Madeleine Kojakian is a Montreal based event architect and significant name in the wedding industry. Whatever Maddy touches turns to gold because she puts her heart and soul into everything. A dedicated mother, wife, entrepreneur and event planner – her story proves that with enough passion and hard work you can succeed in anything you do. Here’s her story on becoming the luxury brand and empire, MaddyK.
From Lebanese and Armenian background, Maddy was born in Jordan having spent most of her childhood in the United Arab Emirates, until she moved to Montreal at the age of 17 to go to College.
How did you get into the wedding industry?
I went to Concordia, and studied Economics. Once I graduated, I was planning on moving to New York with my best friend to work on wall street. [But] then in my last semester of studies I met my husband – and everything changed. I decided to stay here, I continued my education in E-commerce and I got a job as an assistant to a CEO for a small company based in Montreal. As you know when you work in small companies you wear many hats – so my roles and tasks were very varied in this position – so I got to dabble a little bit in everything – That’s where I got to work on some events within the organization – covering Montreal Fashion Week and collaborating with fashion shows etc. It was a small portion of my job but I loved it.
When I was planning my wedding I was running the magazine division at my job and realized there wasn’t a local, trendy wedding magazine so I proposed we do an annual special wedding issue – they loved the idea and since I was planning my own wedding it was just perfect. It was the experience that made me realize that there was a lack in the market for wedding planners so I decided to launch my own wedding planning agency – and that was the birth of Maddy K.
After I got married I continued focusing on my career and got an amazing job at an interactive marketing agency – which allowed me to work with brands such as Bell, La Senza, Aldo, and so much more – I was doing really really well… I loved my job and the industry I was in – Marketing was my passion – but at the same time Maddy K was starting to grow.
When did you decide to focus solely on MaddyK Atelier?
Until five years later, into my marriage I got pregnant with my son. My career was growing, I had moved to another agency and was now making a six figure income. Maddy K was also doing really well – I was working 24/7. I was doing both, doing the weddings on the weekend and working full time during the week. But with the baby coming I knew I couldn’t continue doing both. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make because I’m so passionate about marketing, but I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur and my own boss. So I gave my resignation and made the decision to from that day on focus 100% on MaddyK – I’ve never looked back since. That was in 2007, ten years ago.
Tell me about the birth of Bridal Boudoir Affair.
I wanted another challenge which is why in 2008 I decided I was going to do my own bridal show. Bridal boudoir was born. The first one was in 2009. I wanted to create something that really represented Montreal brides. Something trendy, something really sexy, fashion is amazing in Montreal, we have some of the most beautiful women and they care about how they look, they’re well traveled well informed. So I decided to create a bridal show that reflected Montreal brides. More boutique style. Because I worked in the wedding industry – I knew the tales we had in this city and I wanted to create a beautiful platform to allow for the talent to shine and to also create something that would make Montreal wedding industry proud.
It was small, the first year I did it at the OPUS. I thought I was going to die I didn’t realize the amount of work but nobody wanted to pay to be there – no vendor. I had to literally invite people to be there – I selected key people from the city and I said: you have to trust me, so first year I took the risk and I lost money and it was okay. Because I believed in it so much, I knew there was potential and I believed in it!
Other people would’ve been discouraged and stopped, what made you keep going?
Failure doesn’t scare me. If you do not believe in yourself, no one will. If I’m doubting then how is anybody going to spend money on any of my spaces and believe in me? I knew and I believed in myself. I knew the value that I was going to bring to this city and I knew that the brides in Montreal were going to appreciate it. Obviously like any business in the first year you’re going to lose money – it’s normal. You’re going to spend, you’re going to learn, you have to build a name. The good news is I had already a name because I had build a name from my wedding planning business, so it was exciting.
250 people showed up the first year. Then OPUS hotel closed so I thought okay now I need another venue. I went across the street to the Museum of Juste pour rire, which is much bigger. The second time around didn’t make money but I didn’t lose money. This time we had 500 people show up – which was amazing. But now, Museum of Juste pour rire closed down.
