By Lakhram Bhagirat
As cliché as it may sound, Ruth Nkasi Johnson’s success as a Wedding and Event Planner is as a direct result of her failures in several other ventures. However, those failures did not define her path rather she knew in order to succeed, she needed to pick herself up and go again.
Ruth runs Beyond the Décor Wedding Consultant/Planning service.
In order to appreciate where Ruth is today, one must first understand the path she took to get here.
The entrepreneur was born and partially raised in Plaisance on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) but would move to Berbice, for some time, to live with her grandmother. She returned to Georgetown at the age of 11 and started her secondary education at St John’s College. After completing her education, she started working at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) while taking several training courses in communication and effective speaking as well as industrial relations.
“I spent 12 years working at Georgetown Public Hospital in various clinics and in administration. The last place there I worked was with the Records Department/Health Management Information Systems Department. From there I moved to Trinidad and spent a few years in Trinidad, where I worked at an advertising company name Tag Advertising,” she said.
While in Trinidad, Ruth also worked at the Grand Bazaar Mall where she was introduced to event planning and coordination. She would go on to do a course in wedding and events planning, reigniting a buried passion for events management.
“It was always a passion of mine because one year I was in a pageant – Miss Guyana Public Service Union pageant and I was a delegate and I was also on the planning team of the pageant. So you can imagine, I’m a delegate and also on the planning team and I realised you know this is something I like because I love logistics, I love details, I love the end to end detailing of stuff. So I realised then that this was a passion I had but I never took it serious because really and truly, I want to become a physiotherapist,” Ruth related.
After completing her event planning course there in 2009, Ruth would move back to Guyana in 2012 where she began looking at ways to get settled. Knowing that she wanted to be her own boss, Ruth then started selling clothes and that would fail. She would then move on to work as a nail technician and that too failed. She re-entered the clothing business and failed again.
“I just failed miserably as I like to tell people like I failed with my master’s. I have a master’s degree in failing. I mastered the art of failing before I could succeed.”
Her many failures made her seriously consider her options and survey what the Guyanese market needed which resulted in her venturing into the planning business. When she first started out, she had nothing, not a vase, a table cloth or flowers but according to her, she had her computer and graphic skills. She created business cards and could only afford to print about 20 which meant that she had to really be careful about how she shared those out.
Deciding that she needed to make an even bigger step to getting her business off the ground, in 2013 around Christmas time, Ruth approached the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED) and pitched her idea for their Christmas party.
“I don’t know but I went into them and I spoke with them and I showed my portfolio and they were impressed and they bought what I was selling. They believed in what I was selling even though I’ve never done an event here. They gave me the chance and that was my first big break. Even though I haven’t anything (to get the job done) from the advance that they would have given me I took that and started to buy the things that I need to do their job and then to start my inventory of buying other stuff to always have it at hand when I’m being called to do a job,” she explained.
Ruth would continue to plan IPED’s Christmas party until 2015.
Explaining her role as a planner, Ruth said that she is primarily responsible for planning, coordinating and styling (which is considered as decorating in Guyana). She also does consultancy jobs for persons who cannot offer her services or choose to have something more intimate. Her company also has a section that deals with strictly corporate events which is managed by two other persons and Ruth focuses on the wedding aspect.
“I go from end-to-end planning of the wedding. Mind you, let me make this clear – planning is different from decorating and a lot of persons don’t know that because when they hear planning they just think decorating. Planning takes more time because if I do not plan properly then the person who’s decorating cannot do a good job at decorating, the person who’s coordinating cannot do a good job of coordinating, the person who is managing the wedding or the party cannot do a good job.
“What have we learned is, the industry is growing and ever changing and I always have to be on top of my game. I always have to be innovative. I always have to have something extra special to give to my clients and give to persons who come to consult with me.”
When asked about why there is a need for a planner, Ruth said that the planner would take the stress off the family since they are responsible for the management of the event. That means that they would ensure the DJ has the right music cued, the event is opened and decorated on time, there is ice for the drinks, and a whole host of other functions.
“I would like to advise, persons who are willing to get into the industry is not a walk in the park. It looks glamorous at the end but it takes a lot of work to get there. You don’t just wake up one morning and click your finger and everything happens, it takes a long hour sleepless night.”
Association of Women Entrepreneurs
Over the years, Ruth has acquired a wealth of knowledge of the planning and events management industry in Guyana and she is one person who does not keep it to herself. She would organise “planners lounge” where the information would be shared and training opportunities with people in the industry would be offered. She is also hopeful of starting a planning school in the future.
A few years ago, a woman from Jamaica met with Ruth and three other ladies where she discussed an opportunity for them to join a Caribbean organisation for entrepreneurs, which she was heading. The ladies were excited at the prospect but later decided that they could share their expertise, skills and knowledge with local women entrepreneurs and started the Association of Women Entrepreneurs.
“We came up with the name, we came up with the logo and we came up with the whole idea in what direction we wanted to go. It is mainly aimed at helping women entrepreneurs whether it is big or small businesses, young or old in the direction that will help them to grow their business and market what they are offering.”
Ruth is now president of the Association which has about 15 members. They have organised a Market Day where over 30 women-owned businesses would offer their products and services. It will be on July 3 and 4 at the MovieTowne Mall.