Guys, it's December? What?! We've come full circle with our Who Run The World? series where we have featured 12 (TWELVE!) awesome, ass-kicking, entrepreneurial women in the wedding industry. Looking back, I've been able to meet and chat with some seriously amazing women this year. They've all been independent and crazy motivated not only in their professional careers, but for their families and themselves as well. They are incredible examples of what you can accomplish both personally and professionally when you find what you love, work crazy hard to become the best you can be at it, and most importantly, stay authentically true to YOU.
With that said, I get to close out the year with Jessica McCann Nana as our December feature who we are also so excited to partner with in 2017! Jessica started her own social media and blogging company, Socially Savvy Studios and works to help other entrepreneurs make the most out of all things digital media. Jessica is kinddddd of the whole dang package - smart, sweet, and super talented - and I can't wait for you all to read our interview, below!
DANI :: What made you decide to start your own social media and blogging company, Socially Savvy Studio?
JMN :: Back in 2011 I was fresh off becoming a newly wed and through planning my destination wedding in Mexico I met some incredible wedding professionals. I started blogging for them on the side while working my 80 hour week corporate job and getting my masters degree in Interactive Communication at Quinnipiac University. I started to realize what a need there was for a service that provided blogging and social media for small business owners and soon I had six freelance clients.
I sat on makeup artist Jennie Fresa’s couch and told her about my dream to start a firm to help small businesses grow through social media and blogging. She more then cheered me on and within a week I quit my corporate job and Socially Savvy Studio was born, which at the time was known as iblog4-u.
I am going to get really corny here for a second, the last day at my corporate job as I drove away the song by Andy Grammar came on, “You Gotta Keep Your Head Up” every part of me was terrified but I knew I had made the right choice and the rest is history.
DANI :: As you know, running a small business and being an entrepreneur in a corporate-centered world is tough. Where/why do you think many entrepreneurs are missing their social media and blogging opportunities to help them grow their businesses? How does Socially Savvy Studio help to address this?
JMN :: Plain and simple, entrepreneurs wear so many hats. We constantly want to be able to do it all because that is what we have been conditioned to believe. When business owners get spread too thin the first thing to fall to the wayside is their blogging and social media management.
Socially Savvy now offers social media management for creative and wedding industry professionals who have a visual story to tell that matches our aesthetic and have strong branding. It’s for the business owner who just does not have the time but realizes the importance of how social media and blogging helps them reach their perfect client.
For the small businesses and our local community we offer one on one strategy sessions and hourly trainings to give you the tools and resources to get a handle on your social media and creating a blogging plan that ensures your success.
photog credit :: Steve DePino Photography // social media management and web design for The House That Social Media Built :: Socially Savvy Studio
DANI :: You also work for Reverie Gallery as the editorial director as well as offering branding and web design together with District M Creative, how do you find your own balance for all of these different industries and jobs?
JMN :: Hi, I’m Jess and I’m a recovering workaholic. I laugh out loud every time I start my workshops with that line. Since I was fourteen I have been working, often three to four jobs at a time and that just has never stopped. It’s taken five years of owning my own business and becoming a mom to my twins Jonathan and Riley to truly understand that without balance success does not exist.
Today I am very candid in my e-mail away message about response times and being a by-appointment only firm. I schedule everything in my online calendar right down to setting certain times a day to check and respond to email and I block off times to work on projects. Every minute is precious and that includes the time I get to spend with my family.
However, work is my life because I love it so much. Socially Savvy is my baby that I want to nurture and help grow to it’s fullest. That does mean that I often work at night and weekends, I am always quick to respond and I’m constantly checking in to make sure I stay on the forefront of the ever quickly changing and growing social media, blogging and web world. The difference is, I do it on my own time once I know I have fit enough time to also be mom and wife.
DANI :: Did you see yourself in this career field growing up, or is this something that took shape for you later on?
JMN :: When I was in high school I would have rather stayed home and spent hours trying to teach myself Dream Weaver than anything else. When I got to college I started a blog on the side and immersed myself in social media before anyone really knew what it was. I was instinctively drawn to this industry from the beginning but I never really imagined how it would shape me and that I would make a career out of it.
photog credit :: Candace Jeffery Photography // social media management, blogging & web design for Dana Bartone & Co. :: Socially Savvy Studio
DANI :: When you aren’t working, where would we find you?
