How SCORE helped. 

If the COVID-19 pandemic had a silver lining, it would be that losing her job as an interior designer motivated Samantha O’Donnell to make a fresh start in the career she always wanted to pursue: Wedding planning.

“It’s been crazy,” O’Donnell said of how busy she has been since launching Lavish Haus in January. “It’s because of all the weddings that were cancelled last year.”

Her company is based in Center Valley and provides a variety of wedding planning packages and a la carte services to customers in the Lehigh Valley, as well as Bucks County, Philadelphia, and Lancaster. O’Donnell’s service area is within two hours travel time from her home base.

O’Donnell has a degree in interior design - where she focused the first 10 years of her career. She sees parallels between the two professions in terms of choosing a color palette, linens, flatware, table settings and “making sure everything is cohesive.” Her 2018 wedding got her thinking hard about transitioning to wedding planning.

“I always helped friends with events, and I did my wedding,” she said. “It’s always been something that I loved to do. It’s been something that’s been in the back of my head for a long time.”

In October 2020 after being laid off from her interior design job, O’Donnell began mentoring with SCORE Bucks County certified mentors Steve Scialabba and Steve Morello. Initially, she consulted with her mentors about launching a dual wedding planning and interior design business. After talking it through with her mentors and hearing their suggestions to focus on one specialty, O’Donnell decided to do just that.

“As soon as I started it and started to evolve it, I realized that I don’t want to do interior design,” she said. “I will put my all into something. It’s either all in or not at all.”

O’Donnell has so far delivered three weddings and has signed contracts for 10 more.

“I don’t think I realized it would be this great right away,” she said.

Her SCORE mentors have helped her stay accountable, gave her the confidence she needed to succeed and assisted her in setting up various business-related tasks, including establishing Lavish Haus as an LLC, setting up a business bank account, insurance, and connecting her with an accountant and an attorney.

“Working with SCORE even still during the growing pains is also super important,” O’Donnell said. “They bring up a lot of points that I wouldn’t even think about.”

O’Donnell plans to continue her mentoring sessions with Scialabba and Morello for the foreseeable future as she brings on an assistant and looks to grow her business.

“When I start to grow, I want to make sure I’m being the best leader possible,” she said.

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