Sasha Sousa always loved theater, but became a secretary and got a job in internal audits to pay her bills. When she learned about becoming a bridal consultant, she launched an event planning business and soon discovered her knack for speaking.
Now, at Consultancy for Creatives, she guides creative event professionals that are struggling to level up their creative business. She helps them get visibility, build confidence, increase sales, and expand their reach in ways they never thought possible.
Today, Sasha joins the podcast to share the story of how she found her voice, built two thriving businesses that inspire and feed off of each other, and why offering less can sometimes be giving so much more.
- How event planning and public speaking helped Sasha find her stage.
- Why entrepreneurs who don’t follow their gut are missing out on opportunities.
- Why the membership model was such a good fit for Sasha and her clients.
- The power of slowing down – and why it’s so easy to accidentally overwhelm your clients when you think you’re providing value.
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- “Your initial speaking engagement doesn’t have to be 3000 people. You just have to find your audience.” – Sasha Souza
- “When you are good at something, you don’t even know what you know until you start being asked about it.” – Sasha Souza
TranscriptRead The Transcript
Shelli Varela: Sasha Souza, welcome to the It’s a TRIBE Thing podcast. How are you?
Sasha Souza: I am so good. How are you?
Shelli Varela: I am amazing and I’m super stoked to get into your story, your membership site and all of the things that you’re up to in the world, yeah, super stoked. So, I would like to start if you would be so kind, to let us know who you are, what you do, and who you serve.
Sasha Souza: So, I’m Sasha Sousa. I’m an event planner and event designer from Napa Valley, where I have an event planning company called Sasha Souza Events. I also own the Consultancy for Creatives, which is my membership site, its forms and downloads in my mentoring. And I love it because I get to use everything that I’ve created in Sasha Sousa Events to help people in the creative event industry just be so much better. And essentially, what the membership does for them is that it helps them become better business people and realize their true potential within the industry and that they actually can be somebody in this industry, as well.
Shelli Varela: Totally love it. I’m always a fan of people that get a backstage pass to train at the feet of the master, which you clearly are in your field. Will you please share with us, we were talking earlier about your backstory? Can you take us back to how this came to be, you were talking about your childhood being the daughter of flower parents? And how did you get to be the person who’s like crushing it with your event company?
Sasha Souza: So, I do tell the story that I was born in the late 60s to a flower child mom who encouraged her daughter’s flair for the dramatic, and that is a mouthful. I loved theater. And I always wanted to be an actor or a singer or a dancer, but unfortunately, I’m really not good at that. So, I realized pretty early that I was going to be working in the back of the house, I was going to be stage managing, I was going to be working on sets, I was going to be doing makeup. And I was going to support the stars, I was going to support the actors.
And essentially, I went to school, got a degree in secretarial because doing theater wasn’t paying. And when I did that, I started working in internal audit which is very uncreative as it possibly gets. I was making the audit reports really pretty and they didn’t appreciate it, but essentially, I picked up a book called 101 Best Home-Based Businesses, and a bridal consultant was in there. And I thought I could totally do this job.
And I got the education that was suggested. And I was married at the time. And my husband said to me, nobody’s going to hire you for your opinion. And I was like, say what now. So, that was like the push that I needed to start Sasha Souza Events. And when I did that, it just started snowballing. So, that was around ’95, around 2003, I was asked to be a speaker at an event and I was like, I was afraid to do it because I didn’t think I was front-of-the-house ready, so to speak. And they convinced me, the person I was talking to convinced me that I knew a lot about color.
And as an event planner, we have to know a lot about a lot of different things. And so, I actually did, I got up there and I did this speaking engagement and literally, I’ve done 160 speaking engagements in 10 years now. And it’s been real, like, I can’t even express, like as a child who wanted to be an actor or a singer or dancer, I didn’t realize that there was actually really a stage for me. And I found my stage, which was speaking to other event planners and event professionals and teaching them basically how we work and how to be better at their jobs.
Shelli Varela: There’s so much here to unpack, I love it. I’m curious, you were talking at the top of the story about how you wanted to be a singer, you wanted to be a dancer, but you didn’t have that skill set. And you also talked about how you were back-of-house. So, you have this 30,000-foot view of all of the moving pieces of a theatrical event. When you first were asked to speak, I’m sure there were those nerves that were coming up for you, how did you deal with that?
Because here’s what I know to be true about event planners, they’re teachers, they’re firefighters, they’re babysitters, they’re therapists, they’re coaches, they are not just event planners and I don’t think we’ll fully appreciate how much goes on behind the scenes with those people. So, when you’re coaching the person who is the center of your event, how did you utilize that experience of being a speaker and really just having to overcome that fear of being in the spotlight and all that comes with that?
Sasha Souza: I mean, I said, I think that what I do is I tell them that they can grow into this, like their initial speaking engagements or things like that don’t have to be 3000 people. They just have to find their audience. And that audience can be a small group, it can be something that’s a small society of other people that they are leading. They don’t have to jump straight in.
So, doing those smaller things, starting a podcast, like getting your voice out there and figuring out really what your message is and what your voice is, will give you the confidence, especially if you’re speaking about something that you know and that you know intimately. So, it gives you that confidence to become more and spread that message to other people.
