Interview with Amanda Wheal
“I would advise anyone starting their own business to be very wary of imposter syndrome, if things aren’t going to plan don’t look outwards at your competitors, take a step back and look inwards and reflect on what you could be doing better, you will be constantly evolving and that takes time. This Buddhist quote sums it up “the mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.” Seek advice from experienced business experts/friends who you know and trust, take time to reflect, and then decide on your next move, adapt, reorganise, regroup but never give up! .” – Amanda Wheal
Today we feature Amanda Wheal, the founder at Amanda’s beautiful ceremonies. We hear their story in their own words, their successes, their challenges and their insights.
Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
I am an ex-teacher of over 30 years and I am now an award-winning celebrant. I create and officiate ceremonies, although I specialise in weddings I do all sorts of ceremonies including vow renewals, baby namings, funerals, house blessings, and pet ceremonies.
I am based in Essex but am happy to travel anywhere globally for my work, I love to travel so if I can combine that with my work then all the better.
A great introduction and start to this interview. Can you please tell us, how did you start, from what age, and what made you decide to change direction and start?
I was a successful teacher and middle manager in an 11-18 school teaching a variety of subjects but specialising in A Level Psychology. I was happy in my role but teaching had changed so much during my years that at times certain things happening in education didn’t really enthuse me. In 2017 my brother unexpectedly passed away and this really lead to a change in my career.
I had never heard of a celebrant and didn’t know what they did but the celebrant that led my brother’s funeral was inspirational, he made what I had thought would be a horrendous event into something that felt as good as a funeral could do.
I wrote and read the eulogy that day and the next day discussed with my family the idea of becoming a celebrant, I wanted to be able to bring that sort of comfort to others.
I had the public speaking experience already due to various roles at school so I decided to train as a celebrant whilst continuing my teaching career. Once I had finished my training I really wanted to get started so retired earlier than I had originally planned and at 57 started my own business,
Thank you for that insight. So can you tell us…What does your business do and where is your company based?
I help people celebrate life’s major events by creating personalised ceremonies and then leading and officiating the ceremony. I specialise in weddings but perform other ceremonies including funerals where we celebrate a life, baby namings, vow renewals, decouplings, house blessings and pet ceremonies.
An important aspect is having a real connection to those you are working with, getting to know them and their stories and creating a personalised ceremony but also guiding them in all aspects of the journey.
Because I specialise in weddings I begin working with couples sometimes 2-3 years before their ceremony date, I’m in regular contact with them and get to know them well, this enables me to create something really special in terms of a personalised ceremony, almost a designer ceremony as it’s created just for them, they chose the content, readings etc and really anything goes, there are no limits on content, location or time of ceremony.
I’m not a humanist celebrant but an independent celebrant which means I can also perform interfaith services and include religious aspects if it’s wanted, non religious ceremonies, traditional, modern, anything is possible because my personal belief system is totally irrelevant when it comes to the services I provide. I am based in Essex but am happy to travel wherever I am needed.
What’s the story behind your success? What led to your aha moment? how did you get to where you are now?
I guess my aha moment was in 2019 when having completed my training I had decided pretty much to retire from teaching and I decided to visit a wedding fair and an open day at a hotel. I started to network at the wedding fair and got invited to a future business network meeting.
Then when I went to the hotel to just look at the venue, the manager found out I was a celebrant and came to speak to me about the need for a wedding celebrant in the area. In that one day I learnt so much and realised I was on the right path, there was a demand locally and people wanted to speak with me and find out more about what I did.
There really wasn’t any time for doubts at this stage, business meetings followed, as well as networking events so I had to make sure I showed up and showed up professionally and with some sense of business acumen. I have to say it wasn’t always easy but as that great business mentor Yoda said “do or do not, there is no try”.
Many people helped me, my husband always believed in me and supported me, the inspirational celebrant at my brothers funeral has been a real support on my journey, the fellowship of professional celebrants trained me and are a constant in terms of professional guidance.
Various people in networking groups have been incredibly supportive with advice and introductions, and the support and advice in various wedding related Facebook groups has been invaluable, most notably The next level membership group lead by wedding expert Kelly Mortimer. I had to learn an awful lot very quickly and the support of these people enabled me to do that whilst staying motivated and focused.
Thank you for sharing that. What’s been your life’s biggest lesson so far?
