Special/Signature Issues » Top 40 Under 40

Meghan Ely, 29

President
OFD Consulting

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They say that children and animals are hard acts to follow. Throw in a few bridezillas and it would seem that Meghan Ely could get lost in the shuffle. Not so. The public relations consultant is one of only 20 people in the country serving her niche market of advising small businesses in the wedding industry, and is on the fast track to prominence with upcoming speaking gigs in Ireland and Arizona.

She also runs the Richmond Bridal Association and is a force behind Wish Upon a Wedding, a national group that puts together free weddings for couples facing terminal illnesses. Last February she rallied vendors to plan a wedding for a local couple in which the groom was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. They pulled off a $30,000 wedding in three weeks — “a real testament to the community of wedding professionals here,” Ely says of the tear-filled and memorable event.

Beyond weddings, animals and children get Ely's volunteer time. She spent a year teaching in Richmond city schools through Americorps, has mentored a girl through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and helps keep the Richmond chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals stocked with emergency food. She's also involved with Assistance Support Kindness, or ASK, a group that helps children with cancer and their families.

Next up, Ely hopes to write insider books about the wedding business — “kind of a ‘Kitchen Confidential' without the drugs,” she says. Ely's proud of her achievements but she says it's the disappointments that got her here. “I have found my successes have stemmed from my failures,” she says. “Fail and you get better, absolutely.”

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