible. By getting to know their wants, needs, ideas and thoughts on their wedding, it allows me to hit a bullseye every time. The more information I can get, the easier it is."

Josh says the number one goal is always to have guests walk out of a big day saying, "This was the BEST wedding we have EVER been to!"


WORKING WITH OTHER VENDORS

Knowing about and communicating with the other wedding vendors for a client's day makes a huge difference, Josh says. 

"Working well with other vendors is extremely important, because if all of the vendors are on the same wavelength, then the wedding or event will run a lot smoother. Think of a wedding as a well-oiled machine -- if all parts are moving freely and in sync with each other, then that machine will continue to work flawlessly for as long as you need it to."

All of your wedding day vendors should know timing of events, location of key moments and tinier details like exact spots for things like entrances and cake-cuttings, etc. 



WEDDING DAY ENTERTAINMENT TRENDS

Things like receiving lines and dollar dances seem to be happening less and less frequently, Josh said. Bouquet and garter tosses also are losing popularity among his recent couples. 

Old trends may see unique twists put on them, too. 

Josh is looking forward to new and fun ways to get crowd interaction at his weddings, through things like guy and girl dance battles and maybe new lip sync battles, even featuring a trophy for the winner. 

"Music is a very powerful thing," Josh says. "It has the ability to make people smile, cry, laugh and bring everyone together."



Josh loves seeing the look of amazement when a couple first enters their venue and sees all of their plans come to life. 
"It's almost like a kid running downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing everything that Santa brought them," he says with a  laugh. 

Having clients become lifelong friends is so meaningful to Josh and he's grateful to his past and future clients. 
"It means more to me than people realize that they have me share in one of my biggest days of their lives." 
 

 


For more information on Josh and Kalifornia Entertainment, visit:

WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

TWITTER

 

To be featured in a future Vendor Visions blog post, please e-mail Wendy at wendy@wendyzookphotography.com with "vendor visions" in the subject title.