My biggest lesson has probably been don’t let your enthusiasm overwhelm you by doing too much all at once, starting your own business in incredibly exciting and you get such an adrenaline rush with each little success and step forward. I almost had a mini burn out after a few months I was so eager to learn, I was printing off every single free download, joining every facebook group, doing challenges, masterclasses, webinars, it became endless.
This was during lockdown so I had more time to become engrossed in these things because there were no weddings to plan for. I recognised the issue and took some time out to reflect on things, I became really self disciplined about my choices and how I managed my time.
At that time I didn’t have any sort of business plan or strategy so I decided to start planning a strategy and align my learning and time with my goals for each month which all contributed to my yearly goals. I think it’s incredibly important to do this for a variety of reasons, not only to give you focus and direction but in terms of time management.
I came from a teaching background where every minute of my day was dictated to me, all my holidays were set so life in that respect was relatively easy. When you start your own business you have to map out your time, each day, each week and so on, otherwise you become like a loose cannon, prioritise tasks and also make time for you, I really can’t stress how important this is.
Wow! where do you want me to start?! I guess if I had to sum it up, People will judge you whatever you do and not everyone will like you or support you, so just be your authentic self and keep the company of those who “get you” and help and support you in reaching your goals. Fully embrace life, breathe it all in and live every moment, remember that you never really fail you just sometimes learn that there’s a better way to do something, understand that when you don’t succeed you learn, and that enables you to succeed later on.
If you were to go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
The advice I would give to my younger self is to believe in yourself and to explore all the opportunities the world has to give not only workwise but in terms of travel. My father never doubted me and was a real inspirational but others did, including my teachers, and because of that although I was determined to prove them wrong it also made me play safe.
I wanted to do other things but chose to become a teacher mostly because it was safe, a good steady job. I wish I had taken more risks in terms of exploring other job options, travelling and seeing what the world had to offer. I never think I shouldn’t have become an entrepreneur, I wish I had done so earlier and wonder what I could have achieved had I done so. That being said I am also incredibly proud of my teaching career and of the impact I had on the lives of the young people I taught.
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask how does your business run. What three tools make your business run better?
As a celebrant I am the creative tool that makes my business run but I do rely on social media to promote my business, educate and market. So one tool that is essential for me is Later which is a tool which enables you to schedule posts on social media, weeks or months ahead, they are then automatically published at that given time. Instagram and Facebook are essential in terms of having your own page as a business for marketing, but also they allow you to join industry groups and also network.
I think all business realised how dependent we are on them when the recent Facebook crash happened, the world went into a state of panic! When I first started I just researched and discovered various sites with free images or video creation sites and these were essential.
So pexels.com was excellent for royalty free images and videos alongside a site called Canva, and Invideo enabled me to create my own videos for publication initially on my youtube channel but then on social media. Of course a business bank account is another essential.
Calendly is an essential tool as it enables you to schedule meetings and give your clients access to your calendar so they can book a call or arrange a meeting when you have indicated that you are available,
What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
Wow! where do you want me to start?! I guess if I had to sum it up, People will judge you whatever you do and not everyone will like you or support you, so just be your authentic self and keep the company of those who “get you” and help and support you in reaching your goals.
Fully embrace life, breathe it all in and live every moment, remember that you never really fail you just sometimes learn that there’s a better way to do something, understand that when you don’t succeed you learn, and that enables you to succeed later on.
What has been your greatest or proudest achievement or moment?
My greatest achievement was setting up my own business, seeing the dream come to fruition and my proudest moment was taking my first ceremony.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
My future life goals are to live a healthy balanced life where I spend time further developing my business but also further developing personally by trying new activities and travelling more. If I can travel more through my work that would be ideal!
To finish our inspire questions…”We believe that sharing inspiring words can inspire others.” If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
I would advise anyone starting their own business to be very wary of imposter syndrome, if things aren’t going to plan don’t look outwards at your competitors, take a step back and look inwards and reflect on what you could be doing better, you will be constantly evolving and that takes time. This Buddhist quote sums it up “the mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see.
When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.” Seek advice from experienced business experts/friends who you know and trust, take time to reflect, and then decide on your next move, adapt, reorganise, regroup but never give up!
“Thank you it has been great learning more about your founder story and Amanda’s beautiful ceremonies”
To learn more about Amanda’s beautiful ceremonies Visit www.amandasceremonies.com
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