Vendor Spotlight - Beautiful Smilez

Vendor Spotlight - Beautiful Smilez

In our vendor spotlight series this week, we bring you a true description of an artist - Sylvia N. Tendo. She is the proprietor Beautiful Smilez Apparel. She does every work of art that can possibly be done with one’s hands. Her wedding décor is amazing! We caught up with her to reveal the secret of this amazing artistry that has become a part of her identity.

Sylvia N. Tendo - Proprietor Beautiful Smilez

So, to kick this off, who runs Beautiful Smilez?

I am Sylvia N. Tendo owner of Beautiful Smilez Apparel (this is the registered name but you can use Beautiful Smilez). We do decor and fashion among other things. We are located in Bunga.

Tell us about you. What sets you apart from other decorators?

I’m naturally creative so when I have an event, I do research and don’t necessarily copy and paste since I see a lot of that happening. So, when I do my research, I try to incorporate myself by being creative as much as possible and unique. I also like to use unique center pieces and not what everyone else is doing that’s why I like to create my own.

A guest table designed with gold plates and White linen

So where did the name Beautiful Smilez come from and not any other name?

I actually scratched my head about that for like a year but I believe it was inspiration from the LORD. This one morning it just occurred to me and even the few times I’ve tried to change it, I always go back to how I got it so I feel there’s no other replacement. Also, behind it there’s a desire that in whatever I do someone always leaves smiling beautifully.

What else do you do besides décor?

For now, I do fashion for example wedding gowns. I also design cards for any event and also a few of the things mentioned from the previous question.

Candles can be a great addition to wedding décor

What drives your design decisions? What are some of your biggest aspirations?

I love art generally and because everything about me is art, it just comes naturally, there’s a self-drive that’s natural for me, I can't say that I aspire to be like anyone else. There’s something in me that drives me to do what I do. So, my goal is not to be necessarily big but for the dream I have within me to be seen.

Neon lighting that accentuates the flowers and drapes at the high table.

What questions do you typically ask your clients before getting to work, and how do the answers factor into your design decisions?

Usually, the first question I ask is what their dream for the day is? So, as they are telling me this, I am already coming up with a mental picture which gives me a basis to plan and come up with concepts and designs. I believe that’s the major question. The rest come after the concept has been completed.

Long tables allow guests to interact closely

What makes an event successful and how do you measure that success?

So, before the event we usually have a plan of how the day will go starting from the colors, the flowers, the center pieces and every other detail of the décor. So, I measure success if everything goes according to plan. Let’s say I happen to get flowers from the florist and they are just as ordered, same for the lights from the light’s vendor. That is how I will be able to measure success. In summary, if the ambiance is just like I planned it mentally.

Some clients prefer simple natural décor for their traditional functions

Have you ever fallen behind schedule at one time, that one wedding where things didn’t go well?

This one time. We had a garden wedding and usually when it’s a hall or indoors you can spend the whole night setting up the place so you can’t fail to finish by morning unlike the case when its outdoors where you have to start in the morning and even worse If the work load is too much making it difficult to finish on time. So, for this one wedding in Jinja near the source of a Nile, we anticipated rain but thankfully it didn’t rain but because we started our preparations in the morning, we got caught up. The way I had visualized it, the high table and the rest, didn’t end up as hoped. What actually happened is that we failed to finish the work and we had to just proceed with what we were able to.

Special consideration is needed for décor in rooms with limited space

What was your client’s reaction to this?

When I plan with a customer, I usually leave room for surprises from my side. So, what was left out was actually a surprise from my side so they didn’t notice anything. This is something I do for every wedding. Right now, when I sit and look back at their high table I didn’t get to finish, I wish I had been able to deliver what I had planned for their wonderful day.

Usually when a client’s budget is low, they don’t ask for much, but on my side, this is an opportunity to show something different from what I did the previous time. So, for that particular wedding I really wanted them to have a very nice sweetheart table setting and they hadn’t planned for that. They had planned for a normal table setting. Me I planned to create this setting for them as an extra, a surprise.

What was your most successful wedding?

