10 Event Day Must-Haves

You have been planning your event for months now and finally the big day is here! In this post, I share a few event day Must-Haves so you can slay the day!

Obviously there are “day of essentials” for your client events (welcome bags, materials, supplies and signage, lighting, decor etc) but I am referring to YOUR day-of essentials! It's easy to forget the things YOU need to keep in your back pocket (literally) to help you rock the task at hand!  

 Photo taken by Flytographer Johnny in NYC

 Photo taken by Flytographer Johnny in NYC

Here are my top 10 Event Day essentials:

1. Snacks and Water:

I like my snacks to be small and compact and a mix of sweet and salty options. A few days before, I’ll go shopping for granola bars, dried fruit, animal crackers, pretzels, dark chocolate and nuts to fuel me throughout the day. I also carry around my refillable water bottle to stay hydrated.

Event day bag of goodies!

Event day bag of goodies!

 

2. Petty Cash:

Credit card machines break down and unforeseen circumstances and emergencies can happen. Save yourself some grief and have cash on hand.

3. Electronics:

Pack your briefcase or laptop bag with all of your electronic essentials. For some events, I set-up a prep room. This is where I will “live” prior to event set-up time. I make sure to plug in my power surge protector to juice my laptop, mophie and any other electronics. When I am on-site, I need to stay powered up and connected so that people-- especially vendors and clients can reach me.

4. Positive Attitude

 Remain gracious, calm and kind to to everyone you meet. It not only makes tense situations better but you end up feeling better in the end too!

5. Map

At some point during the day, you or someone else will need to run errands or ask you for directions. Prepare yourself to be helpful by mapping out the nearest grocery stores, coffee shops and drugstores.

6. Point of Contact list

Create a document with the names and phone numbers of everyone on your team and point of contacts for your vendors. Make sure you have the numbers for each person that is making the delivery or setting-up, not just the contact from the office. #Protip

7. Copy of  Key documents

Have a folder or binder of all contracts and agreements and layouts.

8. Master Schedule

If you are old school, have this on paper, or if more high-tech, keep it on your ipad or laptop. The point is to have it accessible at all times.

9. Emergency Kit

Pack an emergency kit and keep it stocked with items like aspirin, bandages, safety pins and contact solution.

10. Change of shoes

And last but not least, bring a change of shoes. If I am getting physical on the job, I like to have an old pair of tennis shoes and then slip into shoes that are more fitting of the event.

This is my top 10, what else would you include?

 

The 4 Most Powerful Podcast that Changed my 2016

When I started working for myself earlier this year, I started listening to podcasts with more regularity and intention. Working out of my home, I have found podcasts to be amazing companions to my day. Most weeks, I reserve three hours to listen over lunch, at the gym or while I am doing tedious admin.

They help keep me inspired, teach a new skill or expand my knowledge. I credit podcasts for keeping me sane, entertained and informed. If you are looking for new podcasts to add to your playlist, or just getting into podcasts for the first time, here are my favs for work inspiration.

Dan Post-Senning and Lizzie Post, the host of Awesome Etiquette

Dan Post-Senning and Lizzie Post, the host of Awesome Etiquette

1Awesome Etiquette with Lizzie Post and Dan Post-Senning. Lizzie and Dan are first cousins and the great great grandchildren of Emily Post. They joined the family business and work at the Emily Post Institute where they share advice and tips for modern day etiquette on a weekly podcast. They answer listener questions, offer sample scripts of things you can say when you find yourself in a sticky situation and close the show with an “etiquette salute.” A listener will call or write in to share something wonderful and kind a stranger or friend did for them to salute them. 

While I personally enjoy the weekly doses of etiquette wisdom they share, I also enjoy listening from a business perspective! As someone in the service industry, its important that I treat everyone with respect and consideration and It's a great reminder that graciousness is always in style.

New to the podcast, listen to episode #100, where Lizzie and Dan share answers to classic etiquette questions.

Lewis Howes, host of School of Greatness

Lewis Howes, host of School of Greatness

2. My friend Sameerah tuned me on to the School of Greatness. I think we were out to dinner one night in DC and got on the topic of podcast. This was a month of so into my business. I think this may have also been my first download! Lewis Howe’s the School of Greatness is a one-stop shop for: business tips and advice from the top thought leaders in virtually every industry, motivation and inspiration to live a meaningful life and stories of how people overcame. Lewis puts our three shows a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) so there is always fresh content to absorb.

New to the podcast, listen to episode # 397 Sara Blakely: SPANX CEO on Writing your Billion Dollar Story

Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon, hosts of Being Boss

Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon, hosts of Being Boss

3. Being Boss: Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon are my soul sisters! I absolutely love how real they keep it, the community and space they have created for creative entrepreneurs, the way they share how their business operates and the powerhouse guests they bring on the show! Everything they share is intentional and with the purpose of motivating creatives to get the building blocks in place and to think like a boss. Seriously, I can’t say enough about Emily and Kathleen, although we have never met, I could see myself laughing and drinking a margarita with these girls.  

