Alex Ridd of CherryTop talks to us about his business and how it is looking to change the events industry for good.
What is the background to your business?
It’s an interesting one. Rewind the clock back to February 2020 and I was working in the school travel industry, of all places. It was the family business I was working for, and we created educational yet entertaining self-guided walks for school groups travelling abroad in major cities. As you can imagine, this came to an abrupt halt at the start of the pandemic, and we very quickly needed to turn our attention to generating another source of income! CherryTop Weddings was born, and the rest is history.
There are two elements to CherryTop Weddings’ experience: printed personalised Love Story booklets with activities and games for guests to enjoy, and an online interactive ‘Wedding Wall’, where guests can take part in activities, share their photographs, well wishes and watch a live stream. It taps into the trend towards hybrid weddings where couples celebrate with guests attending in-person and people watching via livestream too.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
The idea for CherryTop Weddings came from my brothers wedding, where we decided to create some games and activities for the wedding reception guests. It was just meant to be a little bit of fun on the day, but it ended up being absolutely loved, to the extent that two separate couples with upcoming weddings themselves asking if we could do the same for them. That was, I suppose, the ‘Eureka’ moment, but it wasn’t something we could act on at the time, with our other businesses busier than ever. It did mean though, when the school travel stopped, we knew it was the turn of CherryTop Weddings to have its time in the sun!
Has there been any skepticism towards to your business?
Touch wood, we’ve not really had any scepticism or naysayers at all! I think that’s down to a couple of reasons. First, the idea and product is one of those that when you say it, people just get, and can see the benefits it can bring. After all, we’ve all been to those weddings that are lacking a bit of wow-factor, or even worse, been sat awkwardly at a table where no one knows each other and an icebreaker is distinctly missing!
Secondly, we know what we are doing. Between the school travel business and our sister company, Treasure Trails (a family leisure business) we have entertained well over 3 million people. We know what people like, we know how to provide great experiences, and we know how to build businesses. With a great product and a great team, it’s practically a given that this business will fly and be looking after thousands upon thousands of weddings over these next two ‘boom years’ in the wedding industry.
Did you have any reservations about starting a business during Covid-19?
Not as such. There are always reservations when you start any business, but in this scenario, the Covid situation did not overly factor in. Aside from the need for the staff to adapt to home-working procedures, the business has not been affected. To a certain extent, the lack of weddings caused by Covid actually benefited us as it allowed us to focus all of our attention on making sure the product was absolutely 100% exceptional, before being in the hands of couples and guests.
In your opinion, have weddings changed for good following the pandemic?
Yes, undoubtedly. Personally, I think the changes caused will make the industry stronger. Of course, restrictions, buying habits and customer perceptions have radically shifted over the last couple of years and there will be a follow-on to this even as normality resumes, but that’s why adaptability and evolution will be so important for the businesses in the industry. Those unable to adapt might well find themselves overtaken by the market, but for the ones that do, it’s only ever going to make the industry a bigger and stronger place to be.
What’s the hardest thing about running a business?
Keeping track of which crocodile is closest to the boat! That’s a silly analogy, but it is one I use on a very regular basis. Every day there are new challenges, new opportunities and new ideas which come up. The hardest thing for me is keeping myself and the team focusing on the projects with the shortest deadlines or highest priorities, i.e the closest crocodiles to the boat!
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Getting the tech project over the line! For our Booklet Building software, we needed a bespoke content management system, and as is often the case with tech projects, there were snags, delays and more back-and-forths via Zoom than I could possibly count. However, we got there in the end, and I couldn’t be happier with the end result!
What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?
To not outsource work where possible. That sounds like a given, but it can be so easy to outsource internationally tech or design work for example, especially when it can often prove far cheaper to do so. From the outset though, we wanted full control, visibility and a close working relationship with any other businesses we have worked with, to ensure that our own quality requisites were being matched. The old adage that quality doesn’t cost, it pays, is very true. From the design side of things, we hired a full-time designer who has helped shape and grow the business whilst sharing our passion for attention to detail and brand consistency.
There are always some regrets when you start up a business. None that are big enough or ugly enough to deserve a mention here though. Generally speaking, it’s been a pretty smooth ride so far.
What is one thing that would make running your business a lot easier?
Would you judge me if I said not having a four-month-old teething baby? Because the sleep deprivation is not much fun. Not that I’d be without her, of course!
All jokes aside though, just to have more hours in the day. As cliché as it sounds, there is always more work to be done and more things appearing in the in-tray, so to be able to have a few more hours each day to keep the crocodiles away from the boat would be superb.
If you could go back to when you launched the business, would you do anything differently?
Not really. It’s been fun, challenging, and rewarding. Without the challenges, it wouldn’t have been so fun, so I wouldn’t change anything. Onwards and upwards!