- Name: Nicole Pieckenhagen
- Company: Graydon Hall Manor
- Years in Business: 20
Let’s get down to Biz
So how’d you get into the biz?
I started working in the hospitality business when I was 16 years old. I applied as an intern at a hotel in Bavaria, Germany and was placed in one of their restaurants as a busser. I polished cutlery, set tables, and cleared dishes. Service is considered an art form in Europe and it is executed with tremendous precision and pride. I loved it from the start. I later worked through my university years in various restaurants in Vancouver, Australia, and Toronto.
What was the hardest part of starting your own business?
Everything! I had no guidance or mentor. I was stumbling in the dark. But, I had grit, youthful vigour and time on my side so I was willing to work as long and as hard as I needed to.
What do you find most rewarding in running your own business?
I love that I get to choose the people I work with. I love our clients who are so passionate about their events. I love my industry friends/partners who are so talented. And, I am so grateful for my business partner, Arpi Magyar, who, aside from being a brilliant chef, is one of the kindest, most generous humans I have ever known.
When did you get your first big break?
There was no “big break” for me. It was simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, day after day. It was a slow, steady, steep climb.
How has the industry changed since you first started?
The events business is unrecognizable from when I started 20 years ago. The technology we used then was laughably slow-paced and simplistic by today’s comparison. Clients were not digital natives meaning that an entire wedding could be planned in 2 meetings and 5 emails. Today we exchange hundreds of emails with each client. Social media and smart phones didn’t exist then either… Today, with so much visual inspiration in the palms of our hands, events are more spectacular than they have ever been and today’s amazing talent pool of suppliers adds dazzling opportunities for customization that wasn’t dreamed of 20 years ago.
What’s one of the secrets to your success?
Right from the beginning I believed in setting a higher standard. I didn’t look around to see what my competition was doing. I set out to do things the way I wanted to do them. I invested in the absolute best of everything that I could afford at the time and just kept reinvesting, reinvesting, reinvesting until I reached a standard that I was proud of.
What makes you passionate about your profession/the wedding industry?
Passion is contagious. My clients are sooooooooooo passionate about their events; my business partner is wildly passionate about the food he creates; and my staff are passionate about taking care of our clients in the best way we can. We fuel one another. It is a unique industry in that if you are not passionate about what you do, I don’t think you would work the hours demanded. Our clients give us the opportunity to do what we love, and we are so grateful for that.
What’s the best part about your job?
When our client walks through the doors of their event and they gasp with wonder and whisper, “perfection” in my ear. I love the thrill of exceeding expectations.
Fun & Quirky
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up (and how does it relate to what you do now)? I didn’t know exactly, but I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was never the meek and obedient type and found the freedom of forging out on my own to be thoroughly liberating, never daunting.
You wouldn’t be you without… Yoga. Honestly, how do people live without yoga? I don’t get it.
Favourite childhood memory? My Nana had a small vegetable garden. I loved to pluck chives from the earth and pick tomatoes fresh off the vine, warmed by the sun, and eat them right then and there in garden. To this day I love to smell my fruits and vegetables before I buy them (though, if I’m honest, they will never smell as wonderful as those out of my Nana’s garden).
What’s your one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They are my Kryptonite.
What is one item you can’t leave home without (other than phone, wallet)? My water bottle and coffee cup. I drink a lot of water and I refuse to buy water in plastic bottles. I also drink way more coffee than I should.
What are you currently binge watching on Netflix? I honestly don’t have time to binge watch. In my twenties and thirties I didn’t even own a TV and I have never once turned on the TV in our basement. I’m not interested.
What was the last fun thing you bought? A cottage! I am so excited for our own little island cottage that I could burst.
Most ridiculous thing that’s landed you in the hospital? I plead the Fifth. Well, as a Canadian, I suppose I plead the 7th under the Charter =)