Two businesses, one entrepreneur: Q&A with Sauntel Bennett Totten, event planner and cleaner

Located in New Haven, Sauntel Bennett Totten is the mastermind behind Q’Niqque Wedding Coordinator and Event Planning and Swwiping Away Cleaning. 

After planning her own wedding, and then her step-daughter’s, Bennett Totten had the realization she’d been the unofficial event planner for her family for years. Then, she decided to take it to the next level and start planning weddings and events professionally.  

Sauntel Bennett-Totten, owner of Q'Niqque Wedding Coordinator and Event Planning.The next year, she helped her daughter, Shantora Totten, chase her dreams by opening a second business, Swwiping Away Cleaning. 

Owning two businesses might feel like a lot of pressure but Bennett Totten says the biggest step was the first, and now that she’s taken the steps to open her own businesses, she already feels successful.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Bennett Totten to learn more about her journey to becoming an entrepreneur juggling two businesses.

IFW: Tell us about your businesses.
SBT: Q’Niqque Wedding Coordinator and Event Planning opened in 2021. I planned my own wedding and then helped my stepdaughter plan her wedding. I love to decorate. I love to shop. I love to put stuff together. It didn’t really click in my head until I did her wedding in 2021 and I’ve been doing it anyway. As far as event planning, I’ve been doing all the family event planning, all the trips, and anything we have going on– it was always me. Nothing happens without me doing it but I never thought to take it to the next level because of the professional part of it.

Swiping Away Cleaning opened in 2022. This was started because it was my daughter’s dream. It serves as a family business. We do construction site cleaning, which sets us apart because most cleaning services are for residential cleaning.

Sauntel Bennett-Totten works on creating a stylized napkin for a client at Q'Niqque Wedding Coordinator and Event Planning.IFW: What is it like to run a business with your family?
SBT: Running a business with our children has been a bit challenging but we are working through it. Our daughter Shantora Totten was the one who wanted to start the cleaning business. Before we started the business we were all in agreement that no decision would be made without everyone agreeing to it, but after opening up that became a problem with each person having different opinions on what the rates should be. My husband and I decided to take more of the lead on finalizing our rates, but it came across as if the parents were trying to take it over and the children's opinion didn’t count. After putting in a lot of bids and not getting the jobs, everyone understood that yes, the rates needed to change in order to get some business.

IFW: What challenges have you faced while operating your businesses?
SBT: When you’re building a business you have to understand that this is your dream and not someone else's. If you stay the course you would think you’d have other people help build it, but you have to do what it takes to build your business. It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t come aboard, it's still your dream.

Sauntel Bennett-Totten works on creating a stylized napkin for a client at Q'Niqque Wedding Coordinator and Event Planning.IFW: What is it like to run both businesses at the same time and how do you balance it?
SBT: With everyone having full-time jobs and some jobs requiring overtime, it was a challenge with the cleaning side due to lack of sleep and not having the energy to go clean after doing a lot of hours working at a factory. The cleaning side has become scheduled as time is available. 

As for the wedding and event planning side, when we do have events it’s easier to manage because it’s not a last-minute thing. We have more time to prepare and the busy time is the month before with getting linen steamed and décor all put together for the event.

IFW: What are the benefits of hiring a wedding planner?
SBT: Having a wedding planner is peace of mind that all the details will come together. If you are super busy at work or in life and don’t have the time to dedicate to wedding planning, you will need a wedding planner. A wedding planner serves as your spokesperson, conveying your every whim and desire to vendors, and mapping out all the little details from the ceremony to the reception. When you hire a wedding planner you still make all the decisions but the wedding planner does all the legwork.

IFW: As a wedding planner, who are some of your favorite vendors to work with?
SBT: I love working with Ceruti’s Catering Inc. reception venue. Susan Arney is the best to work with and is very professional, helpful and patient. 

Armany Videography takes amazing shots and videos. Robbin’s Sweet Table is a master baker and is very creative with her cake designs. 

Fatima Washington, our very own local celebrity star, has a beautiful voice that will set the mood right for the wedding ceremony. She is sure to have everyone in tears at the wedding.

Sauntel Bennett-Totten, right, meets with bride to be Anamaria Sosa to discuss her wedding at Q'Niqque Wedding Coordinator and Event Planning.IFW: What led to you locating both of your businesses in New Haven?
SBT: I wanted to step outside of Fort Wayne. There were already other companies doing this work in Fort Wayne, but it was not offered in New Haven. It brings something new to New Haven. It’s always nice to have something in your community area and not have to branch out somewhere else. This location benefits us because we’re Downtown and that helps connect us with other companies and helps us market ourselves.

Eventually, I want to have my own event center. There’s not many in the area so this would bring something new to New Haven.

IFW: You participated in SEED Fort Wayne’s Build Institute. How did that help prepare you as an entrepreneur?
SBT: It was my husband who suggested it. I didn’t think I needed it because I thought I always have done this. For him, it was putting the business pieces together. Tying the business part together, to know the marketing part about it, to know the taxes part about it. Building the foundation with the finances and everything else. He wanted me to get all of that. It was definitely the right move.

Sauntel Bennett-Totten shows off a boutineer for a client at Q'Niqque Wedding Coordinator and Event Planning.IFW: What does success look like for you and your businesses?
SBT: I hear so many people talk about businesses but it’s just that talk. No matter how many clients I have gained so far, I'm already successful because I took that first step to start my business and I understand that it is going to keep growing and building.

This story is made possible by SEED Fort Wayne. Learn more about the Build Institute program by visiting their website.
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