JMN :: At the bar at Oak Haven in New Haven trying to decide whether to start with a martini or just move right to ordering a bottle of wine. I’m lucky to have married my best friend who like me is equal parts foodie and libations aficionado. We are kind of on a mission, one bar and restaurant at a time to see where our next adventure takes us. We have frequent date nights to survive this thing called parenthood but I also love a good night at home with our little’s on the couch catching up on any movie by Dreamworks and Pixar. I also can’t leave out lots of snuggling time with our first baby, French Bulldog Angus.
DANI :: Did you have a female mentor or role model growing up that has helped shape you into the strong, entrepreneurial woman you are today?
JMN :: I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was nine and a half. She was always working on a different project from starting a hat shop to some other pretty crazy entrepreneurial dreams. She was also an amazing accountant, that is one gene I did not inherit but I like to think I am equal parts brain and heart because of her. I have always carried that with me and it’s always something I remind myself when I need to find strength.
DANI :: Where do you find inspiration for every day to day?
JMN :: I start my day with coffee followed by checking in to my feedly accounts. I organize folders and subscribe to a variety of different favorite blogs for each one of my clients. I have a dedicated folder to my favorite girl bosses that include designer and stylist Emily Henderson, simplified planner creator Emily Ley, blogger and house renovator Sherri Young of Young House Love, bloggers Danielle Moss and Alaina Kaczmarski of The Every Girl, bloggers Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman of A Beautiful Mess, just to name a few. I always feel inspired when I get to see what other strong women business owners are working on and how they are also all working to find balance.
social media management, blogging & web design for Forks and Fingers Catering :: Socially Savvy Studio // branding :: Erica Powell
DANI :: Where do you see yourself and your business 5 years from now?
JMN :: We have grown into a full social media, blogging and now also web design studio with 35 clients and countless consulting clients throughout the year. To be honest sometimes this all still feels like a dream. My 2017 resolution is to be more present. I also always start out a new year with a mediation mantra, this year it will be to stay humble and hustle hard. Check back with me in 2022 and I will let you know.
For November, we've got a super special "Who Run The World" feature for you all! Everyone, I would like you to meet Stephanie LeFrancois of Forks and Fingers - Catering by Design! I'll have you all know that my mouth was literally watering reading her interview and looking through all of the pictures of delicious FOOD she sent me! It's watering just writing this, actually...maybe I should go find a snack. ANYWAYS, Stephanie, along with be super down to earth and hilarious, was kind enough to take time out of her busy day to give all of us a better idea of just what catering means, what she loves about catering weddings in particular, and what the deal is between the three main food service styles! Read on below to see the whole interview!
DANI :: How did you begin a career in event management?
SL :: Our company evolved from corporate catering to more elaborate weddings and galas. Event management was a natural transition to compliment the efforts of the kitchen.
DANI :: What made you decide to start your own catering business, Forks & Fingers?
SLF :: Ah, I wish I had a glamorous answer. It really began with an idea Mark and I had to utilize his restaurant and catering background and my home hosting skills to form a corporate catering company. It was at the time of the recession where his restaurant definitely felt the impact. Coming from the corporate world, I knew the need for corporations and schools to entertain clients and investors would remain.
DANI :: Some people may have a misconception in their head of catering as simply creating a menu and cooking and serving meals. We know it is MUCH more than that. There are countless details that go into catering an event. Can you elaborate on some of those for us?
SLF :: Woah, that’s a big question. Obviously we produce the food, if only it were that easy. Nowadays everyone has a theme, we love incorporating their theme into our food staging and yes, we have lots of props, most of which Mark makes himself! I like to say we have everything from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Rustic. The majority of our “venues” are not venues at all. They’re estates and farms where we’re building custom kitchens and floor plans. So much goes into setting up an outdoor blank canvas. You have weather contingency plans to set in place and an overall transformation of what is probably a nice grassy lawn.
DANI :: How is it to co-own a business with your hubby?
