lifestyle

STUDIO TOUR: COCO WEDDING VENUES

It’s time to introduce you to another shiny new B.LOVED feature, and one I’m rather looking forward to combining my love of interiors and stylish business women (and men!).  Once a month we’ll be taking a peek inside the studio of a successful entrepreneur, finding out what makes their business tick and how they like to decorate the space they work from.  First up is Emma Hla, founder of Coco Wedding Venues, and new B.LOVED Lifestyle features writer.  This lady knows her own style (and self-confessed love of grey) even her Instagram feed is instantly recognisable!

Name: Emma Hla

Title + Company: Founder & Editor of Coco Wedding Venues

City: Brighton

Tell us a little about your business? Coco Wedding Venues is a wedding venue directory focused purely on style, luxury and of course the pretty.We personally handpick an exclusive selection of venues and suppliers for the discerning Bride and Groom to be. Each venue must have something unique, beautiful and that little something extra to offer. Whether that’s beautiful grounds, a fabulous in-house team or stories steeped in history. Coco has just turned 10 months old (the 1st birthday is fast approaching! Eeek!) and although a young directory, we are certainly shaking things up in the wedding industry. Our readers are very engaged and we are backed by some pretty amazing industry experts! So we know we’re doing something right and more importantly, something different.

How did you get started in the industry + what prompted you to get started? Just over a year ago I was walking down the aisle myself, so being a Bride-to-be is still very fresh in my mind. However, it was on this wedding planning journey that I realized how difficult and uninspiring the venue search was! For most of us this is the first step into the world of weddings so it left me feeling a little underwhelmed by the whole process. Which is a bit sad isn’t it…?

Our natural first step was to search the internet, but the wedding venue websites we came across didn’t excite and inspire us. I’m obsessed with style, stories and of course the pretty but nothing seemed to capture this. Blogs on the other-hand are full of inspiration and there are plenty of beautiful wedding blogs out there! But, there wasn’t one that focused purely on that first step of the journey… I wanted to merge the functionality of a venue search tool with the stylish wedding inspiration found on blogs.  At the time of this light-bulb moment I was just two months away from my own wedding and, after a little career break filled with travelling and wedding planning, I was about to embark on another corporate fashion role for an amazing brand. But I didn’t see it through. My belief in Coco was too much and I just had to give a go.  So Coco Wedding Venues was founded.

What do you think has made your business successful? Gosh, I’m not sure if I’m there yet as my business is still very young and I’m learning every day. But I think if I look back over this first year I have achieved some incredible things and I’m absolutely thrilled at how Coco Wedding Venues has been received by both couples searching and the wedding industry. For me, the reason Coco has been successful in it’s launch is down to the brand. I’m a big believer in brands. The look, the style, the voice and of course ultimately how it makes you feel is a huge deal in whether someone is going to trust and buy in to your offer.

The ethos behind Coco can be summed up using these words; “Luxe, stylish, unique, quality, bespoke and cool”. These words capture the spirit of Coco Wedding Venues and all that we look for in our wedding venues. But it also sums up our work ethic and I’m always 100% sure about my design and any tech updates before they are launched.  Ensuring consistency across our brand and our offer to Brides and Grooms is of the upmost importance to us and I absolutely think this is one of the reasons behind our success.

Where do you work + how do you make sure your space stays inspiring? I’m so very lucky to work from home. I wake up in Brighton with my husband and puppy and I trot downstairs to my office. It’s bliss. The only down side is the lack of exercise / socialising that I now do!! It also takes some concerted effort to switch off at the end of the day.

My office space is part of our lounge, on one side we have our relaxing space and on the other is Coco HQ. It was important that the two spaces worked as one but still felt separate. My office is a simple arrangement of a white desk, white ledge shelving and a ghost chair. To inspire me I have some lovely pieces from our wedding such as the Mango letters and a couple of our wedding / engagement photos. I also have beautiful books, fresh flowers and some of my Instagram snaps dotted around. I have these printed at Origrami.

How would you describe your style? What attracts people to your brand + how important is this to the success of your business? My personal style is classically British with an eclectic twist… I’m partial to Breton tops, red lips, cocoon coats and cashmere knits. I only tend to shop with British brands, with a couple of French labels thrown in when I’m feeling flush. At home I love understated, raw elegance. Our house is a mixture of stripped back natural wood floorboards, vintage furniture and a neutral palette. All of this, and more, influences the Coco style. From the scripted calligraphy, to the watercolour washes through to the photography I choose for the venues. It’s all joined up. It’s my style and I think it’s this conviction that’s important. Live your brand people, live your brand!

What trend predictions do you have for 2015? I think the two-piece wedding dress will continue to grow in popularity as well as the cape accessory. Bold florals, from printed wedding dresses through to stationery will be strong. I think blush will slowly start fading away in place of blues and mints, as well as deeper taupes and lavenders. I think a new era will be overtaking the Art Deco love that we’ve seen for the past few seasons. Hello 1930’s…?  For the home I think it will be all about functional luxury. That idea of a boutique hotel at home. Classic pieces with a luxe twist. Yum. The boy and I are currently thinking up ways to add a bit of hotel luxe to the bedroom. There’s nothing we love more than to lie in on a weekend, drinking coffee and catching up with the world. Pup snoozing at our feet of course completes this picture!

What challenges have you set yourself for the next 12 months?

  • Continue to curate a gorgeous collection of venues.
  • To create 3 more bridal inspiration shoots – City Chic, Classic Elegance and Coastal Cool.
  • To travel more in my business year two (currently eyeing up Vietnam – recommendations welcome!)
  • To launch a destination category.
  • A possible summer road trip involving the Coco Wedding Venues – watch this space!
  • To continue to remember why I started my own business and to enjoy every aspect this brings.
  • To be the only choice of wedding venue directory for the discerning Bride & Groom (*ahem*)

Suppliers

Emma

Emma

I’m the founder & editor of style-led wedding directory Coco Wedding Venues. I live by the sea in Brighton. Wife to Mark. Mama to Gatsby.