Networking Event Signals that the Community is Stronger Than the Competition
The Caribbean Wedding and Event Professionals (CWEP) continues to mobilize its membership and to raise the profile of the organization, in anticipation of a surge in demand for weddings and events. As the region reopens for business, the combined number of delayed weddings in 2020, planned weddings for 2021, and engagements during the pandemic, point to a solid recovery of the sector. These professionals will have their work cut out as they will have different types of couples ready to tie the knot, they’ll be doing a whole myriad of plans like finding the best company for ring resizing in Baltimore, or wherever they are based, as they have been waiting a while for their wedding so things are going to be different, as well as sourcing venues that cater to large parties that can be held outdoors, and so on. There is a lot to get done, so it looks like it is all hands on deck.
After more than 12 months of bi-weekly digital connections, CWEP, a regional non-profit organization, hosted its first in-person networking event in Saint Lucia last Saturday. This private group emerged during COVID, as a way for wedding and event professionals throughout the Caribbean to share ideas and to identify novel ways to continue to nurture their skills and talents. CWEP currently has 43 members in Saint Lucia and the long-term goal of the organization is to establish CWEP Chapters in various Caribbean destinations.
The event featured Natalie John, Founder of CWEP as the keynote speaker. Among the officials attending the event were the Chief Medical Officer of Saint Lucia, Dr. Sharon Belmar George, Mrs. Maria Fowell, Senior Technical Specialist in Tourism at the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and other OECS staff. Also in attendance were Mr. Brian Louisy, Executive Director, Chamber of Commerce, members of CWEP Working Committee, CWEP members, friends, well wishers.
John had high levels of commendation for wedding and event planners in Saint Lucia. “I have had the pleasure of seeing all of your work via social media and I must say that I am very impressed with what the St. Lucian community has to offer.,” she said. “Today is very special, as this is our first in-person member mixer and I get to share it with you, our St. Lucian Wedding & Events community. I am excited to connect with you, as this is a testimony to the fact that we need greater representation at the Caribbean level. By our very location, we have a competitive advantage in the industry and CWEP will allow us to learn, network, grow and inspire each other at a local, regional and international level,” said Natalie John.
In laying out the rationale for founding CWEP, John explained that as an award winning wedding planner for over 22 years she has cultivated a strong presence in 13 Caribbean destination with her Dreamy Weddings brand. The inspiration to form CWEP came during COVID, when business came to an instant halt. During the lockdown, she connected with colleagues throughout the various Caribbean destinations. Given the economic, health and social implications, most of the conversations centered on the future outlook of the industry and what actions could be taken to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic. John noted how her international counterparts were connecting to share information and ideas and to explore solutions to address the pandemic.
“I felt that this was an opportune time for us in the Caribbean to connect and to establish an avenue whereby we could motivate and learn from each other and create our own space for further training and networking. Hence CWEP was born,” John stated. CWEP has been positioned a professional avenue for collaboration and to build community. “Together we are far greater than the competition and we can all share in the successes of each other.”
The prolongation of the pandemic business to a standstill and John decided to use her downtime to develop a handbook to address the lack of protocols available to wedding and event professionals in the Caribbean. The Covid-19 Protocol Guide for Weddings & Events was published in 2020 and can be used by any vendor in the wedding and event sector to map out a safety plan for executing events and to assure the highest levels of customer service and confidence for clients and staff. The e-book version of the handbook is available to all CWEP members free of charge.
The CWEP Founder used the event as an opportunity to present a signed copy of her book to Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar George and to announce a number of upcoming CWEP initiatives. As a training platform, the organization will offer a series of free webinars. This month’s topic will be “Financial Recovery in a Crisis and will be facilitated by Mr. Wendell Lawrence, OBE, a CPA, CGMA, former ECCB & CDB Director and former Financial Secretary of the Government of St. Kitts & Nevis. He will cover tips in managing for success during this period of recovery. All CWEP webinars are archived in the member access area on www.caribbeanwep.com.
The CWEP Mentor Matching is another benefit that will allow members to book 20 minute sessions with a team of mentors, namely Michelle Jules of Caribbean Strategy who will mentor on Business Strategy, Paula Coop McCrory, a Pinterest Guru with over 4M followers, who will mentor on the social media platform and Natalie John on Entrepreneurship. As part of their SDM initiative, the OECS also offers webinars on various topics that can help wedding and event professionals grow their businesses.
Natalie John credits the success of CWEP to a team of volunteers, the Working Committee members of CWEP. The team comprises Ms. Kelly Fontenelle, Mrs. Michelle Jules, Mrs. Nadia Satney, Svetlana Maximova, Shajunee Gumbs, Paula Coop McCrory and Celia Callender.