ESIF2012: Preston Bailey – How to Make Money in the Events Industry

image This will be 1 of 2 posts all about Preston Bailey.  He was the headlining name at the 2012 Event Solutions Idea Factory in Las Vegas and I’ve been itching to post my summary on this session, but I wanted to save it for the end, or at least near the end.  Just a warning, this was just a talking session, I don’t have a bunch of pictures to share, but I hope that you enjoy my summary as I enjoyed the session.  My next summary that I will publish soon will be all about the Live Floral Sculpture Demo, which was AMAZING and we took loads of pictures!  Preston was open, honest, and funny!  I wasn’t expecting a funny Preston who kicked his session off talking about his mistakes and calling himself  “the ultimate queen”.  Yes, I’m serious – Preston was describing how he likes sparkle on everything, down to his phone – and it was hilarious!

After a little comedy, Preston started about some of his mistakes that he’s made along his journey.  While this is serious business, I was again surprised by the self-deprecating humor. 

  • Didn’t have the best year last year, if it wasn’t for the international work, it would’ve been really rough.
  • Ten years ago Preston was in serious financial issues.  He was a million and a half dollars in debt to vendors and taxes.  To help solve his issues, Preston hired a couple of great people, had proper management, and began charging correctly.  After making serious changes, he was able to start to make money.


Three basic areas of how to make money in the event business:

  1. Value – Define your value by answering:  What is your value, what makes you different or unique, and what do you need to do to nurture your soul?  Preston’s value is creating spaces that are unforgettable, over the top, and he likes abundance because nature is abundant and beautiful.
  2. Price – Figure out how to charge people.  Many different ways exist to figure out how to charge.  Preston recommends that if you normally charge $5 then charge $10 to make a profit that way you are covering your incidentals, the extra hours and taxes.
  3. Sales – Are you a good sales person?  What makes you a good sales person?  How much money do you want to make? Xoua, CEO of Preston Bailey Designs, Inc., asked Preston how much does he want to make in the next five years. Preston wanted to create a brand that comes up with ideas that has never been seen before, take care of his family, maintain his lifestyle, then retire, write, and do projects.  Be careful not to fall into the bottomless pit where it is never enough money.

DSCN0885 Preston the florist is known for creating a look with just a few different flowers, lush and high up off the tables.  But he has his own share of stories where things did not go so well:  dead lilies, twigs & candles in tent that caused a fire, no lighting, a centerpiece fell on woman’s head, etc.  Other than creating beautiful floral designs Preston has branched out in other directions to reach his sales goals:

  • Transformations – Mr. Bailey started to do transformations because clients asked for it and he could make more money. He was great a making one place look like a totally different place using flowers, set design, draping, etc.
  • Books – This avenue has been one of most important changes for his business.  A lady approached him to do a a book on his weddings and luckily Preston was already photographing his events. In the beginning, his books were a marketing tool for clients to see, but then morphed into a portfolio for our industry and to use for inspiration.  Preston’s first book “Flowers”  sold out quickly.  He found that books became a very powerful way to make money. You can self publish for about $40,000 to $50,000 and Preston was able to make back the investment in one job.
  • Internet – For first time, most clients contact Preston Bailey Designs through the Internet.  He uses it to answer questions,  writing his blog (which he loves) and aligns his brand with advertisers.  To host ads on your blog, you first need to have a certain amount of unique visitors a month – the more you have, the more you can sell. 
  • Licensing – Preston licenses his brand to sell other products from other companies.  For example, a current deal is with Open Sky – they sell a line of products that Preston endorses online.  In order to do something like this you need a well-known brand. 
    • Failures – Pillow cases and sheets- economy went bad and the business folded with Preston stuck with all of the inventory; Williams Sonoma – the company had its own strong market presence and didn’t need Preston; Yankee Candle – candles didn’t sell because of the economy.
    • Successes – Sandals Resorts’ wedding packages (Martha Stewart took over after), 1800 flowers did well (then Martha did it after), Godiva, Hewlett Packard, Uncle Ben’s Rice, and luxury dinnerware.  What was funny when Preston was talking about some of his success and that Martha took over after him, he said “Martha always takes over my sh**” … again making the whole room erupt in laughter.
    • Most recent licensing agreements:  Partnered with Weddingstar to create tabletop accessories, and the Ritz-Carlton (Hong Kong) to create the $1.5 million dream wedding (HKD $10 Million).
  • Education – Partnered with Lovegevity’s Wedding Planning Institute (LWPI) by offering event design courses.  Cho Phillips, LWPI’s CEO, took the concept of selling what you know and ran with it.  You will find floral courses for beginners and seasoned florists through the LWPI and Preston Bailey partnership.  We were able to meet up with an instructor and a couple of students to give you the inside scoop:

  • Exhibits – Preston is continuously involved in creating floral public exhibits that are viewed by millions of people.  From peacocks to fish, the work is great for PR and keeping his name in the public.

The most profitable branch of his business is events.  Preston realizes that he needs to concentrate on what he does best and delegate the rest.  So currently, he only does the design and sales.  His go-to sales tool is to show three designs to each client, then most will pay for what they like instead of picking one and then removing stuff from budget.  Preston closed the session by saying that there is a lot of money to be made in the event industry.  “Do what you love , with integrity, and create your own world.” 

More …

Tags: ESIF2012,Event Solutions Idea Factory,CaterSource,wholesale flowers,wholesale florist,preston bailey,event industry,money,floral design,session

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