Dr Tumelo Makamu on leaving her medical career to pursue her passion for event planning

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Dr. Tumelo Makamu quit her job in medicine to pursue her events planning business.
Dr. Tumelo Makamu quit her job in medicine to pursue her events planning business.
Supplied to TRUELOVE

For many people, leaving behind the security of having a stable income to become an entrepreneur is a risk that they are often afraid to take. But for qualified medical doctor, Dr Tumelo Makamu, that fear did not get in the way of her pursuing her passion of event planning.

After working for five years in the medical field, Dr Makamu quit her job and started her wedding planning company, The Wedding Butterfly, which specialises in events, wedding celebrations and decor.

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Almost a decade after its establishment in 2012, the business has grown immensely, boasting of a VIP clientele including well known celebrities and politicians. Dr Makamu’s business has also expanded by launching The SA Luxury Floral Design Masterclass where she offers classes about events planning and designing.

Supplied to TRUELOVE.

She tells TRUELOVE how she did it.

How did you get into the events planning industry?

For me, it started off as hobby. I always enjoyed putting together events for family and friends. I did a lot of birthdays and baby showers for my family and friends out of the love of it. I did it for free, as it was just a hobby for me. In the initial stages, I had no plans of turning it into a business until I did one particular baby shower for a colleague.

It came out so beautifully and one of my sisters advised me to start charging for my services. Obviously at that stage I had a lot of doubts and did not think that people could actually pay me to put together their celebrations for them as I did not know of many planners at that time. I then started charging and to my surprise people were willing to rather pay someone to handle all the run arounds for them. Because I am a perfectionist and want to be thorough in my work, I then decided to enroll in a course in Wedding Planning and shortly thereafter, I then registered my company, The Wedding Butterfly.

When did you realize that events planning was your passion?

From a very young age, when there was functions or celebrations at home or relatives’ weddings, I never wanted to be with the team that was cooking and preparing meals. I always made sure I was in the tent or the hall somewhere assisting with the décor elements.

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I did it effortlessly and at that time I did not even realise that it was my passion. It was only in later years when I started reflecting on where it all started that the penny dropped. 

What do you enjoy most about being an event planner now?

It comes naturally to me without many doubts and fear. I enjoy seeing my client’s reactions when they first walk into their transformed wedding or event venue. We are experts in home weddings which usually take place in the villages, and when I see the reaction and excitement of the community to a backyard or a street that has been transformed into a magical wedding venue, I am always filled with so much emotions and joy. Those moments are always a reaffirmation for me that I am indeed walking in my purpose.

Supplied to TRUELOVE.

Did you have any fears when you quit your profession? If so, what were they?

My biggest fear was financial security. It was definitely one of my fears in terms of how I was going to manage the fact that events came randomly and how that was going to affect my budget planning. In the initial stages, I also had fears of whether I would always be able to meet my client’s expectations and if they would be happy with the final product that I would present to them.

How did you overcome those fears?

When I first quit the medical profession, I had not planned well financially and as a result, I soon ran out of funds and was forced to go back to my full-time job (medical job). The second time I quit, things were a bit different. This time around I made sure I had enough savings and also only quit when I had a consistent clientele that would sustain me and the business if I quit.

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting out in the events industry?

Like any new business, starting capital is always a challenge. It also took quite a while to get wedding clients, I spent a lot of time in the first few years doing only baby showers, birthday parties and small celebrations.

What advice would you give to someone who is scared to leave their current job to follow their passion as an entrepreneur?

It’s never an easy decision to make and the biggest challenge and fear is financial security. My advice would be for an individual to do a bit of a research into the business passion they want to venture in, equip yourself with skill and knowledge. If possible, do both jobs until a stage where you are confident that your passion job can sustain itself and you.

What would you say is the secret to having a successful career in events planning?

Reliability, consistency, professionalism, hard work and passion.

A job in events is strenuous and involves a lot of hours and hard work; if you don’t have the love for it, you will not last very long. The most important thing is to have the love for it; this is what will carry you during the hard days where you might feel like calling it quits. You'll then remember why you first started. Clients nowadays are looking for professionals who are dedicated and know what they are doing.

It has to be value for money, so one needs to demonstrate a degree of professionalism and also be consistent in the work that they do. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and when you are reliable and deliver what has been promised, it goes without a doubt that your client will recommend you to the next person.

Supplied to TRUELOVE.

How did a short course in events planning help you in running your business?

That was one of the most worthwhile investments that I made in the business. It helped me put everything into perspective, from small things such as how to pitch up for your initial meeting with a new client, concepts , planning, budget management to coordinating all involved service providers, timelines, schedules, and ultimately a seamless execution of a lifetime guest experience.

The course I did was very thorough and tackled all elements of putting together a beautiful event. One can never stop learning, I have since attended a few local and international Masterclasses and workshops and will also be hosting a one of a kind Event Masterclass on 11 & 12 August 2021 in Johannesburg with the aim of sharing skills and knowledge and also creating a strong networking opportunity for industry individuals.

How have the ever-changing lockdown regulations impacted your business?

They have impacted our business very badly. We had to be innovative and try keep afloat though it’s really not the same. We have extended our services to funeral set ups through our sister company Butterfly Florals SA and we now have packages for intimate events and home celebrations. We are also offering drive through baby showers and luxury floral gifts.

What is your vision for your company, The Wedding Butterfly?

I have co-founded The SA Luxury Event Design Masterclass which I would love to see growing and bringing together the wedding and event industry. The ultimate goal for The Wedding Butterfly is do fewer but impactful bespoke events and weddings and also collaborate with international planners outside of South Africa.

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