For 20 years, Sarah Young has built a highly successful business around doing what she loves, and, as a local pioneer in her field, the Director of Y Plan Events is still as enthused by her work and career as she was when she began in 2001.
“Ever since I can remember, I was always the designated party planner. Whenever someone’s birthday was approaching, they would ask me to plan their party,” she explains in an exclusive interview with MaltaCEOs.
After completing a Master’s degree and kicking of her career in the UK, Sarah consistently gravitated towards opportunities that had event planning at their core. “So it came as no surprise to me when I finally decided to open my own company in Malta.”
In the UK, the concept of a wedding and event planner was hardly a novelty, but it certainly was in Malta for couples and industry suppliers alike. “I still remember the moment when I introduced myself and my business to a transport supplier – they responded with, ‘Sorry, who are you? What do you do? Who needs you? The mother of the bride plans the wedding!’ It was no easy task to educate the public to understand how this service could benefit them.”
After co-hosting a TV programme, called ‘It-Tieg’, there was no turning back for the young entrepreneur, and Sarah has perfected her craft every day since. “It was the best decision I ever made. I make a living doing what I love! There is nothing better in life than when your career is your passion,” she says. “It has its ups, downs and challenges too – but what job doesn’t?”
The Director busts the myth that working within the event and wedding planning industry is glamourous. In fact, she explains, “it can be pretty stressful. We carry a big responsibility on our shoulders, because you only have one chance to make sure that on the day of the celebration, all is delivered to perfection as per the client’s requests.”
Besides being one of the islands’ first professional wedding planners, Sarah proudly asserts “I was the first planner to introduce destination weddings to Malta. Now, this niche market generates millions to the economy each year. This was no easy task, jumping from country to country across Europe, attending fairs and marketing Malta to prospective couples,” she explains.
“I look back and wonder how I did it, carrying heavy boxes, setting up stands and essentially selling Malta for days on end, to do it all over again in another city or country. But the energy you have when you are younger is impressive. I never gave up, and I will never give up. I believe this is what has brought me success. Nothing is impossible when you try your very best… and then some more!”
Following years of growth and success for her company and the industry at large, 2020 was the antithesis that no one saw coming. The weddings and events sector has been among the hardest hit by the global pandemic, leaving many in the dark for more than a year as to when, or how, the industry will recover and pick up again.
Sarah admits that it has been tough, and the industry, especially for weddings, is still under the effects of the crisis. “When the pandemic struck in March 2020, we were preparing for the new season, from May to October, and hadn’t fulfilled wedding events since October 2019,” she explains, stressing the seasonality of her business. But along with her team, “without whom I would not be where I am today”, Sarah and her company are pulling through.
“I refused to let anyone go. We have all made sacrifices, such as taken pay cuts, in order to survive, but it was amazing to see how strong-minded and willful my team has remained through this challenging time.”
Despite not having executed weddings or events for the past 14 months, Sarah and her team have been busy dealing with the effects of postponements and cancellations, particularly destination weddings, but have also used this time to regroup and focus on promoting their work, “which most businesses can appreciate sometimes falls behind when you’re too busy working in the business, rather than on the business. We have remained strong, and we hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel soon.”
Notwithstanding the disruptions, Sarah is confident local weddings will pick up in the forthcoming years and return to what they used to be. Destination weddings, however, will take longer to get started again. “Until the proverbial smoke blows away, it will take couples and their guests time until they are permitted and feel safe to travel before investing in a wedding celebration abroad,” she asserts.
“But I have faith that travel will be one of the first industries to pick up as people have been longing for a change of scenery, something to look forward to, a cultural adventure that international travel provides us with. We hope this will trigger a quick recovery to the industry.”
As a business leader with a stellar track record spanning two decades, Sarah attributes her success to strong teamwork and a robust network of professionals which she has cultivated over the years.
“As Helen Keller once said, ‘Alone we can do so little: together we can do so much’. I live by this philosophy. Over the past 20 years, my team and I have planned and executed over 1,000 weddings and events – no small feat, but this is only thanks to my amazing teams through the years, and the network of fantastic suppliers I work with who have consistently delivered with sheer perfection, without whom, we would not be successful,” she explains.
Having a great support system from family and friends is also crucial for achieving success – which Sarah says she is fortunate to have had since the start of her journey. As a mother of two children, finding a balance between work and family is very important to her.
“I always encourage people who want to build their own business to find what they love doing and turn that into their daily job. Never give up. Run an honest business and there will be no turning back. Everything else will unfold and fall into place over time.”
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