CEBU CITY, Philippines - Honey Diocampo is an expert in making weddings memorable to couples.
Diocampo owns Heavenly Weddings, a one-stop wedding shop along Gorordo Avenue, Cebu City.
She and her childhood friend Cathy Flores started the business of renting bridal gowns five years ago.
Today, Diocampo organizes and coordinates weddings.
She has also opened up another shop in V. Rama Avenue, Cebu City.
She handles the shops herself now after Flores has decided to move into another business in March this year.
Diocampo said the business is doing well but starting it was not easy.
She ventured into the business with Flores after they noticed flaws in the holding of weddings.
?It started when Flores, and I noticed that weddings were not always perfect. There were flaws so we told each other, let?s have this kind of business,? said Diocampo, 34.
Establishing the business was fast. They were able to put in P250,000 in initial capital from savings and Diocampo's job separation pay.
Diocampo worked for a fastfood chain for 10 years. She decided to quit her job to put up her own business.
In February 2003, a small boutique which displayed wedding gowns opened in Gorordo Avenue.
The first inventory consisted of 25 bridal gowns that they bought from a rental shop, which had closed down. The gowns were made from Europe.
Afraid that the sensitive fabric would be damaged if washed by others, Diocampo and Flores personally took the challenge of washing the gowns by hand.
?It was hard. They were big gowns but we wanted to be sure because it was first venture and we really didn't have any background on how to run wedding shops,? said Diocampo, wife of Clint and mother of Caitlin, 7, and Clydd, 3.
They went around the city to orient themselves on how wedding shops work.
Getting their first clients, however, was easy because of the strategic location of the shop in Gorordo Avenue.
The bigger challenge came three months after as more people started to notice the shop's presence.
?From bridal gowns, we started offering the gowns and outfit of the entourage. While other shops offered P7,000 for rental of an entourage set, Heavenly Weddings was at P3,500. We did this to get more clients,? Diocampo said.
An entourage set consists of the gowns of the maid of honor, three bridesmaids, three flower girls and the barong of the best man, three groomsmen and the bearers.
After five years of organizing and coordinating weddings, Diocampo considers herself an expert in the art of making this day memorable to more than a hundred couples. But she said that it did not start smoothly.
She remembered how nervous she was during the first wedding she organized.
She had to read magazines and check materials but it was a success.
With her staff, Diocampo said they established a strong brand for Heavenly Weddings.
A majority of their clients were referred by previous clients, who were satisfied with the services rendered by the boutique.
Their website www.heavenlyweddingscebu.com has also helped them get clients abroad, mostly Filipinas married to foreigners, who want to get married the Filipino way.
Clients do not stop coming as communication continue with them even after the wedding, said marketing officer Cynthia Balbanera.
Heavenly Weddings offer wedding packages ranging between P78,000 and P238,000 which include bride and entourage gowns and attire, floral arrangement, wedding coordinator and transportation, among others.
Aside from renting gowns, clients can also opt to be the first user of gowns or request for made-to-order gowns.
Their designer, Aldin Abayon, takes on the crucial task of coming up with innovative creations. The boutique also has six in-house seamstresses.
At present, Heavenly Wedding?s shops have 13 employees.
Diocampo said that to maintain their services, she updates the boutique with the latest bridal trends by attending fairs and exhibits and researching.
Diocampo said nothing beats a couple who express satisfaction over their well-coordinated wedding.
?A very memorable experience was when the bride hugged and thanked me because I made her special day very memorable. She even cried hard,? she said.
On its 5th year, Diocampo said they are not yet stopping from making their services better.
?In this business, we need to prioritize the needs of the costumers. You just don't focus on the couple, you also take into consideration the relatives, sponsors, guests. When we coordinate, we are also present there to assist, to help out,? said Diocampo.