We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea Gaytan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelsea, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor behind the success of Black Tie Optional’s brand is it’s very clear brand personality – I decided to go unapologetically desert-boho-chic. This has proven to be a wise move because it’s attracting my ideal clientele! The couple that wants that romantic, whimsical, outdoor wedding that’s a little off-the-beaten-path… you are my people! And by emanating this vibe through my brand colors and keeping a consistent look and feel throughout my marketing efforts, the couples that are looking for that aesthetic for their big day always seem to find me. This has proven to be the most important factor because I had been tempted to “cast a wider net” by going more basic (elegant vibe, black and white color palette, etc.). However, the lesson I learned here is that being 100% true to who you are at your core when you’re working on something you’re passionate about will always lead you down the right path. There’s no greater compliment than someone saying “I saw your Instagram/Website/Wedding Show Booth and thought to myself YESSSS that’s exactly the look I’m going for!” !!! It really makes my soul SING!!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
You know how people say “everything happens for a reason”? I always thought it was kind of a cliche until I started this business. Never in my life has something made so much sense when you look back at my history.
On paper, if you were to look at my job history, it would seem pretty sporadic to be honest. I worked in Marketing and Event Planning for a major homebuilder straight out of college, then started my own online boutique selling women’s clothing. Then when that failed (I was 21 and had no idea what I was doing running a startup), I had to scramble to pay the bills, so I got a job selling insurance. I was miserable at a desk job, so I went the complete opposite direction and decided to become a Flight Attendant. I thought I had found my “forever job”, but the universe had other plans for me. I suffered a back injury on the job and had to take a year off, during which time I landed a marketing/sales role for a tech startup because of the ability to work from home. I cleared my medical exams and was able to return to flying, and figured out a way to juggle both jobs simultaneously… only to find out shortly thereafter that I was being furloughed from BOTH jobs due to COVID.
Now, I don’t want to downplay this, I was hit with some MAJOR depression and anxiety when this happened. I felt like I had been completely robbed of all that hard work, like the rug had been pulled straight out from under my feet and I had no idea what to do next. After a couple months (no joke) of feeling bad for myself, I started to see the common thread in all of my work history – people and freedom.
I absolutely LOVED my event planning job straight out of college because of the autonomy I had to put together huge Grand Opening events, but the boring desk work made me yearn for more creative freedom. So, I gave myself the ultimate creative freedom by starting my own business! And even though it failed, I learned a ton about running a startup, marketing, sales, and the pure rush of being in business for yourself. The insurance job taught me about persistence (and reinforced the notion that I never EVER wanted to work behind a desk again). Being a Flight Attendant heightened my customer-service skills, fine-tuned my ability to multitask and plan ahead, and introduced me to so many beautiful places and people that I knew I wanted a career with lots of exposure. And lastly, my sales role at the tech startup taught me how to GRIND, how to be unapologetically myself, and how to utilize my connections to build lasting relationships all over the Valley.
Now, I know this was a pretty long rant about my back story, but it lays the foundation for what I am most proud of in my professional career – persistence. So many times when I could have given up, or run back to a cushy desk job, I reminded myself of that burning passion I had when I started my very first business. That voice inside my head screamed “YOU WERE MADE FOR SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!” and I kept trying new things that excited me.
I think that’s the key piece of advice I’d love to pass along to anyone, in any stage of their professional journey. As long as you’re chasing something that excites you, you know you’re on the right path. As opposed to quitting a crappy job by running away from it, find the next thing that’s going to set your soul on fire! The book “Even Eagles Need a Push” by David McNally taught me to take money out of the equation – if you will wake up energized, regardless of the income potential, then it’s a project worth pursuing. (Not to mention, the money will come when you love what you do.)
All in all, there’s no one right path for anyone to take. If you listen to your inner voice and follow the signs, the universe will lead you to where you were meant to be. And I truly believe that I was meant to be a Wedding Planner.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If they arrive on a Friday night, you KNOW I’m taking them to First Friday in Downtown Phoenix! We’ll start with dinner and drinks at Arizona Wilderness followed by an awesome walk through the FF stands. We’d probably hit up Breadfruit for a nightcap because their extensive rum collection is OUT OF THIS WORLD!
