“I’m a huge believer in communication and kindness being the most important things there are, and so, for me, showing up every day as a business owner means having an unwavering work ethic, while wearing my heart on my sleeve. I’ve learned to find silver linings, to use mindfulness to reset my thoughts into a positive mindset, and to take time out when I need it.” Valentina Ring, Founder of The Stars Inside on the lows and how she moved past them
With such a varied plethora of careers behind her (we’re talking everything from Astrophysics Researcher to Circus Performer – no, really) Valentina Ring, Founder of The Stars Inside ‘s journey to discovering her calling as an international wedding and elopement planner has been a truly remarkable one. Woven with the strands of her glittering vision and imagination, every wedding she plans as The Stars Inside is an extraordinary one, punctuated with her love, kindness and innate creativity (not to mention some serious organisational skills). I managed to catch up with founder Valentina herself to talk about her business journey so far and her version of Taking The Plunge, including the highs, the lows, the first jobs, the worst jobs and the tech she can’t live without…
Name: Valentina Ring
Business: The Stars Inside
Date you took the plunge: September 4th 2017
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“I offer wedding and elopement planning support to couples all over the world – specialising in intimate, magical, multiple-day destination weddings.”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“I don’t have an events background, and I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur or a business owner to be honest! My university degree was a Masters in Physics – which was followed by careers as an Astrophysics Researcher, a Circus Performer, and an Investment Banker – until I found my calling and my people here in the wedding industry. Looking back now, I know that each of those plot twists and stepping stones – in their own way – gave me the strength and courage to be here now, doing what I love.”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“I actually have a colleague to thank: we were working with a wedding planner for our own wedding, which we started planning back in 2015, and it was the friendship with her that led to this. After months of working together and getting to know one another – it was her who suggested that this might be the path for me, and I’m so grateful that she planted that seed. She allowed me to see the behind-the-scenes of the role, introduced me to colleagues and training courses, and before long, it was all I could think of!”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“Once I realised I wanted to take the plunge and follow my heart towards the wedding industry, I started working on my brand, taking training courses, doing work experience on weekends, and learning and absorbing what I could from wherever I could – all the while still in full-time employment. A few months before my wedding, I gave notice at the bank, and, honestly – it was terrifying, but absolutely wonderful! The day after we got back from our honeymoon, I sat down at my desk and started my business.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing… But it felt incredible to be so excited and hopeful for the future.For the first time (probably ever) I felt like I had found where I was meant to be! I had no idea where and how I’d get my first client – and my self-doubt kept pulling me down, asking why anyone would hire me over my better, more experienced colleagues. But I kept showing up every day and doing the best I could, getting my name out there however I could, creating a website and online presence I could be proud of, learning, collaborating, volunteering my time, networking, and generally trying to stay mindful, present, and positive. I loved knowing that my only limit was how much I was willing to put in: and although the to-do list felt endless, it was also thrilling to know that it was my own.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
“Being trusted and chosen by couples – especially after a particularly good consultation call, where I felt excited, in-tune, and really connected to them – it’ll never stop giving me butterflies! Every single wedding day since my very first one has been a true HIGH for me and my business. I adore the couples I work with, and seeing them joyful, saying their forever vows, hugging their loved ones – there’s honestly nothing that makes me happier. It’s an honour to be a part of the journey, getting to know them and their families, and knowing that I was a small part of telling their love story… it’s the reason I do what I do. There have been some really special, more tangible highs too, like travelling to beautiful places for destination weddings all over the world, winning a prestigious award, and having my work featured in international publications. I still pinch myself!”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“Although there’s a lot of elements of being a business owner that are challenging (like figuring out the mysteries of social media marketing, being your own accountant, handling rejection, managing time, and so on) – I’d have to say that my true lows have to do with self-doubt, to be honest. I hit lows when I’m scared of disappointing, of not being good enough – or as good as others in the industry, and of letting myself, my family, or my clients down. Even after five and half years, there’s always still the dread of not knowing when the next booking will come – and, every day, a fear of not being the best I can be for my couples, for myself, and for my husband (who has been VERY patient in these first years of building my business!). I think that moving past these moments and learning from them is all about strong, open, and honest relationships: with my couples, with my network of suppliers, and most importantly with my husband too. I’m a huge believer in communication and kindness being the most important things there are, and so, for me, showing up every day as a business owner means having an unwavering work ethic, while wearing my heart on my sleeve. I’ve learned to find silver linings, to use mindfulness to reset my thoughts into a positive mindset, and to take time out when I need it.”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
No.1 “Don’t try to be like everyone else. For the right couples, you will be irreplaceable and perfect as you are, so be brave enough to be yourself.”
