Wow! OK, I just finished my first vendor interview and it was fantastic. I met with Evelyn Peelle of Bamboo Star Studios over a cup of coffee and an off the diet pumpkin muffin from ‘Do Drop In Cafe’ in La Jolla. There’s a ton of information in the interview and something, I think, for everyone whether you’re planning your wedding and considering custom invitations, or if you’re anyone involved in the wedding industry. I won’t blather on too much as there’s so much to share from our interview. Check it out below, or if you’re busy with other tasks, play the audio file in the background while you research vendors, surf for that perfect bridesmaids dress or maybe even … work!
Below are some excerpts from my favorite parts of the interview. There’s definitely a lot more, so check out the audio file for the complete inteview! (
Audio interview with Bamboo Star Studios
note: The audio quality is terrible, but the interview is fantastic! We had to choose between competing against the sounds of the cafe inside and the street outside. I’ll be looking for quieter locals for future interviews!
EBP: For my first official vendor interview I have the pleasure of sitting down with Evelyn Peelle from Bamboo Star Studios based out of San Diego, California. So we’ve been talking a little bit before but why don’t you tell me a little bit more about Bamboo Star Studios.
BSS: Basically, I started the company about a year and a half ago officially and got into weddings, doing custom invitations and announcements as well as corporate graphic design, but I definitely have to say I have been enjoying the wedding industry profusely. A lot of our clients come to us with an idea of what they’d like for their special day, be that wedding, or otherwise. We take that and create something that really works for them. Whether a thank you card, stationary set, or again with the invitations it really works well and becomes a reflection of them instead of something that comes straight out of a box that you could buy say at a Target or stationary store.
EBP: Bamboo Star Studios is kind of a unique name … how did you come up with that and what’s the import … when you started thinking about your business, why Bamboo Star?
BSS: When I was originally starting to think about a company my sister and I were brainstorming and she had actually come up with this because I’m Chinese American, I grew up in Michigan before moving to California. We were always a little bit different in a way and the term Bamboo Star is a direct translation from the Cantonese term that means ‘stuck in the middle’ or ‘between the notches of a bamboo stick’. It’s kind of a slang that identifies people like myself that are stuck between traditional Chinese and American cultures. It’s a way to poke fun at ourselves as well as to pay respect to our background and to have fun with it at the same time.
EBP: So do you find with your design work that your background, your cultural identity influences the majority of your design?
BSS: I wouldn’t say the majority, but it’s definitely something that helps a lot. Especially when Chinese, or Asian brides come to us with an idea, because we grew up with all of those cultural expectations, I have the knowledge that would help direct, what would make a better decision, what would allow for us to explore creating something completely custom and personal but not so far fetched that it would create problems with families.
EBP: You said you have been doing custom stationary designs for weddings for the past year and a half, in that time what have you found to be the most rewarding aspect that maybe surprised you or you didn’t expect?
BSS: I don’t know if this is something that I didn’t expect, but one of the things that I found that I absolutely love about being a part of the wedding industry is just having the honor of being a part of someone’s wedding day. In talking to my clients, my couples are in that phase of planning, some of them just recently engaged, I mean, you are dealing with people who are loving life, loving each other and it’s so rewarding to be able to contribute to that and make it even better. … It’s such an honor to get to work with couples who are making these huge decisions for their one big wedding day and I absolutely love it. It’s something I hope to be able to be a part of for a long time.
EBP: What inspires you? When you’re looking at designs, are you working mostly off of ideas that your couples have given you or how does that process typically play out?
BSS: Generally couples do come with an idea or inspiration and I do work from where they’re coming from in that perspective. But what I absolutely love to do is just to talk to my couples. Talk to them, get to know them, get to know their story, how did they meet, how did they get engaged, where do they spend a lot of time, what are their hobbies? And from those simple conversations you get a lot of ideas springing out that sometimes even the bride and groom don’t even know were there.
EBP: What’s the one thing that you wish everyone knew about what you do in your business?