SLF :: Oh you’re asking the good questions. If you knew me a little better, you’d know I have no filter. Another topic that’s not so glamorous. Working together is amazing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The caveat is that although you may live and work with your partner, that doesn’t mean you’re always with them. We can go for weeks without a date night, as I’m sure happens to most couples, but consulting on menus and staging is not my idea of quality time. What works for us in our business is that Mark manages the kitchen while I manage the front of house and office. There’s no second-guessing in the others abilities. Perk, we definitely sneak in the occasional kiss and hug when we can!
DANI :: What is your favorite craft cocktail?
SLF :: Finally an easy one! My assistant Ali came up with a bourbon cocktail for our new website launch party in June. I’m personally not a bourbon fan, but boy did this make me a convert! It’s a Honey Bear with sage and orange infused simple syrup, apple cider and bourbon, yum!
DANI :: What do you enjoy the most about catering a wedding?
SLF :: There are so many things I love. I love the couple seeing each other for the first time, who doesn’t? We’re such a big part of their special day. Our clients become friends and their friends become our friends, it’s pretty cool. The caterer in me looks at the guest response to the food. We have two types of guests, the foodie who thinks all wedding catering is boring and the non-foodie who doesn’t understand food and how this is all going to work. My favorite is to see those two guests full and over the moon happy with food and presentation they never expected from a wedding. My only wish is that Mark could be on the floor to hear the happiness and gratitude of the guests. Somehow I just can’t translate their enthusiasm. It makes my heart full.
DANI :: Does Forks and Fingers specialize in any specific styles of food?
SLF :: We don’t have any specialties per say. We customize every menu, which means researching ethnicity and family recipes, then perfecting them for our clients. It’s what keeps our job interesting and keeps us on our toes. I will share a funny story; we have a new employee from Jamaica, a trained chef. I hadn’t realized his first wedding with us this summer featured Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Just recently he shared this: “That was right up there with the best Jamaican chicken I’ve had and I had no idea he wasn’t Jamaican.” I’d say that’s a pretty big compliment!
DANI :: What do you think of the three traditional food service styles, buffet, plated and stations, and do you recommend any particular one to brides?
SLF :: When we meet with clients we ask how they want to see their wedding day? If a couple wants to spend more time on the dance floor and less time at the dinner table, stations are the way to go. This style lends itself to no particular time waiting for food service. Buffets are casual and budget friendly. As long as the food is good and you have enough buffets to accommodate the crowd efficiently, no one will care. Plated is a classic. It says, I’m having a wedding. But again, there are ways to maximize event time while having a plated dinner. Come in to a plated salad and go into a grazing dessert station. This way your guests can still dance the night away and have dessert at their convenience.
DANI :: Outside of Forks and Fingers, what do you enjoy doing?
SLF :: Why, you’re just going to know everything about me! I love to drink wine or champs after a long day or during it. I love to be physically active. I think it keeps our bodies and our minds healthy. My current obsession is Pure Barre. That with nice bike rides along the shoreline peppered in with Pilates and Yoga. As with anyone with a busy schedule making time for friends and family is also good for the soul.
DANI :: What does the future hold for yourself and your company?
SLF :: We’re in a transitional period. We’re constantly reevaluating and growing. We’re decidedly a boutique company. We want to maintain the personal connection we have with our clients. As we grow, we’re keeping our large events to a minimum to ensure our clients have the best experience possible. While we move away from some of our less lucrative events, we’re putting an emphasis on weddings, fundraising, social events and the like as we find the balance between office and client time. I’ve developed the motto of “we’re a small company that does big things". Everything is about learning.
We have lots of amazing collaborations coming up with wonderful planners and “covered” year round venues. It’s a time where we are now streamlining our processes. Most of our team has been around since our inception, day and night. We’re reigning in our schedules to give our employees some much deserved quality time. We all know this job doesn’t come with much structure, but if I can find it, I will give it. The future is always a mystery, but we get out of it what we put into it. We’ve met so many amazing people this year that share the same passion for this business and I’ve learned it takes a village.
So was your mouth watering as well? I don't know about you but I'd love one of those bourbon craft cocktails Stephanie shared with us riiiiight about now! I love the passion and energy with which Stephanie not only speaks about her company, but which she puts into every detail of Forks and Fingers to make sure each event suits the bride and groom perfectly. A huge thanks to Stephanie for letting me get a little inside scoop into her life and her company! It's so appreciated!