Shelli Varela: Well, you’ve done some incredible events. And I know, most of the audience knows I’ve been a firefighter for 27 years now. And when I was listening to you talk about what it’s like as an event planner and what you do and all of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, it really is not unlike rolling up to a house fire, where it’s like you have to make emergency game time decisions and switch and adapt and overcome and all of the like. And for people now who are part of your membership who get to take advantage of all of the things you’ve learned and operating at such a high level, doing some really impressive events, what has that been like for you to transition from the person who’s conducting the event to the person who’s sharing the gems and the wisdom that you’ve picked up along the way?
Sasha Souza: I love it. I feel like to me, it’s even more satisfying in a lot of ways because I get to affect an entire industry, I get to afford change in people’s thought processes and how they charge and how they approach their sale and how they market themselves in kind of their own out-of-body experience about who they are and what they’re putting out to the world. So, I love the mentoring and the coaching and the membership because I get to do that and basically expand their mind as to what they could be doing, what they could be earning, and how they can be seen in the industry. So, I like the coaching and mentoring and membership a whole heck of a lot.
Shelli Varela: What’s funny is when you have a skill at something and especially for you, you’ve been doing this since forever, really, the production piece and the theatrical piece and the putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together. So, it’s interesting to me when you are good at something, you don’t even know what you know until you start being asked about it. And it’s like, man, is that a thing?
Sasha Souza: Oh my gosh.
Shelli Varela: And with your members, I’m sure it has to be a situation where you’re saving them so much time, so much heartache, so much money by just saying, hey, I’ve tried these 10 different things, do it this way.
Sasha Souza: Right, exactly. And so, I can say very clearly that, especially in the membership, when I get on and I’m doing what I call a power brunch, where I put them in the hot seat and we’re looking at the things that are not right in their business. And I’m saying things like, you should do this way or consider this or consider that. And there are people there who are saying, Oh my gosh, I wanted to do it this way, but I was afraid.
And now that I hear that you’ve been doing it this way and it’s worked, I feel so much more at ease that I can do it. And I’m like, Yeah, you can. Nobody’s here to tell you how you can build or nobody’s here to tell you how you can mark it and nobody’s like, I’m telling you how I’ve done it and how all of these other professionals that have come into the membership to teach are doing it, but I mean, you also have to follow your own instinct, too.
So, if you’ve felt like this is right, I also give them the courage to use their instinct and to use their gut feeling because events planners and event designers and people, especially in event industry, who are all these little kind of private businesses, they all have that gut feeling as entrepreneurs and they aren’t using it, they’re sort of squashing it. As opposed to saying, I could do it like this and I could be successful and I can sell this, they’re saying, nobody else does it, or Sasha Souza does it, but that’s because she’s Sasha Souza. And that is one of the things I battle a lot with them is I’ll have to say, I still have to sell myself to every single client.
Just because the event industry knows who I am, that doesn’t mean that I’m a household name and I can get away with whatever I want. I’m doing the same sale that you are, just maybe to a different level client. So, you can use what I do because it’s something I do all the time every day and it’s been our signature way. People really want to know how to charge and how to structure their business and how to not have so much wasted time in their business. And those are like the three biggest pieces.
Shelli Varela: Yeah, absolutely massive, that pays for the price of admission on its own. For somebody who started a membership site, you came out of the gate really strong. If you were to give advice to somebody who is thinking of having a membership and it’s like, I don’t know, like, I don’t know if this is a niche for a membership site, can you tell us a little bit about your experience?
Sasha Souza: Oh, absolutely. So, what the way the membership site came up was, I was speaking at a conference, November 2019 and I had people coming up to my booth and they were like, what do you do? I’m like, I have forms and downloads, I have this course, or you can hire me for one-on-one mentoring. And one-on-one mentoring is basically a car payment. So, it’s expensive. And they’re like, nothing in between? And I was like, no.
So, we have talked a little bit about my assistant who’s been with me for 20 years and I spoke about it a little bit. And then, here comes COVID and we were like, Huh, I think that we have time. So, for me, like with the membership site, my fear truly was that nobody would join, even if I had a list of 9000 people, an email list of 9000, I had followings in the 20,000s on Instagram, I still felt like what if nobody shows up? Because my industry in particular, they don’t do a lot of education, they don’t have to do a lot of continuing education, they can hang out their shingle, there’s nothing that they have to say I have this certification, it just doesn’t matter.
So, I was really shocked that I was having that issue. So, anyway, but I have to say this, if you think that for a minute, you just have to swallow it because there is a niche for everybody and I found that out. One of the biggest challenges I had, which perhaps we’ll get to this, was that I had all of these people and I thought it was going to be so easy. At first, I was like, I should go get 500 people, no problem. And I found out that wasn’t the case, necessarily.
So, at first, I’m like, oh, nobody’s going to show up. And I was like, well, I got nine grand on my email list. And so, I sort of vacillated, I had that whole thing like what we were talking about, like, I’m afraid that nobody’s going to show up, but they should show up because of who I am. And anyway, so that probably made no sense.
