Creative duo startup aiding the wedding industry
By Ben Schools
Charleston is home to some of the most-sought-after wedding venues in the country, and the wedding scene boasts a high-caliber network of new and seasoned vendors. With our historic sites and enchanting architecture next to a picturesque seascape, the popularity comes as no surprise. Planners organize receptions down to the table napkins, and photographers capture the perfect shot of an engaged couple by the marsh at golden hour.
Weddings are celebratory and minutely planned occasions in which many pieces make up the puzzle. The wedding industry as a whole, beyond Charleston, comprises a $55 billion market and contains 300,000 vendors. These numbers are expected to grow by more than four percent in the next five years, and the question for vendors, especially newer ones entering the market, becomes “how do we stand out?” Every business has its own talents and unique qualities that fit different prospective customers, but honing in on and emphasizing those parts of a business in a fast-growing and virtual-trending market can be a struggle for smaller companies.
And so two young women saw an opportunity to help wedding industry professionals by working as a creative duo specializing in design and content. They call themselves En Tandem.
Margo Garrigues (left) and Catherine Anne White (right), En Tandem's founders.
Catherine Anne White and Margo Garrigues became friends while attending high school in Dallas, Texas. During junior year, they began regularly exchanging letters, and both relished practicing this less-frequently-taught craft.
Margo says, “We were going to school with each other, and it’s not like we didn’t see each other every day, but we would go home and write a letter.”
Stationery designed for one of En Tandem's first clients, Host, a northwest Arkansas-based wedding rental and styling business.
Margo drew little caricatures and figures in hers, and Catherine was always inspired by Margo’s artistic work, whether it was painting or her letter drawings. She says, “Always in the back of my mind, I thought I would like to work with her one day.”
Catherine graduated from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. After undergrad, Catherine married her husband, John Tyler, and moved back to Dallas to get her master’s. During that time, they found out they were pregnant with their son, Oliver Graham. So, she completed her master of science degree in management at Southern Methodist University and then focused on raising their son. She has since written a devotional called Beautiful Outliers for moms who are questioning the process or are alone in the journey of motherhood, and she has continued to write for her blog as well as her Instagram account.
Margo went to the University of North Texas, where she earned her bachelor of fine arts degree in communication design with a heavy emphasis on art history. Her job hunt eventually led her to Charleston, where she spent more than a year working at Outline Studio as a junior graphic designer. After losing her job in the wake of 2020 cutbacks, she gravitated toward freelancing, investing time in her relationships with other creatives and applying for countless jobs.
Catherine knew she wanted to resume writing in her career but did not know where to begin. During her free time, she took a 90-day writing course in which the instructor talked about going niche into certain industries. Immediately, she thought of how many small businesses existed in the wedding industry and decided to research for any needs that remained unfulfilled.
Margo had been applying for a mass of jobs — any place that needed marketing or graphic design help. After a long string of discouraging application processes, she received a call from Catherine, who suggested that they combine their skills and go into business together. It sparked some revitalizing excitement in Margo.
Catherine says, “We found in the wedding industry that many small business owners are wearing a bunch of hats, and Margo and I really wanted to help those people.”
They couldn’t find any established businesses offering a similar service to what they aimed to do.
Catherine says, “Given the size of the industry, it is surprising that there is this scarcity of resources for vendors. We wanted to use our creativity to showcase who these different businesses are.”
In September 2020, they instituted weekly meetings to discuss branding, logistics and so forth. Barely two months later, on Nov. 10, 2020, they launched En Tandem.
Catherine spearheads the content and business side of the operation. She takes care of communications and writes all the copy for clients. Margo leads the visual side and helps clients dream of what could be useful in growing their business. She drives branding, design, website creation and printed materials.
They experienced an encouraging start with interested clients right away. Since then, after only four months operating, they feel the same excitement with their minds focused on the long haul.
They completely reworked the website of one new client. Margo redesigned the layout while Catherine crafted and refined the copy. The website launched the week of February 8, and their client responded saying she’d had a record client increase in that week — more than she had ever had before.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many small businesses with a catch-22 situation: They feel like they don’t have the money to invest in necessary areas, but they also need to invest to establish a greater online presence, which is where business has been trending.
Catherine says, “It’s our job to show them that if they have a stronger website presence or have strategies to grow their business, it is going to help them. It is worth the investment now in order to stand out during COVID, when many brides are having to find dresses and everything else online rather than in stores.”
With wedding vendors hoping for an upcoming rebound, the future is looking bright for En Tandem to grow on a national scale. They are based out of their respective homes in Charleston and Dallas. Serendipitously, both cities have huge wedding industries. But business is not limited to their residences. They plan to work with professionals from across the country.
Their goals are to keep working with clients, continue exposing their brand, establish themselves and demonstrate how they can help new clients. And their sights are set beyond exclusively working with individuals.
Catherine says, “We want to create a community out of this and for it to be a resource for vendors to come to, whether it’s the blog with free information or help with a website overhaul.”
If the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized anything, it is our need for community. While this need rings true in a very deep sense, it is also apparent in the way we conduct long-standing business and the availability of support for those just starting up. Catherine and Margo represent two examples of many working hard to help small businesses flourish. We can find encouragement in the entrepreneurial spirit of folks doing what they enjoy so that others can do the same.