BSS: One of the things that really inspired me to start doing this, even for myself was that I just didn’t want to be the same as everyone else. I wanted my wedding day to feel absolutely unique because it was mine. Because it was something that would truly represent me. I guess then the one thing is that is the important thing; when you are planning an amazing day like your wedding, being able to have that front to back to have every part of it truly reflect who you are as a couple and I love being able to provide that for my clients.
EBP: I think the way we met was over twitter. I don’t remember exactly who it was that connected us, but I notice on your website you have your twitter link and facebook page as well as your blog which is great and it gives your clients as well as potential clients an opportunity to learn more about you throughout the process. As far as social media goes, have you noticed any direct benefits so far to your business? Have you received clients directly because of it? How does that play out for your business model?
BSS: It’s funny that you ask that because I was talking with someone very recently about how incredible social networking has become and how important of a tool it has become to the wedding industry, or any service industry in general. In terms of reaching brides and grooms directly, it’s definitely a tool. But one of the more effective results of social media has been getting in touch with other vendors in the wedding industry, and the connections I have been able to make out of that have been absolutely incredible.
EBP: Let’s talk a little bit about budgets. Everyone has them, all couples have budgets. When couples are coming to you do you find that they have a good understanding of what’s involved in the design process, printing process and the final deliverables or is there a lot of education that you find that you’re doing when a couple initially contacts you?
BSS: I think due to the ‘do it yourself’ movement there’s a lot of education involved. With scrap booking gaining popularity and everyone being budget concious due to the recession it’s very easy for people to head to Michael’s and pick up a magazine and think “I can easily do this myself, it doesn’t take that long, it’s not that difficult”. So, yes, trying to explain the importance of the design process, the time involved, but also explaining the value of being able to have a professional help out with their project is invaluable but it’s a matter of making them understand that and going through all the details of why it truly is important to allow a professional to get involved. The last year or so has been a little difficult because money is tight for everyone, but it’s nice to be able to delegate those things when you have a bigger picture to think about.
EBP: I think that’s great, and a couple of the things you said are really key, primarily the idea of time. You know how much work goes into, for a bride and groom, planning, getting all of their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed and the idea of spending so many additional hours on designing and printing. I’ve known couples who have told me they spent their last night before their wedding at Kinko’s trying to get the programs printed. Anything that can be done to take the stress off of the couple in that planning process and come up with an amazing and beautiful product that they more than likely wouldn’t be able to come up with themselves is a huge value. And coming obviously from the photographer’s point of view, being able to describe the value of what you’re providing as opposed to just simply the cost is huge.
EBP: We talked just briefly about the time and value that clients get when you’re involved with the design process. That is they’re not spending hours or weeks on their own design and how much value that has to them in the planning process. In addition to that, is there any piece of advice that you can provide to couples who are considering working with you as opposed to going with a design out of a box, or ordering out of a catalog?
BSS: I don’t have the most succinct of answers for that but I think the one big tip or piece of advice that I would give is by going the custom route you are choosing to do something that will reflect who you are and the relationship that you have. Knowing what that is or having a general idea of what that is before talking to someone even a designer such as myself or even a photographer being able to identify what really makes you tick is important. Otherwise I think we’re all just shooting blind.
EBP: I definitely agree as far as photography goes. I know that for me what’s most important to me is that I’m connecting to my clients and understanding what they’re looking for in their photography when their looking back on their wedding day and what’s most important to them. And in my initial meetings with my clients I’m asking, oftentimes, a lot of questions as I’m sure you are things that they don’t have answers to as far as what they’ve thought about for their day. But it gets their mind going and also informs me about the things that they do already know. So they’re telling me things whether knowingly or not that they’ve considered that are of the utmost importance to them when they’re reflecting on the day when they’re looking at the images and I can take that with me and really consider that in the coverage of the event.
EBP: Thank you so much again for sitting down and chatting a bit about your studio. Any last thoughts or comments?
BSS: Laughs … no … I think we’ve covered everything pretty well.