From running home-made concession stands in her backyard to working in upscale restaurants, tourism grad Nicole Sihlis has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for customer service.
An obsession with bridal magazines and a dream of becoming a wedding planner led Sihlis to the Events and Convention Management Diploma at TRU. She made a 24-hour trip from her hometown of Saskatoon to Kamloops to check out the campus and was instantly sold on the unique program and what it had to offer. After finishing her diploma, she went on to complete a Bachelor of Tourism Management in 2013.
“Taking the leap to leave my hometown and trusting my gut to pursue a career that I knew was right for me, was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences,” said Sihlis. “I wouldn’t have my diploma, degree, husband, son, or successful wedding planning company without that decision. I think there are times in your life when you look back and think about that moment when things changed—for me, it was the day I came to TRU.”
After serving as President of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and volunteering at the Kamloops Bridal Fair for four years, she is now the owner and creative director of Created Lovely Events, one of the Okanagan’s most highly sought-after wedding planning companies, located in Kelowna, BC.
“The bridal fair is an awesome opportunity for students to gain experience,” she said. “It’s small intentional actions like helping at the bridal fair and gaining experience working within the wedding industry that helped contribute to my career success.”
Created Lovely Events is a high-end event service that has become known for planning up-scale outdoor weddings, including a couple of recent NHL weddings. With events featured in premier bridal magazines and blogs—Style Me Pretty, Once Wed and Real Weddings, to name a few—she has quickly made a name for herself in a very competitive market.
For Sihlis, her accomplishments didn’t come overnight, she says her actions were extremely deliberate and goal-oriented.
“I think success is truly when opportunity meets preparation,” she explained. “It was my goal to be known as the only high-end wedding planner in the Okanagan. It’s all I put on my website, it’s how I branded myself, I knew exactly what I wanted and went after it.”
She said that branding is everything for those just starting out, explaining that it’s important to figure out exactly who you are, what services you want to offer and start there.
She also employs fellow tourism grad Kate Lohr, who is an associate planner and day-of coordinator, as well as five seasonal workers during the busy summer months.
“Kate has worked for me for the past couple of summers and she’s been great. I don’t exclusively hire TRU alumni, but I do advertise to students in the tourism program and PCMA because I know their skill set, what they have to offer and what skills they can gain from working with me.”
As her business continues to grow and thrive, she explains that entrepreneurship and the risks involved don’t necessarily get any easier.
“I don’t think that the doubt and fear ever go away, and there is a lot of uncertainty involved, but my drive is greater than my fear.”
Created Lovely Events is already booked up for the entire 2017 wedding season, including the wedding of another pro-athlete—but if you are interested in learning more about their services, check them out on Facebook and Instagram.