New to the podcast, listen to episode #73 Legal Advice for Creatives with Autumn Witt Boyd

Amy Porterfield, host of Online Marketing Made Easy

Amy Porterfield, host of Online Marketing Made Easy

I have no idea how I found Amy Porterfield, but let's just say her podcast Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield was god-send. Amy is interested in helping entrepreneurs be efficient and effective with the time they spent online or on the computer. She brings on the best of the best and walks you through step by step how to do something. I think any business owner can benefit from this podcast but especially those that run an online business.

New to the podcast, listen to episode #106 Are you Repelling or Attracting Your potential Customers? With Jasmine Star.

So there you have it folks, the 4 podcasts that enriched my life in 2016. I am curious, what podcasts are you listening to?

 

Traveling in Style

If you are like me, around the holidays you find yourself traveling. I blame it on long-distance parents and siblings, the fact that I have no children and my penchant for travel. Here is how I prep and travel in style without stress. 

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Star

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Star

Pre-Travel Prep:

When prepping for a trip, I usually pack the night before, if I'm super duper excited, I start days in advance. To make life easy, I bring one carry on bag and approach my packing strategically-- thinking about the activities that are in store and I how to get double and triple duty out of shoes and clothing. For me, this means deciding on a minimalist wardrobe. I’ll pick two or three colors and call it a day. White, black with a pop of red. Or maybe denim, camel and white. Sure, it's always fun to have more options but this ensures that I am not over packing and lugging a heavy carry-on down the jet bridge. It also gives me an excuse to go bold with my accessories. :)

Day of Travel:

In addition to my wallet, keys and eye glass case, I fill my over-sized purse with my essentials i.e. anything that I think will make my drive or flight more enjoyable.

Inside look into my purse, photo courtesy of Sophia Lafontant

Inside look into my purse, photo courtesy of Sophia Lafontant

These include:

  • A pack of gum
  • A magazine or book
  • Chapstick
  • Hair ties,
  • Bobbi pins
  • Make-up wipes
  • Moisturizer
  • Ear buds
  • Scarf
  • Small makeup pouch
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Water bottle

My travel outfit is all about comfort without sacrificing style, I am usually in denim jeans or yoga pants, a long sleeve shirt, over-sized cardigan, scarf and comfortable flats. I also ALWAYS wear socks! I don’t go through security without socks (big no-no). Even when I am wearing sandals, I’ll have socks in my purse and slip them on while in the security line.

Photo courtesy of Sophia Lafontant

Photo courtesy of Sophia Lafontant

If I am traveling alone, I like to keep to myself. I’ll say my hellos to the person or persons next to me, then open a book or put my headphones on. When the pilot announces we are approaching our descend (this usually happens with 20-30 minutes remaining); I pull out my makeup wipes to refresh my face and reapply moisturizer. Flying can dry-out your skin, so I am generous with the moisturizer and give it time to absorb.  If I have to head directly to an event once I get off the plane, I have my small makeup pouch to give myself a 5 minute makeover (brows, eyes, lips, foundation and cheeks). By the time we deplane, my makeup is done and I am ready to go. Once off the plane, I may change shoes if required. This is how I travel in style, how do you?

 

Festival Drinks: Pears, Pomegranates and Rosemary Oh My!

Thanksgiving is just 14 days away! Do you know what your will serve your friends and family? If you need some help in the drink department, I have compiled a list of my favs that are sure to get your guests in the holiday spirit.

Autumn Sangria (via People.com from Sally McKenney Quinn)

Photo via: domesticate-me.com

Photo via: domesticate-me.com

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cinnamon sticks, plus more for serving

  • 2 medium apples, thinly sliced (I prefer Honeycrisp)

  • 1 medium pear, thinly sliced

  • 1 medium orange, thinly sliced

  • ⅔ cup pomegranate seeds

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle white wine (I suggest a Pinot Grigio)

  • 2 cups apple cider

  • ½ cup brandy

  • ¼ cup orange juice

  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

  • Club soda, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the cinnamon sticks and fruit into a large pitcher. Add wine, apple cider, brandy, orange juice, and lemon juice. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 3 – 24 hours (6-8 hours is best!).

  2. Pour the sangria and fruit into glasses. Add a splash of club soda. Garnish with a cinnamon stick, if desired.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes (or overnight)

Pomegranate Rosemary Spritzer (via A House in the Hills blog)

Photo via: A House in the Hills

Photo via: A House in the Hills

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bottle prosecco (chilled)

  • 2 ounces peach schnapps (chilled)

  • 4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

  • 4 ounces pom juice

  • 1 small bottle mango flavored soda water

  • 6-8 sprigs rosemary

  • 1 fresh pomegranate

  • .5 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Add 1 cup of water to a small pan with 2-3 sprigs of rosemary, bring to a boil.

  2. Add sugar to boiling water and stir until sugar dissolves.

  3. Remove from heat, strain rosemary leaves and set to cool.

  4. Clean and de-seed pomegranate. Set seeds aside.

  5. Pour prosecco evenly into 4 cocktail glasses.

  6. Add .5 ounces of peach schnapps, .5 ounces rosemary simple syrup, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 ounce pom juice and a splash of mango soda water to each glass and stir.