My most successful wedding was in 2019 around 2nd November at Arirang Korean Restaurant. Everything went on as planned from the lights, drapes, center pieces and so on. It’s the groom’s mother that funded the wedding. At the start she had doubts but by the time the setup was completed, she was happy and confident with what we did. She paid-gave us a full payment. I consider that being successful because till now I have some clients who still haven’t paid up in years.

Weddings are more intimate due to limited numbers brought on by COVID-19

If I can ask right there. How do you deal with debts since you said some people are not paying and some haven’t even paid in years? How are you dealing with that and how has it changed how you deal with new customers?

In the past when I would be working with friends, I’d not introduce the agreement but rather work on a friendly basis. This has however taught me that there’s no friendship in business. So right away I started introducing agreements so that we first agree that preferably before the event, you have completed the whole amount but sometimes a client can only afford to give a quarter of the labor. So back then when I was dealing with friends, only a quarter of the labor paid was enough to get to work hoping that after the event they would complete the remaining amount until I realized some would only have half of it and others none at all after the event.

As for debts, I am a Christian and I believe that whatever I do is backed up by prayer so my prayer is whoever comes to me is willing to make full payment and so far, that has been the case for the past 2 years. My prayer is also that I’m able to deliver. As for those who owe me from the past, I’m not sure whether I should forgive them or not since they have kept promising to pay but I forgive them, I just pray I can forget.

A rustic theme can be accentuated with some colour as evident in this photo

So, what do you do when you feel stressed out during the event planning process? How do you stay motivated when things go wrong?

I have come to believe that planning for events is naturally stressful. If you don't find a way of calming yourself down, you can get a heart attack. Actually, I heard a story of a person who just got started in this business and they got a heart attack because things didn’t go well as planned. So, for me when budgeting I put in place a backup plan just in case something wrong happens. Let me take you back to my most successful wedding. I had planned something extra for the bride and groom and I happened to use a new welder to weld for me the chairs and tables. I don’t know how I had trusted him because I usually don’t trust such people. So, I trusted him and never thought to visit to see the progress of the work until the day before the wedding. Me being an artist I can tell if something is just a few inches short.

So, on the day I went to check on his progress, I noticed everything was completely wrong. Thank God it was the surprise I had for the clients. So, in that moment I asked myself what my next course of action was. I couldn’t tell the welder to change and weld again because he wouldn’t finish in time. I just went with my Plan B and hired chairs and tables however much I had planned to make my own. My backup is therefore money I put aside as insurance for anything that doesn’t go according to my plan.

Flowers and lighting can be the difference at the high table

What personality traits, skills and education do you think all decorators must have?

I don't think you need any particular set of skills but you definitely must love what you do and be good at research, looking out for new trends and drawing inspiration from them but most importantly you have to be creative because If you’re not creative, I’ve noticed you may end up losing a lot of money even where it’s not necessary. If you’re creative you will always find a way to go about things such that even with little money, you can create something great.

As for education, I can’t really say because personally I didn’t study this. It just came to me naturally. To sum this up, love what you do, do research, be creative and where possible you can go for a short course in this but I don’t think it should be the main issue.

As for personality, learn and try to be patient as much as possible. When things go wrong, this is easily visible from the work. As the leader of the team, when things go wrong with you, you become a disaster to everyone else and your team can even fail to do their work. So, you should be patient. I love to work with people who are not necessarily decorators but people who have a desire to learn. They however shouldn’t be very green as that can really stress especially at critical moments where time is key. Despite this, I exercise patience with them.

Artificial flowers can be as good as fresh flowers in the hands of a good decorator

Where do you see beautiful smiles ten years from now?

Beautiful smilez is not necessarily about décor, for lack of a better word I can say it’s ‘a well of ideas.’ So, where I see us ten years from now is it being a one stop center for everything wedding for example if a bride walks in, we can provide them with all the necessary pastries they need for their wedding but also wedding gowns since I do design as well, jewelry, art, wedding cards and décor minus food. Ten years from now Beautiful Smilez will be bigger than me.

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