Saturday means BRUNCH! My favorite boujee spot is Hash Kitchen because of their epic build-your-own Bloody Mary Bar, but if we’re feeling something a little more low key, we’d go to Sip in Arcadia. Next up is a pool day, either at my house or maybe a fun pool party at The W or The Saguaro. If we still have the energy at night time, we’re hitting up Buck and Rider for some epic seafood followed by a night out in Old Town Scottsdale.
Sundays are for the river!! We have a few stand-up-paddleboards that we love to take people out on who haven’t experienced the Salt River. We park one vehicle up at the top, the other down at the bottom, and we ride the entire stretch of the Salt River on our boards. Usually we’ll run into many groups of wild horses, and people who aren’t from AZ typically lose it at the sight of them! After a long day on the river, we’ll go home for a nap, get cleaned up, and hit one of our favorite Asian food spots in Tempe – either BBQ House for some amazing Korean BBQ, or Jin Shabu for hot pot! Gotta have some sake bombs after all that paddling!
Monday we’re going to refresh with a pressed juice from 24 Carrots in Tempe, followed by a yoga or spin class at either Spirit of Yoga or The Madison Tempe. I’d love to take them to the AZ Heritage Center at Papago Park, then maybe rent some Birds to scoot around downtown Tempe on! There’s nothing like sunset along Tempe Beach Park when the sun lights up with pinks and oranges! Bonus points for a pit stop at Tempe Beer Co. for a refreshing Church Music IPA.
Tuesday is all about tacos – we’re touring the BEST taco spots in the Valley! First stop has got to be Tacos Chiwas, you better believe they’re eating a Deshebrada Roja Gordita!Next up is Carolina’s, La Santisima, and Crujiente, in no particular order!
Wednesday we’re renting a boat at Roosevelt Lake, because why not?? It won’t be as crowded as the weekend, and there’s nothing more “Arizona” than a day on the lake! We’ll pack a cooler full of amazing local beers (my favorite is Wren House Brewery, and The Sleepy Whale in Chandler always carries some epic local options!). At night, we’re hitting up Level 1 Arcade Bar in downtown Gilbert for their beer-flight-and-free-token special! I could literally spend all night there trying delicious beers and playing all their fun games! Buck Hunter is my personal fave 🙂
Thursday Queen Creek Olive Mill followed by a drive-in movie at Schnepf Farms. Bonus points if it’s springtime and their amazing fair is going on! The rides are a blast!! Thirsty Thursday night in downtown Gilbert! We’d barhop all the major spots and I’d definitely take them to my favorite speakeasy – The White Rabbit.
If they have to leave on Friday, we’d enjoy a lovely breakfast at Arcadia Farms before dropping them off at the airport.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I cannot thank these women enough – Elise from Wildflower Design Co. and Kristen from Kristen Hennke Photography! I met these two gorgeous souls while planning my own wedding, and they both encouraged me to go into this field professionally. I have been in the events world since graduating from ASU, but these two helped me realize that my passion for all things “love” would make me fit right in with the wonderful community of wedding creatives here in AZ. They’ve supported and guided me every step of the journey, and we still love working together to this day!
Elise designs the most stunning floral arrangements I’ve ever seen. She is a true artist in every sense of the word and goes above and beyond to deliver exceptional quality for her couples. She’s spunky, energetic, and so unbelievably warm-hearted. She’s taught me that as long as you remain feverishly passionate about your craft, it will never feel like a “job”.
Kristen is a skilled couples photographer who focuses on capturing authentic and un-staged images. I’ve always been drawn to her work because it emanates the pure emotions felt on a wedding day – bliss, laughter, tears. As opposed to the stand-in-a-row-and-say-cheese type photos, she gets her wedding party dancing, playing games, and being silly so the final product is pure MAGIC. Not to mention, she’s a sassy little Cubana that’s SUCH a joy to be around.
Other: Anyone interested in scheduling a complimentary wedding consultation with me is welcome to drop it on my calendar! https://project.btoevents.com/schedule/607f456519561800329a62e2
Kristen Hennke Photography Goddus Rising Photography FemForce Shoots