  7. Add 1 tablespoon of pomegranate seeds to each glass.

  8. Allow the pomegranate seeds time to float to the top of the glass and garnish with 1 sprig of rosemary. 

Pear Rosemary Cocktail (via seriouseats.com from Kelly Carambula)

 

Photo via seriouseats.com

Photo via seriouseats.com

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • 3 sprigs rosemary

FOR THE COCKTAIL: 

  • 1 1/2 ounce pear brandy

  • 1/2 ounce rosemary syrup

  • 1/2 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 2-inch sprig of rosemary

DIRECTIONS:

1. To make the rosemary syrup: Combine the sugar, water and 3 sprigs rosemary in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove rosemary before bottling.

2. To make the cocktail: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add pear brandy, rosemary syrup, Domain de Canton, and lemon juice. Shake for 15 seconds.

3. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with rosemary sprig.

 

So there you have it folks, a few cocktail options to make your next holiday gathering merry and bright!

 

 

 

San Francisco Wedding Weekend

The 2016 wedding season has come to an end for Tyson (my beau) and I. The second and final wedding of 2016 was a two day Nigerian wedding in the Bay area. I haven’t been to the Bay Area in about 5 years and Tyson had never been so this was going to be fun! We flew into San Francisco on a Thursday and departed on a red eye Sunday night. Since we were tied up with wedding activities on Friday and Saturday evening, we had Thursday night, Friday morning and all day Sunday to go sightseeing. 

After picking up our rental car from the airport we stopped for dinner at Brenda’s French Soul Food on 652 Polk St.  Brenda a native New Orleanian specialized in New Orleans cuisine and does not miss a beat.Tyson ordered the BFC (Brenda’s Fried Chicken) and I ordered the watermelon ice tea and shrimp and grits.  Coming from Louisiana myself, I was happy to get a taste of home. Tyson said it was the BEST fried chicken he has ever had, which is a pretty big deal.  Please be warned, the food is incredibly rich, no calories are spared.

Brenda's Fried Chicken, mac and cheese, candied yams and shrimp and grits

Brenda's Fried Chicken, mac and cheese, candied yams and shrimp and grits

On Friday morning we toured Berkeley. We drove around the UC Berkeley campus and parked the car to scroll the residential neighborhood streets.  Coming from the east coast, it is fun to see different architectural styles.

Strolling on a quiet street in Berkeley

Strolling on a quiet street in Berkeley

On Saturday the wedding was at the Scottish Rite Center on Lake Shore Drive in Oakland across the street from Lake Merritt. 

View of Lake Merritt from the 4th floor terrace of the Scottish Rite Center

View of Lake Merritt from the 4th floor terrace of the Scottish Rite Center

If we had more time,  I would have loved to rent a boat from the boat house or go on a picnic on the lake. 

On Sunday, we checked out of our hotel and drove back to San Francisco. We ate brunch at the historic Cliff House on Los Lobos right on the Pacific ocean and near the Golden Gate Bridge. The brunch spread was amazing and the views of the ocean and cliffs were stunning. Little did we know, we were next door to the Sutro Baths ruins. The baths were once privately owned public salt water pools. After brunch we explored the sandy beach and the ruins for hours. It was the best surprise and the highlight of the trip. We couldn’t have had a more perfect ending to our California adventure.

Visitors walking the Sutro Bath ruins

Visitors walking the Sutro Bath ruins

 

The Bay area has so much to offer and I am sure if we had more time we could have seen so much more! What are you favorite spots in San Francisco?

 

Lands end view.jpg

4 Ways to Green your event

The end of the Republican and Democrat party conventions in July were huge events that drew large crowds and party faithfuls. It got me thinking about how organizing committees are thinking about and practicing sustainability. Over the past two decades or more, sustainability has been a trending topic as hosts try to figure out how to be less wasteful and attract attendees that share those values.

Here are four ways event organizers can green events of any size.

Work with vendors that share your values

This is the most important tip. Working with venues, caterers, florists and other vendors that are committed to sustainability will help to ensure that you have a green event. Ask if they are green certified. If they are, it means they follow a set of industry standards to run their internal operations, services and/or products.  By surrounding yourself with vendors that share your values, you can trust that they will not cut corners.

Cut down on waste

I have seen first hand how organizers can cut back on waste with a few tweaks. A main area where conference planners can cut back on is printing! Printing is a huge cost and let’s be honest, most of it ends up in the trash (oh my!) or in recycling bins once the event is over. Technology however can be a great friend and can help minimize waste. If you are holding a conference, make use of tools like email, google drive or dropbox to share documents. Attendees can have access to finalized documents and print them at their leisure. Its also a good idea to invest in evergreen pieces as much as possible. Create items that have the name and logo of your organization only (skip the year) so they can be used again and again. Also make sure to collect lanyards, clip boards, binders and anything else that can be reused.

Recycling and Composting

Some cities require special events to include stations for recycling and composting. San Francisco is one such city.  While cities have sponsored recycling programs to collect plastic, aluminum and paper products few have sponsored composting programs. Composting is the process of collecting leftover food scraps to decompose and be returned to the earth as nutrients for soil instead of ending up in a landfill.  San Francisco, Austin, New York, Portland and Hoboken are examples of cities that provide municipal composting.   If your event isn’t in a city that mandates composting talk to your venue and caterer and make sure this is something they can set up for your event.  

