ICYMI: Yello Interviews Wedding Planner Charlotte Cooper
by Karen Rollins Mar 13, 2023
British-born entrepreneur Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Cooper has always had a close relationship with St Lucia because her parents owned a house on the island and the family would visit regularly when she was growing up.
She moved to St Lucia permanently when she met her husband Paul and utilised her vast experience as an event planner with a local firm before eventually launching her own business ‘By Charlie Ltd’ in 2015.
Charlie’s company has quickly developed a reputation for high standards and exceptional attention to detail and has been nominated in the Best Caribbean Wedding Planner category at the Caribbean Wedding Industry Awards.
In 2018, Yello spoke to Charlie about her life in St Lucia, what she misses about the UK, how she balances family life and being an entrepreneur, and how she hopes to grow her business in the future.
Describe yourself using three words.
Ambitious, focused and friendly.
How / when did you become interested in event planning?
When I was 15 and had to complete work experience for school.
I was one of the few who had no clue what I wanted to be but when a family friend invited me to spend the week at a prestigious event planning company, I fell in love with it within two days.
During that week, they had a Formula One racing event and a movie premiere and they probably didn’t need an awkward teenager lingering around asking a thousand questions but that was me.
I left at the end of that week knowing exactly what I wanted to do.
Why did you move to St Lucia from London?
It’s a cliché but I moved for love, although many people said they knew I’d end up living here eventually because my parents have a house here, and I’ve grown up with the island as my second home.
So, I fell in love with St Lucia a long time ago, but it was my (now) husband Paul who got me to move here permanently.
How did you cope with the adjustment from the UK to the Caribbean?
It was a difficult decision and there were many factors which made me want to stay in the UK, like my family and friends.
Thankfully my parents come to St Lucia a lot but when I moved my brother and his wife were about to have their first child, and I’ve had the same group of best friends for years, so it broke my heart not to be with all of them anymore.
I also had a great job and loved where I lived so it was hard to leave, and I still get homesick. The fact that my parents come here three to four times a year is a huge help and Skype/Facetime has been a saviour. I don’t know if I’d have coped with just regular texts and calls.
The main thing for me was, and still is, to stay positive and keep in mind the pros over the cons and stay focused on my goals and projects. I’ve always got something going on to distract and occupy me; I keep busy.
When did you launch ‘By Charlie Ltd’?
I launched my company in 2015 after planning and preparing for just over a year. I worked for another company when I arrived but soon realised that I wanted to set up on my own to achieve my goals.
The reason I started with weddings is because I was left sadly disappointed by my own, and because of that I spotted a gap in the market for luxury, boutique-style event planning, creating experiences and delivering a city standard of service to clients.
Now it’s three years later and we’re booked for weddings two years away, have partnerships with many venues, associations and top vendors and were recently nominated as ‘Best Caribbean Wedding Planner’ at the Caribbean Wedding Industry Awards!
What was the toughest challenge you faced setting up your business? How did you overcome it?
I find too many people call themselves creatives but just want to recreate and some people here don’t like competition at all which is a real shame.
I’m the kind of person who’d say, “you’re good, I’m good, let’s join forces and be great”, but that doesn’t often seem to be the way. I’ve had to readjust my whole approach to business.
How do I overcome it? I focus on my work, my clients, my goals and I keep doing it first. I keep to myself, knuckle-down and work on my weaknesses.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started?
Yes – don’t tell anyone, anything about your plans ever! Keep your cards close to your chest and let them see the results of your hard work when it is complete.
What’s your company’s unique selling point?
We are still a young company and I’d say my experience and skill set is the biggest asset. I’ve worked on some of Europe’s biggest events and learnt from some of the best in the business and those transferrable skills have helped me provide an elevated experience for my clients.
We were the first event planning company in St Lucia to offer clients detailed 3D drawings of their events and the fact that I’m from the UK seems to make destination brides and international companies/brands confident that I completely ‘get’ their vision and standards.
Also (for weddings) we allow couples to build their own packages which means they only pay for the services they require.
