Michele Velazquez – Founder of The Heart Bandits

[quote style=”boxed”]I learned that if you don’t like where you are, hustle and find something better. I have done that my whole life.[/quote]

On April 24, 2010 Michele and Marvin went on a romantic sunset dinner cruise around Marina Del Rey harbor. After a wonderful dinner and dessert, Marvin asked Michele to go to the top of the boat. They made their way to the front deck where the view was amazing, the water was quiet, and the stars were out. Marvin dropped down on one knee and asked Michele to be his wife. Michele of course said yes.

Upon reflecting on her proposal, Michele realized how much nicer her marriage proposal would have been if it were captured with a picture. This led her to thinking about starting a full-service Marriage Proposal Planning Company which would offer marriage proposal ideas, proposal event coordination, and execution. Adding Romantic Date Planning seemed like a natural addition. Michele brought this idea to her fiancé Marvin who had recently been in the shoes of the guidance-seeking proposer and was always on the lookout for romantic tips. He loved the idea and The Heart Bandits were born.

The Heart Bandits quickly excelled to the number one Proposal Planning Company. Regarded as the foremost expert in the proposal industry, Michele has been interviewed by NY Times, LA Times, Brides Magazine in more. She is a featured blogger on Huffington Post and her clients were featured on Anderson Cooper Live.

Michele graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. She worked as an Event Coordinator for a company for 5 years where she organized $10k-$15k budget events. She has a passion for business and entrepreneurship and loves working with people.

What are you working on right now?

We are working on several marriage proposals across the country. One in Chicago involves my client and his girlfriend being driven in a pedicab through Millennium Park. They will be driven by several actors acting out scenes from their relationship and he will propose at The Bean with a guitarist and many friends. Another in Los Angeles involves our client taking his girlfriend out for a private salsa lesson and then a limo is escorting her to a private rooftop overlooking the city where she will be surprised by a full salsa band, custom dance floor, thousands of flowers, and a private dinner. We are working on other proposals in NY, Tampa, and Dallas but we can’t give them away since their girlfriend’s may read this!

Where did the idea for The Heart Bandits come from?

I sadly didn’t love the way my husband proposed to me. It isn’t his fault though. He didn’t know about my secretly high expectations and there weren’t any resources out there back then to help him come up with amazing ideas suited to my personality. I filled the gap in the market by starting The Heart Bandits and I have helped over 300 men propose.

How do you make money?

I interview my clients to get a better understanding of who they are, what their partner likes, and details about their relationship. With that information, I spend time brainstorming and creating unique proposal ideas made just for them. I present the concepts to my client with a visual board and then we decide on the final concept. Once my client chooses the final proposal concept, we bring the concept to life by hiring vendors, scouting locations, drafting contracts, and more.

What does your typical day look like?

There is no such thing as a typical day in this business. Every day I get up my job is to respond to the needs of each client and they are all different. Sometimes I am interviewing fire dancers, other times I am stringing lights on rooftops. No two days are the same.

How do you bring ideas to life?

With imagination and flawless execution. My job is to hire the right vendors, the best venues, and to make sure all permits and insurance issues are covered.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Live action! I love that clients are asking more and more for actors, marching bands, and other exciting elements that involve other people.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked at McDonalds for 2 weeks. They put me on french fry duty and I hated it. I learned that if you don’t like where you are, hustle and find something better. I have done that my whole life.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I don’t think I would do anything differently. My business has grown and we are regarded as the best at what we do due to the way we have done things so I am happy with that.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Look at how I can do things better. No matter how long you have been doing something, you can always do things better. People get complacent and then they stop looking at process improvements, but there is always room for improvement.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I don’t know that I would say I have had a failure. I have made mistakes along the way, and I just learn from them each time and try to better myself.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think there needs to be a website where people can post what the can teach and people can post what they want to learn. The website would link people together that have something to teach and learn. For example, I was looking desperately to find someone to teach me how to garden but couldn’t find anyone.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I would add courses about entrepreneurship in high school and make it part of the GE in college. So many people hate being an employee but they don’t realize that there is an alternative if you are willing to work for it. So many feel trapped, and I would want them to know there are options.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I love rap music and country music!

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

Pinterest – I find a lot of proposal inspiration there, Entrepreneur.com is where I get great business advice and SCORE is great for business counseling when you are just starting out.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The 4-Hour Workweek. It really opens your eyes to how you can expand your business without putting in even more hours!

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

Entrepreneur: Always gives good business advice and for me often sparks innovation; Tim Ferriss: Author of 4 Hour Work Week and has great tips about productivity; Arianna Huffington: She started Huffington Post and is very intellectual.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I laugh out loud multiple times a day, usually at really corny jokes.

Who is your hero, and why?

My Grandfather. He gets me, he understands being an entrepreneur, he is wise, and I just completely admire him. He also constantly talked about not going to college and how he regretted it which pushed me to go to school.

How hard was it to get customers for your Proposal Planning business when 3 years ago, no one had really heard of Proposal Planning?

I’m not going to lie, it was difficult. While other businesses just have to go out there and prove they are credible at what they do, I had many hurdles to jump over. I had to convince men that they needed a Proposal Planner, and then show them that I knew what I was doing and that they should trust me with the most important day of their lives. Because they didn’t really have anything to compare it to, there was a lot of trust put into me in the beginning. It was a challenge but now my work speaks for itself. Before I started The Heart Bandits in 2010, Proposal Planning was hardly ever in the media and media helped spread the word that this industry exists.

Do you plan on expanding The Heart Bandits worldwide?

Actually, The Heart Bandits already operates worldwide. We have done many proposals in Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Europe and Australia to name a few.


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