When it comes to achieving success in this industry, you’ll find that for most entrepreneurs, no two paths are the same. At surface level, you’ll undoubtedly find common traits – discipline, hard work, tenacity – as necessary factors leading to success, but of course, that’s the easy-hard part!

So, what’s the underlying secret that you’ll discover as you read below? The truth is there’s isn’t one. The success you see in others is in fact the direct result of multiple interacting variables honed over an extended period of time: business intelligence gleamed from months (or years) of trial and error; identifying and learning from your failures; a boat-load of perseverance; market timing; connections; and maybe even a lucky break or two!

To help you on your journey, we thought we’d reach out to a handful of Toronto and GTA’s top special event vendors to ask them about some of the habits that they’ve adopted over the years that they feel have helped them along their road to success within this industry.

Tip #1: Manage Time Wisely

I am a self-professed procrastinator. But being in the cake world means that my work has a very specific due date and a client on the other end who would be very disappointed if their product didn't show up. Having a very firm time frame is what keeps me in check. I schedule my week so that I can take care of paper work at the beginning of the week and focus on my creative work (creating and decorating the cake/cookies) at the end of the week right before they're due.

I know a lot people have switched over to online/phone calendars, but I'm an old-fashion list maker. I write absolutely everything down that needs to be finished that day and cross it off as I go. It makes me feel accomplished and encouraged to keep going! When I first started, I would give myself actual time-frames to complete work in and then update the times to see if I finished that task in the time allocated. It helped me determine my actual time costs and how much to schedule per week so that I could maximize my working time and not over schedule. Now that I've done that for years, I no longer need to write out that clock calendar, but when a busy weekend presents itself and I feel my anxiety rising, I write out my list and feel much more confident diving in.

My second piece of advice is to simply begin. Being a procrastinator I've realized that often the job ahead of me isn't so bad once I just start. Not starting just makes it worse. Of course I'm writing all of this while a very large pile of receipts to be entered for taxes is staring at me from a corner of my desk.

Photo of Christina McKenzie
Christina McKenzieCake Artist
the cocoa cakery


Tip #2: Stay Healthy and Stay Focused

The best advice I have heard on highly successful habits goes something like this: Wake up early. Set your goals. Exercise your body and mind. THEN, tackle your list of goals in descending order of importance. Do this every day for the rest of your life. Simple, but not easy.

WAKE UP EARLY: This is key as the morning is devoid of those many distractions we all know so very well. Of course, waking up isn't enough on its own if the first thing you do is check your phone. True inspiration is a touch harder to find than searching on an IG feed.

SET YOUR GOALS: We all know how important this is, but you actually do have to do it. Every day. Big goals, small goals, every goal your heart desires.

EXERCISE YOUR BODY AND MIND: A podcast while you run cardio is good, but even better is a full workout concentrating on your body followed by reading an inspiring real paper book in your hands. Why does this make a difference? I have no idea, but it works.

ACTION TIME: You're primed. You're ready. You're a ferocious animal. Nothing will slow you down. Not even your email inbox (which you have patiently waited to check like a wild tiger waiting to pounce on it's unsuspecting prey). Remember to keep moving, you've got a lot of goals planned for today. And don't forget to set your alarm clock to do it all again tomorrow.

Photo of Brent Miller
Brent MillerMusician
Brent Miller LIVE


Tip #3: Constantly Educate Yourself

I love that old saying, 'you learn something new every day'. Whether it is taking a course, reading a book, seeking consulting, or even watching a television program, there are so many ways you can constantly educate yourself. I believe a very important way to learn is by listening to your client and using that knowledge to improve your product or operations. We have won many key accounts by thoroughly educating ourselves on the client and their unique needs and finding creative ways to cater to them and build long-term successful relationships.

Photo of Fia Pagnello
Fia PagnelloCEO
Kiss the Cook Catering

Continue to learn, even the experts don't know everything! It's important to keep up to date about new trends in the industry and the business world in general so as to keep the mind fresh to potential new ideas and opportunities.

