Our last photoshoot of the year was spent on the North Shore of O'ahu with a small, amazing group of women that I was lucky enough to connect with on Instagram earlier this year.
One of my goals for Dolkii this year was to cultivate meaningful relations with local women business owners; women that I could share stories of entrepreneurship (the good and the bad!). If there is anything I learned from my journey with Dolkii, it's that community matters. Being able to share my experiences with women who also own small businesses gave me comfort and perspective in knowing that we are all going thru the same types of roadblocks, even if it comes in different forms!
One of the women I was blessed to meet this year was Zabrina Zablan, owner of The Gay Agenda Collective, a wedding planning company that caters to the LGBTQ+ community, based mainly in Hawai'i and California. I loved learning about Zabrina's journey to entrepreneurship and how she was able to turn a difficult situation in to a flourishing business.
Learn more about Zabrina and her company The Gay Agenda Collection below! Oh, and enjoy her gorgeous photos captured by Hi Alessia!!!
Tell us about yourself! Where did you grow up? Places you lived? Favorite food spots?
I am born and raised on the island of O'ahu. I grew up on the west side in Ewa Beach. I left Hawai'i to go to college when I was 17 and lived in Los Angeles for about 7 years before eventually moving back to the east side of O'ahu. Every time I would come back home to Hawai'i I made sure to get poke from Foodland and eat a chili frank plate from Zippy's. Random, I know but it was just a must for me! When I was living in Los Angeles, I would say you could find me frequenting any coffee shop in the Pasadena area. When I do head back to LA for business, I make chic fil a my first stop. Im bias, but I think their chicken sandwich is way better than popeye's.
What made you decide to start The Gay Agenda Co.?
I started my business with one agenda, to create space for queer folk in the wedding industry.
My business idea started on the couch of a friends house, while venting about how difficult planning my own wedding was. My wife and I had no family support (financially or emotionally), we were planning a destination wedding, and to add to the stress - we had two vendors back out on us, because they found out it was a same-sex wedding and they didn't feel comfortable providing service to two women. Weddings can already be stressful to plan, but having to come out to all your vendors with fear that maybe they weren't affirming or figuring out what wedding traditions to include when neither set of parents would attend, well that just seemed ridiculous.
I have always believed that if you can't find what you are looking for, then you must create it yourself. I have always loved planning events and throwing parties, so it just made sense. Thus, The Gay Agenda Collective was formed. I started by creating a curated list of gay-owned and gay-friendly vendors, so that my couples never had to worry about coming out or being rejected. I made it very clear in my business proposal that this was a business catered to the LGBTQ+ community and then their allies, which caused a shift in the way straight couples approached me. I can vividly remember my first straight couple that I booked timidly ask if I would work with them, even though they were straight. "Of course", I replied. BOOM! tables were turned.
Today, we get to work with some of the most amazing people in the most amazing places. I have had the honor to be apart of all of the emotions leading up to a wedding. Pep talking couples who don't have their parents to walk them down the aisle, to creating budget-friendly events for those who are financing everything all on their own. Today, my business works out of Los Angeles and Hawai'i and it has been hands down the best adventure.
How did you meet your lovely wife?
My wife and I met at a Christian university of all places. We both had the intent to go to a Christian university and hopefully "pray the gay away." That obviously isn't a thing and it didn't work, thank goodness and we started dating my sophomore year of college. Attending a conservative Christian university and being in an openly gay relationship was not an easy thing. We faced a lot of difficult times, but I believe that it made us stronger in the end. We had a double engagement! I went first and proposed at the Griffith observatory, beating her out by one week. She asked at Disneyland, where she first asked me to be her girlfriend. It was a lot of fun being able to propose to each other. Gay or straight, everyone deserves that joy! We got married back home at Kualoa Ranch. It was a great time being surrounded by extended and choose family, who stepped up in lieu of not having our parents. We've definitely come a long way from being in the closest to where we are today.
What is the #1 thing you love most about being a wedding planner?
My favorite part about being a wedding planner is playing a small part in a couple's love story. This industry is filled with talented people, but to me being a wedding planner is more than being creative and organized. Being able to stand with a couple in their decision to choose love is my favorite part. Some of my couples don't have family support, so to be able to encourage a person who is walking down the aisle alone that they got this, or to sit with them as they cry it out, that makes my job worth it. Taking the stress off of a couples plate so that they can enjoy every moment of their special day is at the forefront of what makes my job so important and why I continue to do what I do.
What advice would you give to other women out there wanting to start their own business?
Starting a business can be difficult task to do, but doing it as a women means going above and beyond our male counterparts to succeed. A lot of women I know start their businesses while working a 9-5 job in order to finances their passions and support their everyday life. The goal is to make your side hustle (aka your business) your main hustle. To do that, you have to go into this knowing it's going to take a lot of work, a super supportive sideline, and the drive to keep going even when you are nowhere near where you want to be. Figure out what it is you want to do, write down your why and remind yourself of that everyday.
Any favorite local brands you will be shopping this holiday season?
This year we are shopping Manaola, Kealopiko, and of course Dolki. We've tried to shift how we consume products, meaning shopping local and sustainable and these are three brands we are loving this holiday season.