Use Technology

Many event organizers have already embraced technology for marketing and advertising. Gone are the days where posting flyers across town or taking ads out in the local paper are necessary. In today’s marketplace, word of mouth and digital marketing and advertising have greater reach and are much easier to track and evaluate than paper based ads and marketing.

Similarly, e-invitations are becoming the standard for event invitations including weddings (although less popular). They are the route most people take for sharing invitations for birthday and dinner parties to conferences and retreats. They are fast, affordable, green and can be customized.

Another great way to use technology is to skype or video conference speakers, this is especially great if your speakers or presenters aren’t local. It cuts back on guests’ carbon footprints and helps you be a good steward of your resources. Even better, if it can be managed, consider having an online webinar or course instead of a physical conference or meeting.  I have been a part of several online courses and depending on how the teacher sets up the course and engages with the students, these can be very impactful and worthwhile. While not for everyone, (like wedding e-invitations), it is something to consider.

There are so many ways to green your event, these four are excellent ways to get you started.

What other tips would you recommend?



 

Flower Power: Which florists are killing it on Instagram

100% Editorial. No Pay to play. Ever. 

The old adage “stop and smell the roses” is as true today as it was then. These days, I am all about embracing this mantra. Life goes by quickly so whatever you can do to enjoy and appreciate the beauty around you is good for the soul. And let’s be honest, a few garden roses have never hurt anybody!

You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.
— Unknown

 I love flowers—smelling them, touching them, pinning them and using them for my events! I think fresh flowers and greenery can instantly elevate a home or event space, upping the wow factor or more importantly, making us happy! 

Photo by Sophia Lafontant

Photo by Sophia Lafontant

I’ll be honest, I can’t always afford fresh flowers at home but to get my daily dose of pretty, I check out the following Instagram accounts.

Amaryllis Inc. is a studio based out of Maryland and their designs are some of the best in the industry. They create intricate archways, floating flowers and stunning tabletop arrangements.

Photo via Amaryllis Inc. (Kate Headley Photography)

Photo via Amaryllis Inc. (Kate Headley Photography)

Putnam & Putnam are based out of New York. Not only do they design arrangements and bouquets for spectacular weddings, you can also find a ton of their work featured in print shoots for major brands. They have all your flower needs covered from A-Z, deliveries, installations, weddings, classes and editorials!

Photo via Putnam & Putnam

Photo via Putnam & Putnam

Twiggs

 Melissa and Adison Searles, a mother, daughter duo run Twiggs Floral Studio out of San Francisco. They have built a loyal following with their lush blooms and creative design. They call themselves floral enthusiasts, and by the looks of their instagram feed its easy to see why.

Photo via Twiggs

Photo via Twiggs

 Bows and Arrows flowers

Run out of Texas by a wife and husband duo, Alice and Adam Rico.  The couple specializes in “garden organic” style blooms for weddings and other events. In addition to their events and styling projects, they also offer workshops to budding and experienced florists in the industry.

Photo via Bows and Arrows. Photographer Apryl Dailey.

Photo via Bows and Arrows. Photographer Apryl Dailey.

These are just a few florists sharing their incredible works of art with the world. Next time you are scrolling through instagram or need a little bit of beauty and color in your life, stop and appreciate these feeds. 

 

Changing Course: How I quit my job and launched my business

This blog first appeared on Wear What you Have, a blog dedicated to highlighting inspiring people and images. Earlier this month, I was fortunate to be interviewed about my career path and how I got to my start as an event planner. I try to be candid and not sugarcoat anything, I hope it gives you a little dose of inspiration in the pursue of whatever makes you happy!

After 10 years of work in International Development Sophia Lafontant left her job at Oxfam to start By Sophia & Co, an event planning company based in Connecticut. She tells me that “I thought it was going to be my path to continue work in the international development arena with a particular focus on policy.” However, like all of us, Sophia is a complex individual with an array of passions and interests that cannot be quenched by one role. The thirst for something different driven by restlessness of the status quo prompted her abandonment of the international development path for the unfamiliar world of becoming an entrepreneur . Here is Sophia’s journey of realization, preparation and launch that gave birth to By Sophia and Co.

Realization:

Before any dream comes to fruition there is the moment when the dreamer acknowledges the dream and decides to change the status quo. For Sophia the yearning for creativity and taking a risk catalyzed the process to seek a career change.  She says, “I started feeling restless but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I could have been happy doing the same job somewhere else.” But before making the choice to stay in the same field she asked herself why she was playing it so safe. She continues to explain that she’d been playing it safe doing what was expected of her including investing in a master’s degree but she knew there was more. Event planning had been lurking in the background but at first she never considered it as a career choice. In fact during the period of restlessness that occurred after working in the same field for years, it wasn’t even the obvious the choice. Sophia’s multifaceted personality meant that event planning had to compete with her other interests. She stresses that, “I’ve always enjoyed the arts, I’ve always enjoyed fashion, I’ve always enjoyed music, but I’ve never been one of those things”. In fact event planning was somewhat of a pragmatic choice. When Sophia first considered a detour on her set path, the goal was to “look at the things that I’m passionate about and see if there is something more out there I can do. If there is a way for me to use a different part of my brain and try to bring beauty into the world.” Event planning fit the mold of creativity and also required usage of skills Sophia acquired over time; so out of her many passions it won favor. Sophia is “organized, has an eye for aesthetics and a knack of translating visions into something concrete” so event planning was her perfect 9-5 buster.

