Didi Russell, Wedding Nerd, Official BIO
I am the CEO & founder of both VAWENetwork.com and WeddingIndustryInsider.com. I have a career background that includes over 20 years of experience in advertising, marketing and networking solutions for small business owners. My passion for small business success began while working for the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, as the events coordinator. I had the pleasure of working with 1500 businesses of all sizes and industries. I also led the Military Appreciation Committee, Holiday Lights Committee and managed multiple fund raisers & special events. The largest event I managed had 8000 attendees, over 250 volunteers, military officials, politicians, CEO’s and prominent community leaders. This experience shaped my great respect & in depth understanding of the incredible skill required for successful event management. Later on I used this knowledge & experience when starting my own business.
I grew up in Dallas and then had the pleasure of living in Anchorage Alaska. In 2004 I moved to Virginia to be closer to family and enjoy 4 distinct seasons. My time in Anchorage was one of the best experiences of my life but after fours year I was eager for less extreme living conditions. I was offered the position of marketing manager for La Prima Catering in Washington DC. I had the incredible opportunity to work with some of the most powerful companies in the world. I was exposed to a level of detail, protocol and professional expectations I had never experienced before. I began to volunteer & participate in 8 local chambers of commerce. Networking and building relationships was essential for my career growth as a new professional in the region. Mastering the art of networking with the impact of social media allowed me to develop thousands of wedding industry relationships & resources. In 2012 after noticing a lack of opportunities, information and resources for wedding industry professionals I decided to dedicate my networking and mentoring experience by starting VAWE Network. Since then I have toured over 450 wedding venues in Virginia documenting over 2000 weddings.
My goal is to create a universal standards of practice derived from compiling real data and statistics that can be used to improve all aspects of the wedding industry. My love and passion is focused on helping wedding industry business owners learn practical & affordable ways to grow their business. I work tirelessly to make sure these business owners have access to fair, ethical & effective opportunities. This requires my dedication 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I answer hundreds of emails weekly from brides, vendors & venues. Manage over 150 wedding industry social media pages and 10 wedding industry websites. I have my finger on the pulse of the wedding industry by monitoring what is happening before, during and after regional weddings. I believe strongly that change is overdue in the way we protect the investment of the brides & grooms. We need to change the way wedding vendors & venues work together, understand each other and respect each other. A lack of effective communication and understand of roles between venue and vendor have left gaping holes in our ability to provide safety precautions, reduction of liability, forecasting potential hazards and wasteful habits.
Over the course of managing my career and starting a business I have had 6 children. I believe strongly that the same characteristics that help me manage a household of 8 has helped me succeed in business. A person with many responsibilities and an extreme workload must be well organized, flexible, dedicated and determined. I did not have funding, staffing or a team of support when I started my business. My favorite quote, “a naked woman learns to weave quickly”. That is just what I did, I learned everything I could about the wedding industry, my colleagues, clients and couples. As a result VAWE Network has expanded into 4 states, providing education and resources for wedding business owners and their staff. VAWE Network is a free resources for engaged couples who come to the site to gain access to more options for local vendors, tips, trends and advice. It is important to note that even though there are many huge wedding websites that have been around for years, couples & vendors are still looking for better options. VAWE Network is dedicated to creating much needed advancement in Fair Practices, Standards of Practice and access to opportunities in the wedding industry. I am very proud to know so many incredible wedding industry business owners who strive for excellence. I learn something new every day and I am very pleased to have the ability to share this wedding industry intelligence with brides, grooms, venues and vendors.
I am proof that anyone can succeed no matter how many obstacles or challenges are in your way if you are willing to work hard & determined to be excellent not just adequate then your small business has the ability to reach the levels of success you have dreamed of. I hope to have to opportunity to support you in your journey.