Shelli Varela: No. It totally makes sense. And I think you speak to something that is true in the minds of people who are considering this. Many people have followings and are known in the industry for what they do, not necessarily for membership sites. So, when we come to the crossroads of, Okay, I’m going to try something new, I’m going to try a membership, I’m going to create recurring revenue, I’m going to be able to sell once and then just love on my people, which is a model that so many people love, instead of launching and relaunching. It’s like, I’m going to sell on them, I’m going to sell at once. I don’t love selling but what I do love is the thing that I’m good at. And there is that moment where you ask yourself, will anybody join? Will there be crickets? Will I be standing in that spotlight, that proverbial spotlight with just crickets and embarrassments?
Sasha Souza: It’s me, yeah.
Shelli Varela: Or will I get so many people that I don’t know what to do with them and anywhere in between? So, I love that you echoed that sentiment because there’s so many people that are going through the same thing.
Sasha Souza: I truly believe that there’s a membership for everybody. Just like excuses, like, it’s just a matter of how you build the offer and sell what you know. Don’t model your membership site after mine because it isn’t going to work for you because my membership site sells what I know and sells what I do well, whereas your membership site needs to sell what you know and what you do well, but there truly is a market for every single thing.
And as a business owner, there is a point where you just have to straighten your spine and say, I’m going to do this no matter what, take that risk, what is the worst thing that’s going to happen. The worst thing that would have happened to me, if nobody had signed up, is that I would have had a failed membership site. I would have learned a whole heck of a lot and I would have come back the next time stronger because as an entrepreneur, my initial feeling deep down is like, I’m going to keep on chugging.
I don’t love to sell, but it’s the reality of my business. I have to sell, I have to sell myself as an event planner, I sell myself to the client, I sell my vendors to the client, I sell my vendors’ ideas to the client, like you’re selling, you don’t even realize that you’re selling. So, it’s crazy.
Shelli Varela: So, last question. If you were to think back through all the feedback you’ve received from these incredible people that get to, again, sit at the feet of the master and cut down the amount of time it takes them to learn and the amount of money and fails that they have to go through to get to a successful event and a successful business, What is the best piece of feedback that you’ve received from one of your members?
Sasha Souza: Oh, my gosh, it’s such a good one. So, it was actually a few members. We were chugging along, I mean, we ended up with a membership site of 140 people and I was just like turning out, turning out, turning out, turning out, like all of this homework and all of these bonuses and all of this stuff. And my advice is to slow down. So, overwhelm is a real thing. And I thought I was giving them more of me which is really what they paid for. And it turns out that they maybe didn’t want quite as much of me.
As painful as that might feel. They wanted me to kind of like put the throttle on it a little bit and give them more time to do stuff. So, what I did was in October, because I was turning out like a huge lesson every month, a hot seat, and power brunch every month, an event industry interview every month, and then one of the three bonuses a lesson in each of those three bonuses every month, plus the podcast, like I was literally sleeping three, four hours a day because I just felt like I just need to keep giving them more and more, like obviously, they’re going to want all of this.
And they were like, hey, so I’m behind. I feel bad I’m behind. And a few people were like, I need to quit because I feel behind. And that was a huge lesson because I was like, Whoa, whoa, whoa, you don’t want to quit. So, during one of my hot seats and the power brunch that I do, I said, we’re going to ratchet this back just a little bit. I’m going to give you guys two months to get sort of like, feel like you’re caught up. We’re going to continue to do the industry leader interviews, you’re going to keep getting the bonus pieces I’ve told you about, but these big lessons are going to take a hot second.
And there was a real feeling of relief in that meeting, that they were like, Oh, thank you so much. And I think we tell ourselves all kinds of stories about what people think about us, what people expect of us, and what our job is. And it isn’t always the case, like really listening to those members is so important, pulling them, I’ve started pulling the members and saying what’s the best day for you to do a hot seat? Today is going to be a Wednesday, is it between 8 and 10? Is it going to be between 4 and 6. I mean, I’m happy to show up for them when they need it, but I want to make it convenient, too, as opposed to doing it on my time. This is for them, it’s their time.
Shelli Varela: Well, it’s counterintuitive because we feel like we want to give them more and we’re charging them for it and it just seems backwards, that when we give them less, they actually get more. And so, for anybody listening out there, it is a case of, it doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler it is, the more effective it is.
Sasha Souza: I agree. And I didn’t believe that to be honest. I thought, No, my people are going to want, like they’re going to want all of this. And man, I should have listened to that. It truly was one of the most powerful lessons was you don’t have to give them more, I just have to give them the right thing.
Shelli Varela: The right thing at the right amount of time to go through it. It’s awesome.
Sasha Souza: Yep.
Shelli Varela: We so appreciate you coming and hanging out with us and sharing your story. If people are looking for you online, where’s the best place they can find you?
Sasha Souza: At consultancyforcreatives.com.
Shelli Varela: Awesome. Thank you so much. We appreciate you.
Sasha Souza: Thank you. Thank you for having me. Have a great day.
Shelli Varela: You as well.
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