Photo Credit: By Sophia & Co.

Preparation

One of the takeaways from the chat with Sophia is that just because you’ve discovered your passion doesn’t mean you should charge into your boss’ office and proclaim your resignation, then figure out how to fulfill your dreams; you have to commit to a well thought out plan. Her first step was to figure out whether a career in event planning was the right fork in the road. She tells me, “I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a phase and it was something that I could turn into a business. You can’t always turn a hobby into a business.” In order to do so she volunteered for projects that included event planning within her organization [Oxfam] and made event planning her side hustle. She describes the side hustle which she maintained for 15 months as a period of “discernment”. “I really wanted to make sure it was something I enjoyed doing; I could handle the logistical details; decide what kind of events and what types of services I wanted to offer.” Working on event planning projects within Oxfam allowed her to build a network of individuals who could later be clients and also gave her an opportunity to flex her skills. Hence her advice is that if you are passionate about certain work and are looking for a career change, find a way of doing it within your organization as you make the transition.

Photo Credit: By Sophia & Co.

Though, the side hustle and projects within Oxfam reinforced Sophia’s vision of being an event planner, being an entrepreneur was not something that she thought of automatically. “Being an entrepreneur didn’t cross my mind. I’ve always liked having health insurance,” she jokes.  After much thought she concluded that while owning one’s business has its drawbacks, the pros far outweigh the cons. Working for yourself means “you are able to set your own schedule, work at your own pace and create the culture you want.”

Building a business that allows one to channel his or her passion renders flexibility and freedom, but it also lacks the steadiness of fulltime employment.  Hence, leaving a fulltime job that guarantees a reliable paycheck and health insurance cannot be done impetuously. Once Sophia came to the conclusion that working for herself was the destination, she developed a strategy that would get her to the finish line. To reach her destination she needed enough resources to not only launch her business but also have a cushion for living. Her advice to anyone hoping to make the transition is to have “a decent amount of savings, at least 6-8 months”. She acknowledges that, “financing can be a huge hurdle if you are chasing your dreams” but not a barrier if one is committed to saving.  Sophia prioritized saving while maintaining her fulltime job and she was able to move in with her boyfriend to further decrease her financial commitments. While moving in with a loved one isn’t an option for everyone she says, “it’s important to find ways to save. Whether it’s getting a second job, cutting down on your lattes, not shopping as much or not taking as many trips.”

Photo Credit: By Sophia & Co.

Implementation

When launching her business, Sophia’s honesty with herself about her capabilities helped her determine how to finance By Sophia and Co. “I knew what I knew and I knew what I didn’t know. I knew I was creative, I knew I could deliver my services, I knew that I knew jack squat about running a business,” she admits. Hence she reached out to her community as well as free online resources to fill the knowledge gaps of what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur and it seems that all the search for knowledge has paid off as she had an abundance of information about how to make it work.

The first tip from Sophia for the implementation stage is determining what you can afford; what requires breaking the bank and what can hold off. “I made some upfront investments but nothing that put me in financial strains,” she says. For example, she didn’t splurge on building her website, but she spent money on a logo because it’s important for branding. WithSquarespace she was able to build an affordable site without sacrificing beauty. Another recommendation is to find and utilize free resources. In addition to competitive research, she used Your Rate, a free resource to help her calculate how she needed to price her services based on hours worked and vacation days. She stresses the importance of competitive pricing, having too low of prices can send a signal to potential clients that one’s work is not up to par.  When it comes to acquiring clients, Sophia has so far been able to build her portfolio from networks that she had formed through her previous job and community. In fact, Oxfam was her first client, attesting to the importance of blooming where you are planted and publicizing your skill-set to the world.

What’s next for By Sophia & Co? The goal is to be profitable in the next year. Sophia made it clear that she doesn’t want her business to be a side hustle, but she says “in order to continue to do it full time I need it to be profitable.”

Last words from Sophia

What she wishes she could have done differently? Taken business classes and found a mentor.

Favorite Podcasts: Being Boss: Mindset, Habits, Tactics and LifeThe School of Greatness with Lewis HowesOnline Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield

Favorite 4th of July Party Recipes

The 4th of July is right around the corner! It's one of our favorite holidays but it can be stressful, especially if you're hosting or bringing a dish to a party. Don’t worry, we have you covered with a number of fun recipes that will make you stand out as a host or guest.

Small Bites

Photo Credit:  To Simply Inspire

Photo Credit: To Simply Inspire

Cucumber Avocado Salsa

Salsa is our favorite small bite at any party. It’s easy to make and guests generally gravitate towards it at any party. If you want to spice things up, try bringing or serving cucumber avocado salsa. The guests will eat it right up! 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

  • 1 avocado, finely chopped

  • 1 medium tomato , finely chopped and seeded

  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

  • 2 – 3 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 c reduced-fat sour cream

  • 1-1/2 tsp lemon juice

  • 1-1/2 tsp lime juice

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • Tortilla chips

For instructions visit To Simply Inspire.

