Gina Milano, 41, president and owner of Long Island Wedding & Event Planners Boutique in East Norwich, spent 12 years as a financial adviser and trainer for the Northeast division of UBS before she realized her true dream of entrepreneurship.
Always lured by fashion and "beautiful things," she set her sights on the bridal and event planning industry, became certified by the Association of Bridal Consultants and developed her expertise by attending trade shows and allying with others in the trade. She now plans every aspect of an event, from the favors to the entertainment.
She also has launched a national venture, One Rose for a Cause, which sells personalized keepsake boxes, each containing a silk rose. She donates a portion of the proceeds to charities. Major League Baseball has licensed One Rose for a Cause for sale in all stadiums.
How are financial planning and wedding planning similar?
There's such a huge financial aspect that goes into planning these big events . . . we're able to help people manage the finances, contracts, timelines and dates.
What do people overlook when planning an event or wedding?
They really have to be truthful about what their budget is and where they want to be.
What's a new wedding trend?
The brides are really customizing everything. Lace is everywhere: all over bouquets, all over their invitations and obviously all over the dresses.
How are you putting plans in place to go national?
We're hiring distributors to get the right people across the country selling the product.
How many weddings and events do you plan a year?
We have a part in 100 events or more, whether it's planning the event or being a part of their invitations, favors or rentals. And we see hundreds of brides.
I thought June was the height of the wedding season, but now fall is busy, too. What changed?
There was such a demand to get their wedding in May, June, July and August, you would have to book it over a year and a half out. People started realizing that it's just as nice in September and October -- and back then they were getting a little bit of a better deal.
What was one of the more important things that you've done to develop your business?
I've kept educating myself. I think certifying both my businesses with the Women's Business Enterprise National Council is a big thing, because it's really bringing both of my businesses to the Fortune 1000 companies, and it's giving me exposure to get my companies out there on a national level.
What's next for you?
I am definitely looking to really expand my corporate business right now . . . and to focus on getting my businesses to another new level, with the One Rose for a Cause.
Name. Gina Milano, president and owner of Long Island Wedding & Event Planners Boutique and One Rose for a Cause, East Norwich.
What it does. Full-service event planner. One Rose for a Cause sells customizable keepsake boxes with a silk rose inside, and gives a portion of the proceeds to charity.
Employees. Full time: four, two on Long Island; part time: three to five on L.I., depending on the season.
Roles they play. Marketing managers, social media experts, event planning and sales representative.
Revenue. $500,000 to $1 million.