Caribbean Weddings and Event Professionals is the brainchild of Natalie John. During the pandemic, she saw quite a few local and regional businesses having to shut down. Her own company, Dreamy Weddings, suffered losses along with so many businesses locally, regionally and worldwide.
John recalls the feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing where COVID-19 would lead. At the time, several US and international industry partners were offering free learning opportunities within the digital space, some governments were providing grants and within the Caribbean, we were not able to achieve this same level of support.
John who operated Dreamy Weddings in 13 different Caribbean destinations knew first hand what was happening in the other territories. Her business had no support mechanisms. She and a planner friend from Jamaica discussed this lack of support. They also talked about the fact that people were out of sorts.
While on that call, John realized that forming an association would be a good idea. Such an association should enable planners across the Caribbean to support each other. It would be a network where members could grow with each other. She felt that if there was one instance where we could rise above our competitive space and form a community whereby it was over competition, then that time was now.
The idea of community over competition had come into being. And so, John felt we needed to adopt a similar approach within the Caribbean. Many businesspeople believe that they should not be friends with competitors. John wanted to showcase that it's okay to collaborate and support each other.
John liked the development of the community-style business ethic in the international arena. So, she recreated it. She then reached out to her network to form the organization.
Weddings are John's primary focus. Yet, she didn't want this new organisation only about weddings. She tried to incorporate other elements. Events are the broad sector, and weddings are a subset of Events. Hence the name: Caribbean Weddings and Event Professionals (CWEP).
John launched CWEP in 2020 as a virtual platform. She started with virtual events. She got friends worldwide to come and do webinars for the group.
John also wrote a book called COVID Guidelines and Protocols for the industry. The book, available on Amazon, gave each sector COVID guidelines. It showed them how they should manage their businesses during the pandemic. The funds from the book helped support the organization.
John held brainstorming sessions with each category of vendors. Thus, she spoke to photographers, videographers, cake makers, and florists. Everyone played a part in putting the book together. The goal was to create a space for event professionals in the Caribbean.
According to John, "Being a wedding planner in LA is okay. You can go to New York, have an event, network, and work with vendors there. Because water separates us in the Caribbean, there's always a disconnect."
The purpose of starting CWEP was to show that we can also be the united islands of the Caribbean. It's akin to being the United States of the Caribbean. We can have an organization that is for us that teaches us to network with each other.
John also formed a private Facebook group. In this group, event professionals can ask each other questions. The group aims to help and guide newcomers to the Events industry. She wants CWEP to be a platform for training to raise the standards in the sector.
Besides that, John wants to spotlight the members. The platform highlights a member on IG Live every first and third Monday of the month. She interviews them on different aspects of the industry.
CWEP was John's vision and she had friends who understood the concept and wanted to support the vison. They formed a non profit organization, elected a Board of Directors, and formed Committees to begin the full roll out of this body.
The platform is 100 percent volunteerism and continues to grow. CWEP looks for its members to volunteer in various areas as it looks forward to a great future for all!