Photo of Yang W.
Yang W.Producer & Project Coordinator
SDE Weddings


Tip #4: Hire Smart and Delegate

My biggest piece of advice has to do with hiring employees. As a business grows it’s impossible to do it all on your own and it’s tough to ‘give up control’, but it is necessary! I found it to be a good practice to hire employees that are a good fit for the team as it creates a better work environment. Hiring someone with less experience and a great attitude can be better than hiring a person who feels they know it all! Also, it can be more beneficial to hire someone with less skills than someone with experience and bad habits.A happy team works better together, helps each other and ultimately creates a better product for the customer!

When running a business your personal scheduling is very important as well - for your sanity and even more so if you have a family. My kids know they don’t often get to spend a Saturday with me and there are Sunday's when I’m needed to deliver cakes. I make sure I can balance my time with them on a weekly basis so I don’t have as much ‘mom guilt’! You only have one life and if you love what you do your job won’t feel like work, but it’s always important to remember that your work is not the only thing in your life.

Photo of Patricia Drewnowska
Patricia DrewnowskaCo-owner and Lead Designer
Patricia's Cake Creations


Tip #5: Have a Plan to Not Have a Plan

A great habit we've found to be very helpful is to be over prepared, and then go with the flow. When working with a client to plan an event, there is no detail too small, so you'll want to be fully prepared (well, over prepared!), but also be adaptable. Finding the balance between being fully prepared, but still flexible, is a great way to ensure success. While it is important to have an understanding of how things should flow out, as anyone in the industry knows, things don't always go as planned. The ability to troubleshoot and change the game plan on the fly has helped us tremendously. Not getting stuck in our ways because of preparedness, and going with the flow when needed has been a big factor in our success.

Photo of Elana Kochman
Elana KochmanOwner/Director, Special Events
Toben Food by Design


Tip #6: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

As a perfectionist and a go-getter, it can be difficult at times to admit that you need help. However, we all need a little assistance some times and there is no shame in asking for help to get you through a challenging task. Do not hesitate to reach out to your fellow colleagues for any tips or advice, as chances are, they have tackled the same issue at some point in their career!

Photo of Michelle Garber
Michelle GarberEvent Planner
Fab Fete Planning Boutique


Tip #7: Schedule “Me” Time

Make sure to schedule time for you. It's so easy to get bogged down with work, meetings and emails. During the week, I schedule days where I can get caught up on work and times where I don't do work (typically early morning and evenings). I also schedule time to meet up with friends and colleagues for refreshing face to face time. During the summer months, if it's a busy month for weddings I will also book a weekend off per month so I know for sure I will have some time for friends and family.

Photo of Rebecca Chan
Rebecca ChanOwner and Lead Planner
Rebecca Chan Weddings & Events


Tip #8: The Early Bird Gets the Room

I do not think I am naturally a morning person, however over time I have found that coming into the office early in the morning before the day begins is invaluable time that allows me to be very productive and creative. During this quiet time I am able to focus on planning my day and mentally work through creative projects and create effective plans to accomplish these tasks. Also, lists are my work's best friend; I will begin the start of my day by checking the list I wrote for myself before leaving the office the day before. I find this a great habit to start my mornings and feel a sense of accomplishment crossing completed tasks off. Several times throughout the day I will stop what I am doing to reorganize and tidy my desk and review and re-write the list according to new priorities.

Photo of Tania MacDiarmid
Tania MacDiarmidSr. Account Executive
Chair-man Mills


Tip #9: Prioritize Relationships

Our relationships are the number one reason we have achieved the level of business where it is today. I direct my team to prioritize relationships with everyone involved in our events, not just the person paying the bill. Find out what people want, how you can make their lives’ better, and deliver on your promises. Then they will always want to work with you again.

Photo of Danny Floh Back
Danny Floh BackCEO
DJ Floh Back Productions