York College Alum Runs Successful Wedding and Floral Business
York College prepares students to be successful entrepreneurs, and that’s exactly what happened for Leah Barnes ’19.
Leah Barnes knows what it’s like to take her career into her own hands.
Barnes, who graduated from York College in 2019 with a B.A. in Marketing, is the owner of Your Perfect Day LLC, a wedding planning and design business that specializes in planning, decor rentals, linen rentals, custom signs, floral arrangements, special event and floral design; and Perfect Stems Floral and Gift Shop.
Both businesses are women-run and -owned small businesses in York County, and serve Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and beyond, with an additional branch of Your Perfect Day in Maryland that handles all Maryland, DC, and Virginia territories. Barnes’ corporation Perfection Bridal will be launching later this year, with all her businesses falling under that umbrella.
“We truly are that one-stop shop for all things wedding!” Barnes says. “We strive to not only support our customers, but the small businesses that we champion and support within our brick-and-mortar establishments. We believe small businesses fuel the communities we live in, and we will always choose small in our future endeavors.”
Lighting the fire
Barnes started Your Perfect Day with a blog post in 2016, when she was still a student at York College. A legacy graduate, Barnes transferred from Temple University in 2018 to YCP to be closer to home, and because she knew she wanted her future businesses to be in York. During this time, she was also working full-time with a nonprofit organization in downtown York.
“My YCP professors were very understanding with my employment and were very flexible with my work schedule. They knew that my education and work life needed balance,” she says.
Barnes had been interested in the wedding industry for a while, having assisted her friends with their weddings. After her first event, she started researching the wedding industry and its fashions and trends. She made her initial blog post as a culmination of this interest, which evolved over time into Your Perfect Day.
“I love seeing the smile on my couples’ faces when they know that everything we promise comes true, and that they actually truly enjoyed their perfect day!” she says.
The skills she gained from her education at York College have helped her businesses flourish, she says, in addition to help from her professors.
“I have business owners from all over the region who come to me for advice so they can also advance their businesses to the next level,” Barnes adds. “And I absolutely loved Dr. Tacka and Dr. Woodall! They were such an inspiration to me, and I think they're the ones that lit the embers for the fire that would eventually be this journey.”
Due to the influx of weddings happening in the region at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barnes rebranded her business in 2021, and Your Perfect Day has been thriving ever since, with over 100 clients currently with Your Perfect Day. The company is hoping to franchise within the next year, and put the business model in the hands of wedding planners nationally and possibly internationally who want to start their own business, and don’t yet have a model to do so.
“I knew it was my time to do it, and I've never looked back,” she adds.
Setting the stage
York College’s entrepreneurial education goes beyond basic ‘textbook information,’ and helps students transform their ideas from goals to tangible ventures, according to Dr. Gerald Patnode Jr., Professor Emeritus of the Graham School of Business.
“Courses are designed to take real aspirations and turn them into well thought-out business plans, concepts, market tests, and even into developing prototypes,” he explains. “We have had a significant number of Entrepreneurship students launch businesses while still in school. There is amazing synergy between the Graham School and other schools in producing some good ventures.”
If you want to be an entrepreneur, there are several things you should do, Barnes says, including planning everything out, developing a thick skin, and crafting a business and personal motto, to remind yourself of why you started pursuing your endeavors.
“You need to have a thick skin. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I have seen too many people fail at business ownership because they can't handle the struggle of being their own boss,” she adds. “And have a business and personal motto. Mine are, ‘As long as you do things out of generosity and kindness, then you are doing things in the right way,’ and ‘Good things grow here.’ These mottos should always be what you go back to in moments of fear, regret, loneliness, depression. They help you remember why you started this journey in the first place.”