No.2 “Be careful with your time, how much you give, and how much you say yes to. Opening doors and working hard is a good thing, but overextending your heart, mind, and body, is not.”
No.3 “You’re going to love being a wedding planner more than you could ever imagine. So whatever happens, it’s worth it.”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“I find that when my brain, heart, and mind are caught in a loop of anxiety at night-time (which happens a lot!), the best thing I can do is give them something else to wrap around: I usually watch something, like an episode of a series on Netflix, an animated film, or I might read a chapter of a book. Usually, immersing myself into another story calms my thoughts, and brings me back to a mindset where I can slowly drift to sleep. I also have a few trusted playlists of sounds that I know relax me – most of them ambient rain noises – which help me a lot as well.”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“I feel most overwhelmed when there are too many things swirling around my head – and the way I fix that is by taking them out of my head and onto an organised space: whether that’s a diary, a whiteboard, an online task list, a project management platform, or even just a notepad by my desk. I make lists, and lists, and more lists, and I (try) to plan my to-dos each day ahead of time. Of course, things happen that swerve me away from my plans, but having them written down removes the risk that they’ll be forgotten or not afforded the time and care they need. Even if seeing all the to-dos in one place is daunting, I instantly feel more in control once I’ve written them all down, and can start ticking my way through them, one by one. Deep breaths, one step at a time, reminding myself I’m doing the best I can with the time and energy I have available.”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“I wouldn’t say there’s one specific role model for me or for my business, but I do have a long list of authors, designers, and lifestyle icons that inspire me to carve my own path. I’ve always been a dreamer: I grew up with Disney movies, and an immense love for art, books, movies, and storytelling – and I think that’s a big part of what inspires me too. In my personal life, I’m inspired by my husband’s work ethic, his moral compass, and his kindness – as well as by the memory of my mom, who passed away in 2010.”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business:
“Definitely my iPhone – I use it SO much for work every day through calendar apps, social media apps, finance apps, and lots more.”
#13 Your first ever job was…
“Actually really fun! Salesperson in a comic book store.”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Be consistent, and be yourself. Write and share positive, meaningful things to connect with people who align with you, your values, and your personality.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
“I absolutely ADORE fashion, and would be over the moon to have the opportunity to collaborate with a couture brand for a look book, brand event, catwalk styling… Forever dreaming of this!”
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
“Oh my gosh, the full answer to this would be WAY too long! I’ve had the joy and honour of connecting with so many incredibly talented and kind business owners since I first started, and I’m so thankful for all of them. If I had to pick one: I’d say my friend Rebecca Carpenter (@rebeccacarpenterphotography). She’s a fantastic photographer, an inspirational human, and dedicated, authentic boss babe: and honestly it was thanks to her incredible images that, back when I started, I was able to start building a portfolio I was proud of, and that started bringing lovely couples my way. She took a chance on collaborating and working with me when I was a young, untested wedding planner, and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without her trust, friendship, and stunning images.”
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
“As much as I have a difficult relationship with it, Instagram is still definitely my favourite. I love the visual side of curating a grid, I love writing captions and journaling through stories, and I also love the collaborative side of it, where suppliers can tag one another and share one another’s work. It’s exciting to have an online, digital portfolio that I can be proud of, and show others more easily than a website. I know that a lot of couples and suppliers find me through Instagram, so I know that the time I put into it does pay off – which feels great! I do think it’s an amazing platform for me and so many business owners to have access to, without paying, and it has lead to some wonderful new business connections for me as well. Having said all that, I do struggle with how obscure the algorithm is, how time-consuming it can be to make the most of it, and how punitive the app can be during those times when I don’t have much time for it. It’s scary to think that something I have little control over or understanding of can, in part, determine how much income I make in a given year – and that it could possibly just vanish one day too!”
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“Follow the compass of your excitement, work hard, and be patient. Don’t have preconceptions or expectations about what you CAN or CAN’T be, and don’t be afraid of change.”
The Stars Inside | Rapid Fire Questions:
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read:
“So many! Most recently, The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon.”
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
“Tall Caramel Macchiato.”
#3 Instagram feed crush:
#4 Your worst job was…
“Business Analyst for a recruitment company for a few months in London, while interviewing at banks – the people were lovely, but the work itself was VERY dry. Oh – and I was a waitress at an Italian restaurant for a while, which I was TERRIBLE at.”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
“A travel photographer and writer.”
#6 Work day pick-me-up:
“A chill, jazzy playlist – and a freshly baked pain au chocolat.”