Mediterranean Grilled Zucchini

In less than 15 minutes, you can serve up grilled zucchini boats topped with tomatoes and feta cheese. It’s a healthy alternative that your guests will love. 

INGREDIENTS

  •      3 zucchini (or zucchini and yellow squash), tops removed, sliced in halves length-wise
  •      Slat and freshly ground pepper
  •    ½ tsp garlic powder
  •    Extra virgin olive oil
  •     Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tbsp lemon juice)
  •       Zest of 1 whole lemon
  •    ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  •      3 pearl tomatoes chopped, drained in a colander
  •    1 green onion (both the white and greens), chopped

For instructions, visit The Mediterranean Dish.

 Drinks

Vodka Pear Lavender Lemonade

Thanks to Sugar & Cloth, we found this delicious recipe for Vodka Pear Lavender Lemonade. It's the perfect cocktail for summer and should definitely be an item on your menu for 4th of July festivities. Here’s the recipe for one large glass, but you can scale it up depending on the size of the party.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pear, juiced
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 2 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 ounces water
  • 3/4 oz lavender simple syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 10-12 stalks fresh lavender or about 1/4 cup dried

 Visit the website for instructions.

 

Photo Caption:  Favorite website

Photo Caption: Favorite website

Watermelon Breeze

If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic beverage to serve or bring this 4th of July, try Watermelon Breeze. It’s a refreshing beverage for kids and your sober friends. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups cubed chilled watermelon
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • squeeze of fresh lime
  • Ice if needed
  • Sprig of mint

For instructions, visit Favorite website.

Desserts

Buttermilk Doughnuts

Doughnuts are trending right now, with artisan doughnut shops popping up across United States. To capitalize on this trend, bring some buttermilk doughnuts to your friend’s BBQ this 4th of July and watch them quickly disappear.

INGREDIENTS 

  •  2¼ cup (255 grams) cake flour
  •  1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  •  ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  •  ⅓ cup (80 ml) buttermilk
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying   For the glaze:
  • 3½ cup (350 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1½ teaspoon corn syrup
  •  ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup (2½ fluid ounces) hot water

For instructions, visit Completely Delicious website. 

Dulce de Leche Fluff Brownies

Developed in the United States at the end of the 19th Century, the flat, baked cake is the quintessential American dessert and the perfect treat for 4th of July. If you want to take your brownie baking capabilities to the next level, consider bringing or serving Dulce de Leche Fluff brownies this 4th of July. 

For ingredients and instructions, visit Better Homes and Garden website

Unique Bar Ideas and No I'm Not Just Talking About Alcohol

Usually when you are invited to a reception, birthday brunch or gala, you expect to see a bar.  Most often than not, that bar is stocked with liquor. One trend we have been seeing at industry and client events has been the alternative to or sometimes the addition of multiple bars especially activity and food bars. These can work for a number of settings and is a great way to uniquely show off your brand or personal style.

Activity bars are wonderful at both children and adult birthday parties, BBQs, graduations or other types of celebrations such as baby or bridal showers. They are well suited for casual and informal affairs. Some fun ideas include: perfume or cologne mixing bars, candle making or a nail bar. Children’s activity bars might include painting, jewelry making or a play doh making station.

Busymommymedia.com

Busymommymedia.com

Food and beverages are the second type of bar and the most common bars we see. And for good reason, food and beverages are the heart of an event and often the thing that people remember the most! Are you throwing an evening or outdoor event? Have you thought about having a s’mores bar? S’mores aren’t just for camping trips and beach bonfires. They are popping up on restaurant menus and can be elevated with the use of gourmet chocolate or other toppings like strawberries, peanut cups, or caramel. Food bars are great also because they are sometime the whole family will love.

momentsofmagic.net

momentsofmagic.net

I am also a fan of the popcorn bars. My sister had one at her 30th birthday bash. Popcorn can be made salty, sweet or savory! And of course there is also the ubiquitous dessert bar, you can't lose with a dessert bar with so many options it's tough not to please even the most picky or discriminating taste buds.

galmeetsglam.tumblr.com

galmeetsglam.tumblr.com

Still feeling stuck? Check out Pinterest, it is an amazing resource for sourcing ideas for your next party or company event. Use it to gather inspiration then edit like crazy.  While its very tempting to copy everything you see on Pinterest, resist and instead put your personal spin on it.  If you still need help or don’t have time to search Pinterest for event inspiration, give us a call!


 

Tips for Exhibiting at a Trade Show or Festival

Photo Credit: Method

Photo Credit: Method

Your company has received an invitation to exhibit at a trade show or outdoor festival but you have no idea where to begin. Here are some of our tips for making your company stand out and attract interest from attendees.

