Kath Mackenzie, CEO + Founder
ONE FINE DAY
Kath is the owner and creative behind One Fine Day. Her passion for the industry, combined with her impeccable eye and knowledge, has seen Kath and her One Fine Day team produce unforgettable weddings for over a decade.
Kath describes herself as a perfectionist, problem solver, creative, master of common sense and lover of a good challenge. She’s also a travel lover, wife and mum of three gorgeous children living in Queenstown, New Zealand, where One Fine Day is based.
We sat down with Kath for an in-depth chat about her journey with One Fine Day, the challenges she faced (and is still facing), her biggest successes & learnings, her insights on how the wedding industry has evolved, and her tips for surviving the year that is bound to go down in history as being one of the hardest for our industry: 2020.
Tell us about your journey with One Fine Day…
The One Fine Day journey started back in 2010 in Queenstown, where I feel so lucky to have been based for twenty years. I had just welcomed my third child, and had been an at-home mum with my other two for five years. Prior to this, my background was in tourism and events. With the task of returning to work looming, I had started to research options to start my own business. I wanted to have the flexibility to be a mum and work around the kids schedules, little did I know what lay ahead of me!
With a strong background in events, I knew I had the skills to produce high-level weddings, but my passion was more about aesthetics and I noticed that little attention was being paid to this. I’ve always been design and detail obsessed, have an impeccable eye, and am an unapologetic perfectionist! I decided to put it out there to see if there was a demand for weddings with a more creative edge to them. It turned out people were starting to look at more unique and individual styles and it became more and more popular over the next five years.
From what started out as small beginnings, my business has evolved and adapted and become a success story that I am immensely proud of. I started off as a busy mum with the intention of producing a few weddings a year, and flourished into a business that in 2019, produced a hundred weddings, with a team of eleven talented staff and is in high demand. I’ve built the business into a company that has the skill, and the team behind it, to deliver the countries highest budget weddings, with a note-worthy clientele including celebrities and high flyers from around the world and plenty of other wonderful couples. It’s not all been smooth sailing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Biggest congratulations on getting to the 10-year mark, that’s a huge accomplishment! What changes have you seen in the industry over the last decade?
So much has changed in the past ten years. I was recently looking at some images from weddings I produced back in 2012 and wow, it’s changed a lot. Style is obviously a big one which is ever evolving, and I find it so interesting looking back at how it’s changed over time. Not just styling elements but also photography styles, florals and fashion. The decade of instagram has certainly influenced this as a place where people can show off their creative work.
I’ve also noticed a big change in the clientele age group. Back when I started, people were opting to marry when they were a little older, many of my clients were 30 years upwards, but now I’m seeing a much younger crowd with couples choosing to marry younger. My youngest client at the moment is 21. This also reflects in budgets, as many of the weddings for younger generations are funded by parents who generally have more disposable income than the 30 plus age group who are just starting out with a family and so on.
Options! This is an area that has developed a lot in the past five years. When I first started in Queenstown, you pretty much had a choice of the Chiavari chair or a Gladiator chair which was not really up my alley. I invested a lot in furniture in the early days to be able to style my weddings with furniture I loved and pieces that were previously not available. I spent a lot of time sourcing furniture from around the country to deliver the weddings we did. Fortunately, there are now SO many suppliers to choose from and endless options available. This makes me so happy to see small, owner/operators taking the punt and creating a business they love. The wedding industry relies on SMEs to service it and I really enjoy seeing new businesses pop up all over the country with new offerings.
Destination Weddings. This was (until COVID) a huge trend where couples were opting for a smaller sized guest list but choosing to celebrate at a chosen destination. I really like this style. It gives couples the opportunity to take time out of their hectic, busy lives to spend quality time with their nearest and dearest whilst on holiday. I would certainly choose this option if I were planning my wedding in the last decade.
What have been some of your biggest challenges as a business owner?
Until recently when COVID (my biggest challenge yet) took over the world, my most common challenge was dealing with the fast paced growth of the business and continually adapting to meet demand. That, and trying to find the balance of work/life and juggling parenting. I never did find this one, so feel free to send me any tips if anyone has any!
As the trend of opting for a destination wedding has become popular in the last decade, the growth of the destination wedding market in Queenstown (where I am based) has been immense. The growth came as such a speed that, (I know I am not alone in saying this), each year when we wrote our one, three, and five year strategy plan – it pretty much went out the window. Queenstown is a small town and until recently, we were very limited on suppliers, which made it difficult to meet demand. For this reason we progressed the business to include Planning, Styling, Florals and Hire in-house. It helped for many years and our overseas clients loved the ease of this inclusive offering. We are lucky that we now have many more suppliers to service the market which makes it great for clients planning their destination wedding, but it was a big challenge for some years. Of course, our town has been hit hard by COVID and border closures, so be sure to suggest Queenstown to anyone you know, all our suppliers could do with a boost!
