Jenny Ashton wears many hats. From Book Keeper to Wedding Celebrant, Jenny is the embodiment of the modern way of diversifying your business activities to meet your personal goals. I sat down with Jen and started by asking about her background …
I relocated from Newcastle with my husband, Dale, in 2003, intending to use our Koorainghat property as a bed and breakfast; however, circumstances changed our original plans. I had worked in an accounting support role prior to the move and then faced the challenges of seeking local employment. I attended many business and social functions and selected groups and have met some wonderful and supportive people. This encouraged me to make the jump and start my business, “Your Office Genie”, offering support to small business and accounting offices. Since then I have trained as a Celebrant – trading as Lovebirds Wedding Ceremonies and oversee the process of marriage, conduct naming ceremonies, and funerals or as my husband cheekily suggests, “match, hatch and dispatch”.
Tell us what motivates you given your differing professions.
I find that I have an inherent interest in people and a drive to help them achieve their personal or professional goals. As a celebrant and born romantic, I connect with couples approaching marriage by asking each of them to recount to me the story of how and where they met and how they fell in love. I’m passionate about ceremony and the power of the spoken word and encourage couples to use their imagination when planning their ceremony. For a funeral, I strive in the ceremony to honour the life of the deceased through personal stories by friends and family to celebrate their unique contribution in this world.
Time Management must be of a premium for you. How do you juggle client expectations?
The short answer is that there are two disparate businesses requiring two different approaches to time management. Sometimes the ducks are in a row, and sometimes late nights and early mornings are required to meet client expectations.
In accounting, the deadlines are normally dictated by the financial year or the ATO and lateness can incur financial pain. In terms of weddings, the interrelationship of so many different parties as well as weather conditions can impact on the event and only the bride is forgiven for being five – ten minutes late.
Death doesn’t have a timetable, and when I receive a phone call from the local funeral director, the bereaved family becomes the focus and I ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect in a timely manner.
The Manning-Great Lakes is the perfect wedding location. What is it that makes our backyard such an attraction for newlyweds?
We have the most amazing array of locations, some still to be found. We are spoilt for choice, and I am often amazed by couples who have such foresight and initiative in how they structure the service to integrate the natural beauty of the area to create their own special atmosphere of celebration.
We all know that weddings can be a big expense. Often it comes down to price and the convenience of facilities that makes our backyard such an attractive option. MidCoast Council facilities compare favourably to areas such as Newcastle and Sydney, and it’s unlikely that you will have a problem with parking here.
From my own wide experience, I can confirm the professionalism of the local wedding industry providers. They offer extremely helpful advice to couples planning their wedding.
How can we work closer on marketing our region as a wedding destination?
About 50 – 60% of the weddings conducted in the Manning-Great Lakes are for couples from outside the area. There are many reasons that couples favour the area, from family home, family holidays, and financial. We offer amazing beaches and waterways, National Parks, reserves and stunning private venues.
In my opinion, MidCoast Council is the best resource to market our region. They could improve this even more by expanding their website by listing all wedding providers in the area – a one stop shop for couples. The potential financial benefits for local businesses
and tourism to be able to capture more of this market are massive.
Why is being involved actively in the business community so important to you?
I am passionate about helping business and people succeed; the flow-on from every successful business is that everyone wins and the community prospers. Playing an active role in the Business Chamber, both Manning Valley and Taree Chambers, has been empowering. When the Northern Gateway failed to secure Government support/funding, it was bitterly disappointing; however, I believe that with the support of the now merged Councils, the Northern Gateway will be like the Phoenix rising.
I love networking and providing a platform for other businesses. Our monthly Women in Business lunches I co-ordinate, gives us the opportunity to hear from other women and learn from their stories.
Taree Toastmasters is another organisation of which I have been a member for six years. Toastmasters give a safe environment to develop public speaking and presentation skills. I am very appreciative as to how Toastmasters has helped me structure the content and delivery of my ceremonies.
Where do you see your businesses in five years from now?
My role as a celebrant is very important part of what I do. I believe in marriage equality and can see the Marriage Act changing within the next five years. The day that Lovebirds Wedding Ceremonies by Jenny Ashton can conduct a legal same-sex ceremony will be a good day, because love is worth celebrating.
For you, what is the best part about being in business in The Manning Great Lakes?
We’re perfectly located within an easy drive from both Sydney and Newcastle; the lifestyle we enjoy living in this environment is the envy of many.
In general, I believe the businesses located in Manning-Great Lakes truly want everyone to succeed. A strong successful community is one that works together for the common good.