Staffing

The most important tip that we can give you is to find the right people to man your booth. They will be the ambassadors for your brand and you should pick people who are well-versed and passionate about your product, service or cause, and of course people who like to engage an audience. Since festivals and trade shows can be very long, often lasting as little as four hours to a couple days, make sure at least two people (three or more is ideal) to man your  booth to ensure your team of staff, interns or volunteers don’t burn out. Its great if you can manage to have shifts of 3-4 hours and rotate out your volunteers or staff. Even if you find the most outgoing and gregarious person, they will need a break. No one can stand and talk to people non-stop for four hours or more and still be energetic. If you are relying on volunteers or interns, it's important to remember that they need to be oriented to the product, services or cause in advance. Don’t assume that they know everything. Give them talking points and goals that they can reference during their shift.  A great way to convey this information is to host a volunteer training and provide a one page cheat sheet with the key messages you want them to share and any logistics they should be aware of.  The better prepared, the greater likelihood that everyone involved will represent your brand well and have a good experience.

Photo Credit: Sony Play Station booth at Lollapolooza

Photo Credit: Sony Play Station booth at Lollapolooza

Styling your booth

According to Trade Show Advisor, exhibitors have only 3 seconds to attract the attention of attendees passing their booth. The key is to make your booth appealing with decorations, signage and brand imaging. You will also need to determine the size of your booth if it’s not your typical 10 x 10 feet exhibit. Here’s what you will need:

Tent: If your event is outdoors, you will need to rent or buy a tent and you should consider purchasing a branded tent if you attend more than one festival a year. For the obvious reasons, tents provide shade from the sun for your staff manning the exhibit.

Banner: You will need signage with your company’s logo, messages or slogans. You can hang a banner at the back of your tent and place barracudas on the side of the display table. We recommend purchasing a fabric instead of vinyl banner. They are easier to maintain and will last longer than a vinyl banner.

Table cloth: Purchasing a branded table cloth with your company’s logo, messages or slogans ties the exhibit together and makes it look more professional. Depending on how often you exhibit, you may want to consider purchasing more than one table cloth in case there happens to be two trade shows on the same day. Also, try to refrain from purchasing a white tablecloth if you can, especially if you’re a food or beverage  vendor. White needs to be cleaned frequently; if you aren’t going to have it professionally cleaned after each and ever use, it’s best to stay away from white. 

Props:  Props can help to create an enticing atmosphere for your booth that attracts visitors This is especially key for brick and mortar stores-- props can help to replicate your storefront. . We were at the Los Olas Wine and Food fest in Fort Lauderdale this year and many restaurants displayed props that were consistent with the theme of their restaurant and brand. A good place to shop for props or get inspiration is TJ Maxx or Home Goods. If you are looking to stand out from the crowd, you should consider purchasing or renting props for the display table. Another route to go is to hire an event stylist to take care or the look and feel.

Power Source

Make sure to ask the event organizer for access to a power source.  If you are planning to be online or sign attendees up on an ipad or laptop, having a power source will be essential. You will also want to bring an extension cord if you have multiple devices. Also, don’t forget lighting! If you will be at an outdoor festival late into the evening you will want lighting to illuminate your booth and make it visible for attendees to find and to see your display.

Marketing Materials

The materials you choose to display and pass out depends on your goals. You may decide its more useful for you to collect contact information of attendees to add them to your mailing list or hand out invitations to a future event. Either way, you will want to pass out something. Be it business cards and promotional flyers or pens and key chains.  If you don’t bring anything, it's as if you weren’t there. Think about it from the attendees point of view and give something that’s useful.  It's a sure way for your attendees to remember you and your brand.

Attention Grabbers

Here is the deal, You want to attract the right types of festival or conference goers; not everyone that walks by will be interested in what you are selling but a number of attendees could be future clients, so how do you get them to stop by when there are a sea of other vendors, products or services that will be vying for their attention?  The one other thing you can do besides what was mentioned above is offer something of value.  It could be a free e-book,  or discount. Think strategically about what you can offer. It can be as big or as small as you want, just as long as it's meaningful to your brand.

We hope these tips help with your next trade show or festival. Need help styling your booth? We can help you take your booth to the next level. Get in touch for a free quote.

 

Four Must-Haves for Spring

Spring time is a fun time. For those of us living in Northern states, we have thawed from winter’s chill, put away our winter clothes in exchange for lighter fabrics, lighter foods and lighter skin care. When a new season hits, I like to switch up a lot of my routines; and this spring this no different.

 

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Top Wedding Planners to Follow Now!

While By Sophia and Co specializes in corporate and social events, we LOVE a great wedding and behind every great wedding is a fabulous planner and designer.  Coming off of an inspiring bridal fashion week, we want to share the wedding planners in the industry that make us SWOON!

Coming up with this list was not an easy task as nor am I an expert in wedding planning. For an official and comprehensive list of the best planners in the industry, a good place to start is  Martha Stewart Weddings and Harpers Bazaar. Now that that is out of the way, I chose the  six on my list for their great eye and timeless sense of style. Their instagram feeds provide countless hours of drool worthy photos and it seems from their social media posts that they really enjoy what they do. I love that!  

Bash Please is  the brain child of Paige Appel and Kelly Harris, the event planning duo who are not only moms to small children but also incredible business women. In addition to their wedding planning and design services, they also plan a yearly wedding bash called The Cream -  an experimental wedding showcase for curious brides, grooms and friends. They also offer Interior Design services. Bash Please is based in LA  but like most other highly-sought wedding planners, will plan and design a wedding near or far.  

