Corporate Offices to Wedding Bells: Meet Jenna Sampson

When Jenna Sampson decided to make a career change and become a full-time wedding and event planner, she knew there would be hard days. Since she already built a strong brand and reputation, she was excited. One challenge she did not anticipate was COVID-19 and the impact it would have on the business.

Jenna graduated from CBU in 2010 with her Bachelor of Arts in political science and continued her post-secondary education at Mt. St. Vincent University, gaining her Public Relations degree.

After returning to Cape Breton from Halifax, Jenna soon found herself in the corporate offices in the First Nation community of Membertou in the role of Director of Marketing. Regarded as one of the leaders in Cape Breton in the field of marketing and communications, Jenna also had a passion and love for wedding planning. While looking for a career opportunity after graduation, Jenna established J. Marie Weddings and grew it steadily over six years.

“In the summer of 2019, I coordinated 15 weddings and worked full-time at Membertou, all while trying to be the best mom and wife I could be and keep up with my social life. It was at that point that I knew something had to give,” says Jenna. “I put six years of hard work into my business, and I knew one thing for sure; that my desire to plan weddings was stronger than my desire to work in marketing, so I made the decision to focus completely on J. Marie Weddings.”

With the substantial growth of the business every year since the beginning, Jenna was gearing up for what was to be her busiest wedding season to date – and then the world changed.

When everything in the province of Nova Scotia shut down on March 17, the structure of Jenna’s business changed significantly. All in-person meetings were cancelled and shifted to online. Planning meetings turned into postponement meetings, and Jenna was also trying to work with a toddler at home as daycares were closed. As well, engagements stopped, which meant no new business was coming into J. Marie weddings.

“Initially, I was very anxious because there wasn’t a lot of information available to really understand what the situation would be in the coming months, so I didn’t have much insight to offer my clients,” says Jenna. “I was connecting with other planners and my association to develop a plan of action and, ultimately, tentatively planning 2021 wedding celebrations was the best option.”

Jenna has still been able to offer her services to couples during this time. Jenna has moved online and, like always, has continued to be the problem solver for her clients.

“In late March, my team and I met to discuss what our go-forward plan was, and a Wedding Community Zoom meeting was born,” says Jenna. “The goal was to connect couples who were worried about their 2020 weddings and provide them with accurate information regarding COVD-19 and how it was going to affect their wedding. We held our first meeting in early April and had 28 couples join to discuss everything from venue closures, to vendor contracts, communicating cancellations to guests and postponement plans. Since then, we’ve held one every month, and we’ve created an incredibly supportive community of couples navigating this hard time.”

Two years ago, Jenna started her Master of Business Administration at CBU and has been able to apply many of the principles of the community economic program into her business.

Jenna knew that CBU would always be there for her through the continuation of her studies in the MBA program, as well as through support from her Alumni family, both here in Cape Breton and across the globe. That is why Jenna decided to give back with a monthly gift to CBU.

“I wanted to donate to CBU for the next generation of Cape Bretoners, says Jenna. “I want my son to be able to count on CBU for a great education just like I did – that is why I want to support CBU.”