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Caitlin Dobbins identifies as a cowgirl, and it is little wonder why.
After serving as a ranch hand in the rugged North Dakota Badlands, Dobbins cantered off into the world of event planning, working for a catering company in Minnesota and then a coveted venue in South Carolina. In 2019, after ten years in the industry, she founded Honey + Thyme Events, a unique and intentional wedding planning and design studio. She is also the co-founder of the Charlotte Microwedding Collaborative.
“It’s so special when I go to a wedding and see these amazing moments,” says Dobbins, who now spends more time wrangling logistics than horses. “It’s because of our team — because we’re taking on all the duties of setup and breakdown — that the couple is going to remember this day for the rest of their lives. That’s why I love it.”
We sat down with this midwesterner to learn more about what it takes to be a cowgirl-turned-wedding planner in the Carolinas.
Have you always wanted to start your own business?
When I worked for an event planning and catering company back in Minnesota, I worked with a lot of powerful, independent, just really motivated women, and I always picked up on the things they did and learned from them.
But ultimately, my mom has an entrepreneurial spirit — she started a nonprofit — so I think it’s just in me. I hate to use this word, but it’s almost a burden. When I was in other jobs, I was always wanting to do more. I wanted to be involved in this and that and they would be like, “This is your job.” I’ve always had that excitement. So when I had this opportunity, I just said, “Let’s do it.” It’s been so great. Of course, it’s like a roller coaster every single day but it has been so fun.
Starting a business requires so much forethought. When did you take the leap and decide that you were ready to branch out on your own?
When I was the Venue Sales Manager at Anne Springs Close Greenway, couples kept asking me if I could help with the planning. It was becoming a lot. I was working a full-time job and pregnant. I decided I couldn’t do all three, so I just jumped right into my own business. I had that spirit — that entrepreneurial spirit — and the timing felt right, even though it was terrifying. But any decision in life is a little terrifying. I knew I just wanted more.
Were there women who were formative in shaping the kind of business owner you are today?
My mom and sister were largely a part. They have both started their own projects and businesses now. But also the women who managed me at Chowgirls Killer Catering in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and my horseback riding instructors — I’ve been riding my entire life, ever since I was little.
Also, right when I moved here, I had a manager at the Anne Springs Close Greenway that was so impactful. She was a mom of two and a manager of a very large department. The way she balanced all of that was inspiring. She always said, “You’re not always going to do it perfectly. It’s not a balancing act – never perfectly balanced. You’re going to have a little more over here at times and a little more over there at times.”
I’ve kept that in mind because, as a mom and a business owner who is trying to have a personal life and trying to stay mentally and physically healthy, it’s a lot, especially during a pandemic. But those women impacted me more than they’ll ever know.
Speaking of balance, do you find it is challenging to juggle raising a daughter and running a small business?
Yes, definitely. This year, because of the pandemic, we basically have two years of weddings in one. I have a team of about ten girls that are either assisting or planning, and we just launched another branch of the business for general events. So we have a lot going on.
But I’m trying to be better at balancing my work and personal lives. When I’m home, after a certain point, I let business go. My daughter and husband are so important. So is riding my horse and remembering who I am. After all, when you take that time, it gives you the space to brainstorm and think.
The pandemic forced many businesses to pivot. How has Honey + Thyme Events adapted over the past year?
We certainly adapted by starting the Charlotte Microwedding Collaborative. It’s actually a little crazy. A week or so before the pandemic, I was grabbing coffee with Rachel Hopkins, owner of Black Moth Bars. We were talking about how much we loved intimate weddings and how we’d love to start something that offered an all-inclusive package for couples who might not want to spend $80,000 on a wedding and might want a small, intimate group.
So the Charlotte Microwedding Collaborative was our brainchild during the pandemic when everyone was forced to have micro weddings. We’re hoping to keep that going. We just had a micro wedding two weeks ago up in the mountains and it was gorgeous. It was the epitome of why we started this.
We also founded the Olive Branch. It is named after my daughter, Olive, and includes all of our non-wedding events. We just met with a client this morning who wants to plan a 40th anniversary for her parents. It’s just so special. We love the stories. We want to create these custom, authentic experiences.
You are so positive, even after having experienced what may have been the hardest year in recent history for event planners. Any tips for staying optimistic?
I just don’t see the point in being negative. Of course, if you ask my husband, not every single day is positive. There are certainly days when I come home in tears. But I just love building relationships with my brides.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you say?
Don’t take everything so seriously. You learn as you go along. Don’t worry. Have more confidence in yourself.
Do you have any advice for women who want to start their own business?
Just go for it. Looking at my past, there were so many times I wanted to go for it but I only took that jump when events in my life basically forced me to. So I would say to chase those dreams. You only have one life. I also always emphasize the importance of having a support system of family and friends. I always joke that my mom is my business coach but she really is.