Business

These Coast millennials have a side hustle that can make your big day even bigger

Planning a wedding is easy, right? It's something anyone can do because all you really need is true love, a church, a Pinterest account, a cake and a playlist with "Cupid Shuffle" and "The Cha Cha Slide."

Four millennial women from the Coast have a different opinion — you need some help.

Meet the women behind Gray Meetings & Events: Ravin Nettles, 27; DeRae Graham, 28; Kayla Krieger Porter, 29, and Gayla Jones, 29.

Although Gray does event planning of all types, the wedding hustle, Nettles and Porter said, grew out of necessity. Both were married in October — Nettles in 2015 and Porter in 2017. Porter said she even caught the bouquet at Nettles' wedding.

"I did my own wedding and then we helped Kayla," Nettles said.

Jones is engaged and Graham said she has been in "many weddings."

Porter said she reached out for some help from her friends when she tied the knot in the fall of 2017.

"I did all of my own wedding planning legit by myself, and Ravin asked if they could do my day-of coordination and I was like, 'Please,' and literally as I walking into the church to get married, I asked Ravin and Gayla if they wanted a third party in their planning duo."

The business

Nettles said each woman brings her own skill set to the business.

"Gayla and I both have a degree in the entertainment industry, so we both enjoy live festivals and we have both helped with the Essence Festival in New Orleans and I've done the Gulfport Music Festival and CPR Fest," Nettles said. "Our end goal is to produce a large-scale music festival. Gayla and I decided this business and weddings was the way we thought we could get the business off the ground."

The women agree that Nettles brings organizational skills. Jones is highly functional in technology. Graham brings a business mindset and networking skills, and Porter has an eye for aesthetics.

And while the business is starting to take off, it's a side hustle as all of the partners have full-time jobs and careers. Nettles is a project manager for a digital company, Graham is in wine and liquor sales, Jones is in event services in New Orleans and Porter works at a physician's office, tends bar and goes to school.

"I even Uber," Porter said. "And I have a puppy and a husband, and Gayla has a 1-year-old and she just got engaged."

Nettles, Jones and Porter worked their first wedding as a trio in November. The name of the company was derived from Ravin and Gayla's names.

"We knew we just had to do something to get the business going," Nettles said.

Remember your special day

Graham.JPG
DeRae Graham

Graham said wedding planning is a three-tier service — planning the wedding, consulting and day-of coordination.

"I've been at weddings where I've been walking around refilling ice and setting out napkins and cleaning up — those are the things you don't think about when you're planning a wedding by yourself and that's how we can help," Graham said. "But we're like a machine and we can help make it happen."

Nettles said using a planning service takes a lot of stress off the bride.

"I didn’t have anyone helping me," she said. "And on my wedding day, people kept calling me and asking me this and that and finally, I was just over it and I hadn't even gotten married yet. I look back on it and I missed out on so much of a very special day because I was I was stressed about the planning."

With the average wedding costing between $15,000-$20,000, Nettles said a little creativity goes a long way.

“A couple can have the beautiful wedding she always dreamed of and only spend $5,000-$10,000 on a wedding," she said. "It just takes a bit of creative thinking to make it look and feel like a $20,000 wedding — that’s where we come in."

Life isn't Pinterest

In recent years, the social media platform Pinterest has played a role in wedding design. But just because it's on Pinterest doesn't mean it's feasible for your wedding, at least according to Graham.

"Pinterest crafts are things you do at home weeks before the wedding, they're not things you're doing the day of your wedding," Graham said. "But sometimes there are things that have to be done at the last minute like a doughnut wall — you have to do that the day of the wedding. And who exactly is going to put those doughnuts on the wall."

Nettles said Pinterest has done a good job of giving brides and grooms ideas but the reality lies in the execution.

"You see a picture and think that it looks easy, but then it costs a $1,000 to make," she said. "You don't get the kind of information on Pinterest and that's where we can help. Weddings can be so competitive and stressful and we want to come in and help eliminate some of that stress so that you and your family can enjoy the day because it goes by quickly."

Graham said that Gray's services start at $1,000 but al a carte services are available for purchase by the hour.

Beyond weddings

Although wedding planning is the company's focus right now, Graham said they want to make any event special.

"It doesn't have to be a wedding, if you want to have a big get-together, we can do that," she said.

Porter said she has some advice for other people thinking of starting their own side hustle.

"We all have jobs and families and so many other things going on and in the beginning, it was daunting because you want to have everything figured out, but sometimes, it's just better to do it." she said. "That was a big message that I've learned — just start and do it."

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