With growth comes more staff and this has also been a significant challenge. Skilled staff can be hard to find, particularly in events which are demanding, insist on long hours, weekends, busy summers. I quickly learned that staff are hard work.
Lastly, work/life balance and parenting. The hardest one! When I look back now, I remember feeling guilty for constantly being on the phone or on my emails, working weekends. The kids were dragged along for many years to help with pack downs and setting up and doing boring jobs in the school holidays like unwrapping candles and folding napkins. But when I speak to them now, I am always surprised that they don’t see it like that. They are really proud of me and know that I work hard and I am so proud of them too, they know it’s just part of our family life and we celebrate in our own ways when we can, like an overseas holiday together, without the phone or computer. Ok, it ALWAYS comes along with me but I will only check it in the morning and then put it away to enjoy family time. In all honesty though, the past two years have been tough health wise. I don’t say no to anything and I am not a complainer so I just get the job done. I would say that after ten years, it has caught up with me and I now realise that I was running on empty for quite some time. So although, I do constantly work, I now have boundaries. I always make sure I have some “me time” during my week, and more time with my family and friends. It’s important to have boundaries and know that you can be the best version of you, when you set these.
If you could go back and tell yourself anything during your first month of business, what would it be?
Be prepared to make mistakes. As an entrepreneur you are the one taking the risk on an idea, calling the shots, working the unpaid hours, navigating your way through growth and demand. You have to be prepared that not everything you do will be right (exceptionally hard when you’re a perfectionist), but if you can own your mistakes and learn and grow from them, that is entrepreneurship.
One Fine Day produces some absolutely incredible events. What have been some of your biggest successes as a business owner?
There have been so many at different stages, but the biggest success would be the delivery of the level of events we produce. It takes hard work and dedication from my team and all the suppliers involved but seeing that end result of a beautiful event, executed perfectly and a happy couple, is success to me.
I’m super proud to be the only company from New Zealand that is a DWP (Destination Wedding Planners Congress) member. This is a group of around 600 of the top wedding planners in the world, that meet annually to network and learn from each other, while promoting our own destination. I am so passionate about New Zealand and what we have to offer to the destination wedding market, and last year received my first referral which landed our biggest wedding yet. I’m so glad that we got to see that one out this past summer before COVID. I’m in contact online with many of the planners from around the world and I have loved seeing more and more interest in NZ as a destination for high end weddings.
Personal growth & connection is another big success to me. There have been tough times but I have grown as a business owner from each experience. It’s not easy to put yourself out there but pushing yourself to do so is just the difference between you saying yes and another saying no. Running a business is a risk and you have to surround yourself with people that share your vision and believe in you. I have achieved this and that to me is a very big success. I also look at the connections I have made as a success. Having other businesses reach out to you and wanting to work with your brand is proof of your success too.
How do you manage your family work life balance – any tips for entrepreneurs who are searching for that balance?
I’m maybe not the best person to ask, however I do believe it’s all about what is important to you, what are your values, what do they mean for you? I once did a Brene Brown values exercise where you choose three (only three) values out of a long list that resonate with you the most. Ever since this, my life has been so much clearer. Not only for myself and what I need, but because I now understand that what’s the most important things to you, aren’t even close to someone else’s. Of course we all think our own values are the most important and you will quickly find that people who share the same values as you are some of your closest friends, family members and confidants.
What I’m trying to get at is that, if you are living by your three values daily, have them in your life daily, then this will ultimately bring you the most happiness. You will be fulfilled if you have the things that you value in your life every single day.
If you’re interested in spending some time pondering what your values are, here’s the list.
FYI mine are:
Let’s jump into a very big question, how have you dealt with the craziness of 2020 and COVID? Has this had a massive impact on your business this year?
Ok, this is going to be a LONG one to cover! COVID has hit the wedding industry with catastrophic effects. It has been devastating to hear about the loss of businesses that I have worked alongside for so long, due to no fault of their own. Some of these people I work with so often they feel like family, so it hurts. Being based in Queenstown you could say that we have likely been the most affected in the country. With 90% of our One Fine Day business being from the international inbound market, and borders closed indefinitely, we are facing some hard times. As the result of this we have seen all of our international weddings postpone or cancel.
However, we are fortunate that we service the whole country, so still have some New Zealand weddings that are going ahead this season, as long as we can stay in alert levels that allow events.
This has been a particularly hard time for me, and with no further support from the central government following wage subsidy, I have had to let a number of my employees go. There is a big bridge to gap before we are operating at the level we had been, and I don’t have the means to carry staff through until these events return. It’s been devastating, as this past summer, I had the most solid team, highly skilled and dedicated to their jobs, great team pride and honestly the best girls (and a couple of guys) I could have asked for. I have still managed to keep some staff on a contract basis which is imperative for me.