During that period, I got a call from the Hyatt. They wanted me to visit their property and see if I wanted to do any events there – since they had spent millions of dollars in renovations. When I went, I was so impressed with the space and I told them: listen there’s my bridal show would you be interested? They’re like: yes! That was it. It was the beginning of a marriage and I’ve been doing it there ever since.
After Boudoir was produced, we decided to expand our services to corporate which is now 75% of the business. Grand Prix at the Ritz, galas, charity events, corporate luncheons, etc.
What was the biggest struggle you faced in your career and how did you surmount it?
The hardest thing I’ve ever done was quit my job. The struggle is you can’t have the same lifestyle and the same expectation in a business , especially in the first few years but you’re used to a certain income coming in and transitioning is hard. Obviously not right away my business was able to give me the same income and certainty. Even with a full time job you have the certainty of knowing that you’re going to get x amount of dollar every month, with Maddy K you’re still uncertain. I struggled a lot with the unknown and taking the leap from being an employee to an employer was very scary as I’m sure a lot of you can understand. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done – but well worth it!
Did you always know you would become an entrepreneur?
You know it’s funny my uncle told me recently that when I was four or five, (which is my daughters age now), I used to say: I’m going to be my own boss and I’m going to be a millionaire. It never stopped. I’ve always known I wanted to be my own boss.
What is the hardest part about being your own boss?
Wearing different hats, I am a very self motivated person so I don’t have a hard time getting things done but at the same time I have to manage employees, follow up. The hardest part is having to manage a team because you’re not autonomous anymore. You have to make sure that everyone is bringing the same quality that you’re known for to the clients that you’re dealing with.
Good Morning From @manoirsaintsauveur !!! Last night we welcomed some amazing women as we officially kicked off the first day of the @maddykinspires summer retreat!!!! Summer for me means @moetchandon ICE – the white bottle was just the perfect complement to our white party!!! Now time to prep for the day … full of some fabulous speakers- can’t wait to see u all in a bit! Photo by our official photographer for the week end @charukstudios !!! My glow @barbarella_mtl 💙💙💙 #moetmoment #maddykinspires #moet #moetchandon
Why did you decide to launch MaddyK Retreat?
We launched it three years ago, it’s a collaboration between me and Natasha. It was something that we started to do after going on a ladies retreat in Tuscany. We wanted to bring that back to Montreal women, obviously not everyone can pack up and go to Europe so we wanted to do something local with the same sisterhood connection. It’s so gratifying to be able to give back to these women and grow a community that help each other.
What key characteristic has helped you succeed in your career?
My resilience and never ever giving up.
What advice would you give young entrepreneurs?
My first advice in anything you do is you have to believe in yourself. If you’re going to start doubting yourself then there’s a problem. Believe in yourself so strongly that other peoples opinions don’t phase you.
Calling all Business owners, or soon to be business owners!!! 🎙🎙 Mark your calendars and register TODAY to the July 11 Business masterclass. 📋📋 You are invited to a Mastermind session with certified life & business coach @soniazarbatany and me to talk everything business and learn the best business tips and techniques on how to elevate YOUR business to the next level! ✍🏻💻⌨️📱📝 On July 11, Sonia and I will coach , teach and inspire you to achieve the business you dream of and deserve while dining with a select small group of entrepreneurs at the new Lov restaurant. We will discuss the importance of personal branding, sales techniques, marketing your business, logistics and tailor our approach to your own business by showing you how little tweaks can drastically change the outcome of your business. Space is limited to only 14!! so make sure to register today! For more info and to registration please Email firstname.lastname@example.org 📲📲📲 #realtalk #businesstalk #maddyk
What’s coming up next for MaddyK?
Sonia Zarbatany and I have come together to launch business mentoring programs that focus on growing your business to the next level. Stay tuned for future events to come!
I also just launched ‘I Am Madeleine’ – a blog that is my self-discovery journey – my thoughts – my mess – my truth! You can join the #maddyktribe to get updates on all upcoming projects/events/blog posts.