Sarah Keeker starts her day by helping couples make their wedding day a success. While owning a wedding planning business has many rewards, she never thought about taking this avenue until her culinary dream job didn’t work out.
Keeker, CFS ’09 and Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation recipient, started college with the goal of becoming a lawyer. After taking her first history course she learned she needed more person-to-person interaction.
“I was the type of student who wanted to go to class, interact with people, work in groups and engage in ideas,” Keeker said. “My older sister was at Purdue the same time I was. She helped me figured out what major could give me the interaction I was looking for. We found that selling and sales management was the perfect fit for me. Not long after I changed majors, I heard about the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program from a guest speaker in one of my classes. The certificate was a natural fit to my major and my future.”
After graduating from Purdue, and facing one of the worst job markets in recent history, Keeker attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York with dreams of opening her own restaurant. As she built her career in the restaurant industry, she quickly learned the lack of flexibility wasn’t for her.
“I found that the demanding schedule did not fit my lifestyle. It took my mother getting ill for me to realize I needed to take a different path. I knew I wanted a job where I could be there for my family if I needed to.”
With no direction or idea of what to do, Keeker turned to a friend for advice.
“We thought about what I could bring to the table. I had a sales background, I liked working with people, I was detailed oriented and organized. My friend, a photographer, had a number of clients looking for a wedding planner- I loved the idea and ran with it.”
Keeker started Plum and Poppy, in the first year she planned seven weddings at no cost to gain experience and establish credibility. The next year she planned 28 and now she is grown to be one of the top three wedding planners in the greater Indianapolis area. Her success did not come without challenges.
“I quit my job to build my business. I was without income for several months and was unsure of how this was going to work out. From my classes at Purdue I knew networking was a key component to building a business. I was determined to meet as many people as possible. Networking was directly related to the growth of my business. As my business grew I needed a solid contract and a professional accountant, two pieces of advice I received from my instructors in the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. I was prepared for the challenges of entrepreneurship because of the knowledge I received through the certificate program.”
With the success of Plum and Poppy, Keeker’s motivation persisted. She became co-owner with her father of an event venue, The Barn in Zionsville.
“When I started planning weddings, I noticed that most venues had limited options. I had an opportunity to create a space where couples can be creative and bring their personal style into the facility.”
Looking back on her path to success, Keeker realizes she went through valuable learning experiences.
“We can’t see where we are going to end up. It might take a life altering circumstance to bring you to great things. Everything that seems to be going wrong, could be leading you down the right path. I encourage young entrepreneurs to find the positives in what they are doing.”
Writer: Sayde Uerkwitz, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Sarah Keeker, email@example.com