Interview by Yinsey Wang
Trinh and Nancy are twin sisters with complementary attributes that fit together like a puzzle. Their yearning to be creative outside of their normal day jobs allowed them to develop their talents and build a clientele base for their wedding and event planning business, gem&i. With this interview, we feature their girl power heavy shoot featuring other women entrepreneurs By Catalfo, Soundslikeyellowphotogtaphy, Blushwood Studio, JC Creative, Tea with Mags, Bride Delight and Love Velvette. This team of women got together to showcase their talents, organised by the gem&i brand. Yinsey Wang, who was lucky to be involved in this shoot, interviews the inspiring, go-getting twins on their decision to set up their business and how they complement each other as well as their tips for trying something new and pursuing a different path outside the usual day job.
YW: What made you decide to set up your own wedding planning business?
Both: We always loved hosting gatherings and parties for our friends and families when we used to live together with our parents. We enjoyed being able to be surrounded by company and have a good time. As we grew older and our friends started to get engaged and married, we were involved in a lot of engagement party and bridal shower planning. I suppose our friends saw the Type A personalities in us and a few years ago, we had several few that sought us for help coordinating and assisting in the planning of their wedding. What really took off and made us want to open our own business were a few factors. These were the encouragement of our friends who saw the value in what we did; the desire for a creative outlet that was different from our day to day jobs; and the fact that one of us was actually getting married! Having been through the process, we understood the magnitude of stress and planning that it can bring to a couple. Since planning and being creative is something we enjoyed, event planning was a good medium for us to do something we love yet help others relieve stress.
YW: Nancy, you do the calligraphy yourself. How did you develop your own unique style and when did you pick it up?
Nancy: Growing up, I had the tendency to rewrite my class notes three to four times until I was completely happy with the way it looked, neat and organised in different colour codings! You’re probably thinking, wow, she’s got a lot of time. It’s probably the OCD in me. I really enjoyed handwriting as well, the cursive letters and italics simply uplift any writing on paper. A few years ago, I was going through a rough patch personally and was looking to form a new hobby to help relieve what I was going through. One day, my sister sent me inspirational ideas as part of our wedding planning business that had beautiful calligraphy on it. She then mentioned to me ‘you have neat writing and patience, you should check it out’. Since I was looking for a new hobby and with a push from my sister, I started to do some research and registered for a couple of workshops to teach me the basics. I realised that it’s quite therapeutic and surprisingly, I had a knack for it! From then on, I’ve taken it up and have started offering it as part of our business model. When it comes to my unique style, it comes down to the flow of my hand and I prefer to freestyle it with what seems right, the material I am working with and the overall theme the calligraphy will be used for.
YW: You lead other lives in the corporate world. How do those skills trickle into the wedding planning?
Nancy: Tracy is a Project Manager (PM) on the regular but she pretty much lives and breathes this role whether in or out of the office. Whether it is a birthday celebration, renovations for her home, a cottage getaway or a long trip across Asia, she must have a “project plan in place”. And with that, comes a spreadsheet! It has become a common expectation from our friends that they will receive a spreadsheet from her should they be part of the event or travel. Being a PM has a lot of transferable skills for wedding planning such as interaction with vendors and clients which involves strong communications, a timeline and schedule from the beginning to the big day, procurement with vendors and reviewing of contracts, cost management of the event or project budget, and not to mention, the issues and risks that may occur before or during the event.
As for me, Nancy, I live another life in the HR Corporate world. You can imagine, being in HR will require an element of building connections and relationships, coaching and ultimately you need to be a people person. These soft skills have been a huge asset in building relationships with our clients in planning out one of the most important days of their lives. Second to connectedness is leadership and organisational skills to manage and drive talent. This provides our clients assurance in organising all big and small matters leading up to the event. Lastly, as a result, I have become known to be an actively action oriented individual on all tasks taken from ideation, design, implementation and execution.
YW: How do your skills complement each other?
Both: It is interesting how our dynamic works and how many of our friends do find it amusing. We are such polar opposites yet similar in our Type A personalities of being meticulous and perfectionists that it seems to work well together. Tracy likes to drive plans and look at it from a high level whereas Nancy likes to execute and dive into the details. You can say we fill each other’s shoes. When it comes to creativity, Tracy is more skilled in expressing it through digital illustration and photography. Nancy on the other hand is more skillful with crafts and her hands. She is really creative in calligraphy and creating DIY decorations.
YW: What is your favourite part of a wedding?
Both: Our favourite part of the wedding is when we do the venue reveal with our clients. We work with the couples to gather their vision and requirements months leading up to the big day. So everything is still in their heads and they don’t really know what it will look like in real life. We try our best to bring their vision to life by asking lots of questions and making suggestions. As the couple are usually busy during the morning of the event day, all the set up and decor are completed by us and vendors hired. As planners, we make sure services and products rendered are what the couples are expecting. Any issues or discrepancies are dealt with immediately with as little disturbance to the couple as possible so they can enjoy the day to their fullest. The moment the couple arrived to the venue after their busy morning schedule and we open the doors for them to see the setup, the smile and excitement on their face are what we look forward the most. This moment is what makes us enjoy what we do so much.
YW: What advice can you offer others looking to start a side business, particularly as a woman?
Both: The advice we would offer is, ’take the first step and test the water’. If you have an idea of something that you’re passionate about, try it out in a small and informal format. Then, reflect and ask yourself if it energizes you. Go with your gut, speak with fellow entrepreneurs on how they got started and remember, perseverance is key. It’s not going to be easy, it’ll be a bumpy ride but have faith in yourself and what you can do.
YW: Best bit about working with your twin?
Both: The openness, transparency in knowing each others’ flaws and not being afraid to challenge one another for the better. It is not a matter for us as regards the success or failure of our enterprise, it’s the journey together and a memory of a lifetime. Whether it is a success or failure, it’s the journey together and a memory of a lifetime that is meaningful.
Planner and Decor: @gem_and.i
Photographer: @soundslikeyellowphotography Bridesmaids boyfriend shirts and jumpsuits: @bycatalfo Florals: @blushwoodstudio Makeup Artist: @_jc_creative Models: @fionawilmot, @dahliaaldana, @tornandpolished Cake and Desserts: @teawithmags Wedding gowns: @bride.delight Favours/bridesmaid gifts: @lovevelvette