No two events are the same and we provide each person with tailor-made planning to fit them, their style and requirements.
How do you go about planning an event?
It’s all about the client because they’re the most important aspect.
First, we offer a complimentary consultation on the phone/Facetime/ Skype or in person which gives me and the client an opportunity to get a feel for each other and ensure we both feel comfortable.
We ask and answer any questions necessary and I can get a thorough understanding of the clients’ vision which is vital. Then we build the package and send it to the client for approval/ changes.
Once the formal paperwork is complete, the fun part starts as we put together a full event proposal and give the client various options and recommendations based on their taste and budget.
Once we have their feedback we begin planning which involves obtaining quotes and confirming all elements with our wonderful team of vendors.
We keep in touch with the client as little or often as they require. Some clients want weekly or monthly updates and others just want to turn up on the day and enjoy it.
Where do you get inspiration from?
In terms of design, my best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one is Pinterest. It’s an incredible website for planners but the worst for brides. I feel like it’s the ‘Fashion Week of Events’ because it sets an unrealistic and mostly unaffordable standard. I love it though because I can learn DIY techniques and spend hours just browsing images of events.
Overall, my biggest inspiration for each event is the client – getting to know them or the brand, understanding their style, taste, requirements, objectives, loves, hates and everything else.
My work ethic and inspiration as an entrepreneur comes from my dad. I was anything but a model student but once I found what I loved to do and was good at, I realised how much he influences me. He’s a workaholic too and has taught me so much about being productive and just getting on with things without letting emotions or drama come into it.
He had a double hip replacement and was working from his hospital bed the day after surgery. He’s the most hardworking and productive person in the world and has taught me the value of that.
How do you juggle family life and the business?
I’m still figuring that out!
I genuinely love what I do, so it’s my hobby too, but too often I find myself ‘just’ checking emails or ‘just’ browsing Pinterest during family time. I must stop that, as finding a balance and allowing yourself some personal time is so important.
Currently, I work 8am to 3pm, spend time with my son, then I work again from 7pm to 8pm until my eyes are closing. On weekends, I usually try and work whilst my son naps too. Balance for me is a work in progress.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
The freedom to control my own schedule and life, for example, being able to attend my son’s school events or seeing my parents when they are on island.
Knowing that when I’m celebrating successes and signing new contracts it’s all down to my own hard work.
And working in my pyjamas with a face mask on!
What do you love about St Lucia?
Besides clichè things like the beaches, weather and being outdoors, I love raising my son here. He’s happiest in the water and being able to take him to a beach or pool all-year-round is amazing.
I like that there are still little untouched spots and hidden gems on the island.
What do you do on your days off?
I used to be a huge party-goer and couldn’t stay in but now I love nothing more than being home. I’d rather have people come over or go to friends’ houses for drinks and a BBQ.
We visit Windjammer a lot too. I spent a lot of time up there when I was younger and it’s crazy to see my son with the same staff who knew me as a child. It feels like home to me.
I also like the marina and cinema, and whenever I get the chance to go on a boat I don’t think twice.
What are your hopes for ‘By Charlie Ltd’?
I do have my big goals / ambitions / dreams but I’m keeping that very quiet.
Overall, I want to keep improving, learning and developing and keep creating amazing events. I want to build my team, train them my way and expand our available services.
What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?
Every hour counts. If you start work at 7am, when others start at 9am, you’re already two hours ahead of them and you’ll get 10 hours a week more work done than your competitors which will prove invaluable to your success.
Be productive not just busy, learn the best way you work. Don’t tell people your plans, show them as you achieve success.
Don’t get involved in drama, distance yourself from negativity, listen to those who know more, acknowledge your flaws and then take the necessary steps to correct them.
What’s your philosophy in life?
Work hard, be kind, appreciate your health, respect yourself. Utilise what you do know but be open to learning about things you don’t.
Don’t judge people and have integrity in everything you do.
Visit the By Charlie Ltd website for more information or go to Facebook / Instagram and search for @stluciaeventsbycharlie