Numerous TFAS alumni are entrepreneurs. Many run their own law firms, lobbying firms, consulting businesses and more.
In order to shine the light upon these self-starters, a new feature has been added to the @TFAS Alumni Newsletter, entitled “CEO Corner.” This month features Sandy Malone (IPJ 96) who started Weddings in Vieques in 2007. Weddings in Vieques is a full-service wedding planning firm that focuses on destination weddings on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico.
Malone’s Weddings in Vieques started organically. She discovered Vieques Island, which is located seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, in 1999 in a professional setting and continued to visit the island on vacation. She and her husband married on the island in 2004.
“We always joked that when my husband was eligible to retire from the police department, we were going to ‘run away’ to Vieques and open up a wedding planning company,” said Malone, and in 2007, the stars aligned. Malone’s husband was retiring and her company was undergoing reorganization. Her first wedding project fell right into her lap. “That sealed the deal, and we haven’t looked back.”
UPDATE: Malone and her business are now the focal point of a new TLC reality series called Wedding Island. The show premieres with a full episode sneak peek on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 10 p.m. ET/PT with a second episode airing the following evening in its regularly scheduled timeslot of Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
To learn more about the show, visit tlc.com/tv-shows/wedding-island
Since its inception, Weddings in Vieques has grown tremendously. In 2009, Malone organized 27 weddings in a 22-week period. She has also started Weddings in Culebra, offering wedding planning services on another Puerto Rican island to satisfy existing demand.
“If you get enough calls requesting a service you don’t offer, maybe it’s time to offer that service, right?” said Malone.
Although opportunities are many, Malone believes that controlled growth will achieve longevity. In time, she hopes to grow her firm to service the mainland of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Weddings in Vieques are flourishing, however Malone faces challenges as CEO of a company that operates outside the United States. Her greatest obstacles come from cultural differences.
“My job is to service clients from the states who are working on U.S. time,” she explained. “They expect to receive contracts and other things in a timely manner.” As the firm is heavily reliant on customer service, Malone’s main responsibility is to ensure that her clients’ weddings don’t feel any different than one in a major city, aside from the island’s exquisite beaches and perfect weather.
Prior to event planning, Malone had a notable career as a journalist and attended the Institute on Political Journalism in 1996.
“Thanks to IPJ, my internship at Campaigns & Elections magazine became a fulltime job. Within a year, I became the managing editor.”
Malone worked for the Wall Street Journal and as a writer for the “Politics.net” column. Later she was a senior account executive at Creative Responses Concepts, followed by a position as managing director of media relations with Dittus Communications. Prior to establishing Weddings in Vieques, Malone represented a Connecticut-based marketing company’s interests in Washington through working with trade groups and lobbyists.