Sandy’s journey teaches us that life simply does not go in the logical A to B to C order. It goes from A to Q to E to W to B. For example, an early childhood teacher might pick up a camera to capture children at play as part of the documentation requirements of the kindy where she works. Through that simple act of picking up a camera, that kindy teacher might find herself stumbling across a passion. That was Sandy’s experience, and it’s a passion that she still enjoys today. In short, one day she picked up a camera and never put it down.
It’s a curious thing that some people will find something they love doing and decide to make it a hobby and others will make it a business. I asked Sandy about that turning point for her. “My partner, who is now my husband, told me - if you’re going to do something, you better do it properly”. So Sandy went back to school to complete night courses in photography while she did teacher relieving during the day. “The relieving helped pay for the course and the cameras. I loved relieving. I could pick and choose my work, it was flexible and I wasn’t tied down to one location”.
Sandy started her photography business in 2003 and enjoyed a variety of work from weddings to graduations to family portraits. Exhibiting at local wedding shows was a great way for her to showcase her work. This was the start a new interest area for Sandy, through this it all began.
Have you ever seen someone doing something and thought to yourself “I could do that but if I did it, I’d do this and that differently”? I imagine a lot of people have those thoughts but only a few ever see it through. Sandy is one of those people. She saw huge potential in the wedding shows she exhibited at and eventually put her ideas into action.
2009 was a big year for Sandy. Not only was she launching her first series of wedding shows (that’s right, a series – 3 in fact) while simultaneously continuing her photography business, she was also busy making a person – her second child. I asked Sandy about the pressure of bringing together her first shows knowing a baby was on the way “It didn’t worry me. I saw an opportunity and loved it”. I could tell this was a lady that didn’t do things by halves. How did she come to be so focused and hard working?
In a word, swimming. Sandy swam at a national level when she was growing up and had a coach who was an incredible mentor to her. “He taught me the importance of 3 words; dedication, determination and drive. If you haven’t got those things, don’t do it”. It was clear that Sandy had ample access to all three of those important words given to her by a much loved coach.
Yet, all the dedication, determination and drive in the world cannot save us from learning the hard lessons when it comes to bringing forward a vision. For Sandy, it was a lesson in knowing her limits. Sandy was enjoying bringing her wedding shows to life and of course her photography business remained a passion but her baby girl was experiencing some health struggles and she came to the realisation that something had to give. Sandy stepped away from her photography business so she could have more time with her girl and focus more on her wedding shows. It was a hard decision but she knew it was what she had to do. “My children are my priority, they come first”.
This was just one of many decisions that Sandy has navigated through her career. She’s had to decide when to move to a new venue, when to stop having a show in one location and when to start one in another. Trusting her gut proved to be another major lesson for Sandy, one that proved so harsh that mistakes made almost saw the end of the wedding shows altogether. “I decided to shut them down. I was severely tired and burnt out. I decided to have someone else do them”. How did she feel during that time? “I was sad. I felt like I had let myself down. I hadn’t got to my goal or my dream”.
Yet, during this low period for Sandy something quite remarkable happened. The show that Sandy let go of started creating itself. A venue got in touch, compelling her to keep going and wanted to meet about holding her show at their location. A panel hire company got in touch also compelling to her to keep going and wanted to meet to work out a floor plan. Exhibitors from her previous shows got in touch and wanted to book their stalls for her next show. What Sandy didn’t realise was that all her hard work had created a momentum that just couldn’t be stopped. There’s a quote I just adore from Joseph Jaworski’s book ‘Syncrhoncity’ about visionaries and their path - “one arrives at a point where freedom and destiny merge”. In my opinion, this is what happened to Sandy. When you are on your path, doing exactly what you’re meant to be doing – you simply cannot stop doing it even if you tried.
Sandy simply had to step into the show that was already being created around her. Since then, Sandy has connected with people who help her bring the show together. I asked Sandy how she felt about relinquishing control over some things “I just can’t do everything. To grow a business, you’ve got to learn to let go. You’ve just to put people in areas where you’ll know they’ll do well. You’ve got to trust people who are working in their passion”.
I can tell from talking to Sandy that working with passionate people and mentoring other mums in business is one of the things she loves doing with the wedding shows. “There’s a lot of pressure on mums to succeed. They can stop believing in themselves and doubt their decisions. I see it all the time. I tell them that everything you do leads to where you want to go. But if you don’t have a path of where you want to go then it’s going to be really hard to get there”.
Sandy also likes to support others through community work with her local rotary club and also via charity events. In fact, she has an upcoming high tea and auction event happening in Invercargill to raise funds for a local girl who broke her back during the March balcony collapse in Dunedin. “My Dad worked a lot in the community. He always to taught me to give to others and not to expect anything in return”.
I absolutely adored listening to Sandy pour her passion out to me. It truly was an interview that I felt could have lasted a full day but I was able to squeak in a few questions at the end around her plans and vision for her wedding shows. “The vision is to be the ‘go to’ wedding event for brides”. And does she have plans to grow the shows? “Absolutely yes, amazing plans”. The scoop is that there will be an awesome new event starting next year. If you’re as intrigued as I am, I’m sure you’ll be watching this space. With a lady like Sandy Jefferies dreaming up new events, you know it will be one not to be missed.
Thank you Sandy for allowing me to interview you. It truly was an honour to chat with someone so passionate about what they do and equally passionate about seeing others working together to help brides have the wedding of their dreams.