In addition to this, we were set to launch our international destination weddings on March 28, this was in conjunction with a big trip planned to showcase venues and a number of destinations finishing with our attendance of the DWP Congress in Greece. Bad timing! We have just parked that side of the business for now until international weddings return.
On the positive side, COVID has provided me with time to (yet again) adapt the business and change with the times. I have been working on developing a series of e-courses that teach couples how to plan their wedding, with real facts that deliver real results from the professionals. I am 100% aware of the effects COVID has had on people’s income, with the loss of jobs, pay cuts etc. and know that opting for a wedding planner will be a luxury.
I know from years of experience that planning a wedding is daunting, and it doesn’t need to be. I am SO passionate about it and am offering my knowledge in a package, so the One Fine Day e-courses launched a couple of months back. The courses are made up of fifteen modules and we are launching a module a month. Modules one and two are now live on our shop. If you’re a business we want to make life easier for you too and help with all those “wedding planning” questions that you will no doubt have more of. So we would like to offer you a little incentive to say thanks.
When you have clients enquiring with you for your service, and you include a link to our Kickstarter Wedding Planning Kit it will not only save you all the unnecessary questions, but we will pay you a commission of 20% for each Kickstarter Wedding Planning Kit purchased. If you’re interested in this then email me at [email protected].
Following these courses I will be looking to offer the same concept to businesses. I will teach you how to start a wedding business that works, everything you need to know, the things that don’t matter and industry know how. I’ve made the mistakes myself over the years so that you don’t have to. If this is something you are interested in then sign up here.
What keeps you inspired in these hard times?
I LOVE to travel, it’s in my blood, so COVID is making me feel very deprived. No more jetting off to a far away land! However, as New Zealanders, we are lucky to live in a country that has so much to offer. I am extremely lucky to call Queenstown home. I’ve lived here for 20 years and am still inspired by our beautiful scenery on my daily walks and love taking it all in. I am also fortunate that I produce weddings all over New Zealand which keeps me on the move to beautiful parts of the country, this month I’ll be in Coromandel, Bay of Plenty & Auckland. I have a daughter at boarding school up north and have been enjoying staying with my sister in Hawke’s Bay and finding all these new places I haven’t experienced before.
I am also really inspired by the people in our industry, (some of whom will be my life long friends), and the industry itself. I love connecting people with the right businesses so I’ve spent time catching up with other companies, to hear their stories, how they have been affected and how we can work together to get through this time. I am the industry’s biggest advocate and firmly believe that it’s filled with some of the country’s best creatives and professionals. I want it not to be the forgotten sector that is made up of so many small businesses that we need to service it and I want to educate people. I want people to know that they can get all the information they need to plan a wedding like a pro!
Lastly, my family. Not just my husband and three kids who are now 15, 14 and 9 but my extended family, who are all creatives in our industry. I have family who are florists, makeup artists, writers and designers. At the moment we are all keeping each other inspired.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into the event industry?
In my eyes, delivering an event is the most rewarding job ever. I love to be creative and see my ideas come together whilst working alongside the many talents of the industry and seeing the couple’s reaction when they see it all. It is certainly not an industry for the faint hearted, and it’s definitely not glam. I’ve made a quick list of things to consider if you’re thinking of a career in events:
- Events are hard work, physically and mentally.
- There will be long days. Early starts, late finishes.
- There will be weekend work (most likely multiple weekends in a row in summer).
- You need to understand that emotions are running high and to not sweat the small stuff.
- You will get tired (but you get to have a long holiday in the winter).
- Your phone will likely ring a lot.
- You will get to work with clients from all over the world.
- You will meet some of the most talented suppliers.
- You will be rewarded with the delivery of an event that you have poured blood, sweat, and tears into.
- You will make lifelong friends.
- You can be creative.
- You can work at some amazing venues and locations.
- You are choosing a career that can take you anywhere in the world.
- You can have a small owner/operator business or a full blown event company, they are all needed.
What is next for One Fine Day, anything exciting coming up?
The short answer is yes! I am someone that always has projects and ideas on the go. Of course with the effects of COVID, I have been forced to steer the business in a different direction, but I love a good challenge.
We are fortunate to still have a handful of weddings we are working on around the country, so the team is continuing on with the planning of these.
I am currently working on developing our e-courses to help couples plan their wedding. There are some exciting opportunities coming up that go hand and hand with this, so watch this space. We’re also continuing on with our planning ahead when destination weddings all come back so I’m continuing on with my side hustle One Fine Day Destinations.
I have some projects coming up to help people build their own successful wedding planning business. This is a work in progress but education is certainly something I am passionate about and turning my focus towards during these uncertain times. We have an amazing industry and I feel so lucky to be a part of such a vibrant and exciting work life.
Did this resonate with you? If you loved this interview or have any questions for Kath, you can let her know directly via email [email protected] and follow their dreamy instagram account at @onefinedayweddings