Nu Bride Women in Business: Andri Benson

Oh, how excited am I to introduce you to the very lovely mother, wife and business owner; Andri, founder of contemporary wedding planning empire: Always Andri.

Andri is such a delight to be around both personally and professionally. She also has the gene of youth, you would not believe me if I told you her age!

Incredibly creative in her execution of personal but stylish weddings, former theatre designer Andri is no stranger to taking centre stage. I often say that the wedding and theatre industry marry themselves well together and Andri is a great example of this. She has a unique skill-set that enables her to effortlessly come up with the most refreshing designs and styling ideas, it was the main reason I chose her to put together our Bignor Park shoots. Plus she is exceptionally calm onset and truly is an absolute pleasure to work with.

Her passion for helping people is also a bonus. Anyone who is lucky enough to meet Andri enriches their lives just a little bit more.

Just look at that infectious smile!  Say hello!

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Tell us more about your gorgeous business?

I’ve been planning creative weddings with Always Andri Wedding Design for over 7 years. There’s so much pressure on couples these days to have the perfect wedding and I’m all about helping them to focus on what really matters. I seem to attract couples who have their own style and want something really personal, so every wedding I do is different. That’s one of the best bits of my business- getting to know the couple really well and helping them enjoy doing things in their own way. Plus, I’m super organised, which means I take the stress of admin and organisation off their hands!

What were you doing before you started working for yourself?

I was a freelance theatre designer for a few years and then worked for the BBC in their costume and wigs store. I loved running the uniform and bridal-wear departments because I got to be creative putting costumes together for film and TV. The team was great too and I still love working collaboratively on things.

What made you take the leap to work for yourself?

The BBC were going through all their cuts, and despite initially saying our jobs were secure, they then decided to make us all redundant. By that point I had my son so I didn’t really want to go back to the freelancing life in theatre and TV. Part of the redundancy included sending us on various courses to help us with the next steps. We were talking about dream jobs and that’s when I realised, for me, it was wedding planning. I’d loved planning mine as it was so much like designing for theatre, so it seemed like a perfect transition. I jumped into researching becoming a wedding planner, took a course with the UKAWP so I had a good foundation, and launched my business.

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What were the most significant challenges and triumphs?

Having come from a creative background, with a highly organised head on my shoulders, the planning and designing aspect is second nature. The biggest challenge has always been the discipline of running a business. Learning who my ideal clients are and how to market myself to them is an ongoing process. And I’ve worked on a huge variety of projects over the years. My work is regularly featured in national magazines and blogs, You & Your Wedding commissioned me to style a shoot, and recently I was involved with the Bridal Musings End Child Marriage campaign for UNICEF. Not to mention, all the successful weddings of all sizes and styles. Getting that euphoric message from clients after the wedding is an amazing feeling!

It was recently reported that women in business earned several billion less than their male counterparts last year. What do you think are some of the barriers to equality?

Where do I start? For many in the UK it comes down to the fact that women can have kids. Businesses worry that they may go off on maternity so they’re punished financially, and sometimes it just comes down old-fashioned beliefs that men should earn more… Globally it often comes down to cultural practices such as child marriage, which is wrong on so many levels and deprives young girls of so much. It’s a situation I’m really passionate about which is why I was so happy to support the UNICEF and Bridal Musings End Child Marriage campaign.

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Can women have it all?

What is having it all? We all have our own definitions, and I do believe you can have all that you want but it’s for you to decide what that is. It’s easy to compare yourself to what other people are doing, but it’s far more important to set your own standards for success. I realised that spending time with my family is essential to my happiness, so I have a career that allows me to be flexible. I could work 7 days a week, and for some people that’s what they thrive on, but my version of having it all is a different picture.

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What do you love about working the wedding industry?

Everyone is so supportive of each other and some of my closest friends in the industry are fellow wedding planners. We don’t see each other as competitors, more as colleagues who we can turn to when we need help and support.  At the end of the day couples book us for our personalities and skills, not just the service we provide, so we all bring something different to the industry.

If you could improve the wedding industry in one way, what would that be?

I’d love to see more genuine flexibility and transparency. So many times a venue or supplier will offer something to a couple to win their business and then backtrack because that’s not how they usually do it. It’s just so unnecessary, we should all be honest from the outset and genuinely open to new ideas.

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What are your top three tips to finding the right balance between work, life, (motherhood if applicable) and leisure?

Set boundaries between work and personal time because it’s too easy to do a bit more work when you should be having family time. Schedule your time to include both and then you can be truly be present in one or the other.

Rather than checking emails use the first hour of your day to work on developing your business. Journal, plan your marketing content, write some blog posts or do something creative such as practising calligraphy. I also don’t even look at emails past 8pm, no email is so important that it can’t wait until the next day. Have a dedicated space for your office, not the kitchen table or living room. I’m lucky that I have an outdoor office this year I’ve been so much more productive and I can walk away at the end of day.
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What’s your advice for anyone wanting to follow their passion and start their own business?

This is something I have a lot to say on! I offer mentoring for wedding planners in the early stages of their business to share the things I’ve learned the hard way over the years.

The most essential first step is to spend time thinking about what you can offer clients and how your passion helps them. What problem of theirs can you solve? You can’t be everything to everyone so focus on clients that will benefit from your approach and speak to them only.

It’s easy to price low in the early days as you gain experience, but make sure you remember that you’re in it to make a living and under charging in the long-term devalues the whole industry. Finally, a brand is not just a logo. It’s everything you put out there, from the copy on your website, to how you interact with clients. Think about how you want your business to come across and consciously communicate in a way that strengthens that image.

Tell us one thing on your bucket list?

Only one thing, can’t I do them all?! (Nu Bride: You can do them all, just tell us one!) Something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time is visit Florence and I think we’ll do it this year. It’s been on my wish list ever since I watched A Room with a View. (Nu Bride: Good choice!)

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Andri, you are a true joy and a pleasure to know and work with. Thank you.

For more details take a peek Always Andri.

The Talent

Unless otherwise stated photography by : Cecelina Photography

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One Response to “Nu Bride Women in Business: Andri Benson”

  1. Eastern Ray Luxury Events
    September 11, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

    Working for yourself is good but from experience, I can say that it can be very risky. I used to work for a large bank before I started up a business. Yes, the working hours were unbearable but then, there was always money in the bank. However, with a business, yes there is that prospect of going off the charts with your profit, but there is also a lack of security!

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