Bash Please studio mock up for a May wedding

Bash Please studio mock up for a May wedding

 

Easton Events is a fabulous wedding and social event planning company with offices in Charleston, South Carolina and Charolettesville, Virginia; Easton Events plans timeless and refined events for clients. They’ve been singled out for top honors by reputable publications time and time again (here, here and here). Co-founder and creative director Lynn Easton has been leading Easton Events  since 1998 and along with her husband has expanded their portfolio into hospitality management and event venues.  They manage Easton Events, Zero George Street Hotel, Pippin Hill Farms and Vineyard, Red Pump Kitchen and Cannon Green.  

Photo credit: Aaron Delesie

Photo credit: Aaron Delesie

 

Events by Andre WellsAndre Wells is based in Washington, DC and a fixture on the DC social scene.  He is highly sought after for his signature avant-garde style. Wells is not afraid to push the envelope and create stand-out events. When he isn’t planning events for the likes of Patti LaBelle and President Barack Obama, he volunteers his time with causes helping inner city kids and HIV/AIDS initiatives.

 

Leading Gather Events is another dynamic duo, Sarah and Robin. They are a “soup to nuts” wedding planning and design firm pulling off stunning fetes in California and beyond. They have a knack for drawing inspiration from the surroundings and bringing in natural elements as into their design.  Prepare to be blown away.

Photo Credit: Jenn Wiley 

Photo Credit: Jenn Wiley 

Mindy Weiss started Mindy Weiss Consultants in 1992. She has planned weddings and events for everyone from Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello, to Kris Jenner and  Blue Ivy Carter to name a few. Needless to say, she and her team know how to throw a phenomenal party. She does events all over the world and calls California home.  In addition to planning some of the most glamorous weddings and parties, she is also a three time best selling author and jewelry designer.

Blue Ivy Carter's Bohemian-Princess birthday Party 

Blue Ivy Carter's Bohemian-Princess birthday Party 

Sinclair Moore: Full disclosure, these two hold a special place in my heart. Sinclair Moore is a husband wife duo  I discovered about two years ago thanks to the queen herself-- Ms. Martha Stewart. No she didn’t personally introduce me. I was checking out Martha Stewart’s Weddings list of  Top wedding planners and that’s when they caught my eye. I checked out their instagram page and immediately fell in love with their personal style, muted color palate, and ability to make event planning look easy.  

They were the very first wedding planners I followed on instagram and seeing the beauty they created was a source of daily inspiration that  pushed me to start By Sophia & Co.

I found out later that Martha Stewart featured their own wedding.  Steve also designed AND sewed Jamie’s wedding dress (Who does that?! #relationshipgoals)

Steve and Jamie Moore are based in Seattle and over the last few years have become leaders in the wedding planning industry. They plan bespoke weddings in the Pacific Northwest and are also available to travel.  In addition to being a full service wedding and design firm, they also handle floral arrangements; currently offering several floral design workshops for beginners and experienced floral designers.

Tablescape and model from Sinclair Moore floral design worksop

Tablescape and model from Sinclair Moore floral design worksop

Thank you for reading! Hope you discovered some new wedding planners or rediscovered old favorites.

 

Unique Venues for your Next Event

When you’re purchasing a home, it’s always about location, location and location. The same holds true when you’re searching for event venues as location can have a significant impact on attendance.

While it’s important to find a venue that’s easily accessible to public transportation or major highways, it doesn’t mean you can’t hold your event in a unique space. Here are some of our favorite event venues that are guaranteed to make your attendees take notice.

Brewery   

With the craft beer industry taking off in recent years and breweries popping up across the United States, consider hosting your next retreat, meeting, workshop, birthday party or networking session at a brewery. The intimate atmosphere combined with alcohol is a win win for the the event organizer and attendees. One brewery space we love right now is Khoffner Brewery in Ft. Lauderdale. They not only produce high-quality, balanced and drinkable beer, they also rent out their private room as well as the entire brewery to companies or networking groups looking to work hard, and play harder without ever having to leave the space. Likewise, 3 Star Brewing Company in DC and Threes Brewing in Brooklyn also have great spaces. 

Photo Credit: Antoinette Bruno/StarChefs

Photo Credit: Antoinette Bruno/StarChefs

Barn

Barns have become popular venues in the wedding planning world but they are also unique spaces for company retreats and meetings. Barns are great for allowing your employees to brainstorm ideas in a new environment and enjoy the natural surroundings. In addition to having a unique venue, you will also help preserve America’s disappearing rural heritage. Check out the National Barn Alliance which dedicates an entire page on its website listing barns available for rent.

Art Gallery

Art galleries are ideal for networking events, receptions, celebrations, workshops and fundraisers. They provide an intimate space where your guests can gather and be surrounded by art, leaving little for you to do to enhance the space. Long View Gallery in Washington, DC is a great venue as is the visually stunning Wynwood Walls in Miami. It has the cool distinction of being the only outdoor street art museum in the country.

Photo Credit:  Long View Gallery  in Washington, DC

Photo Credit: Long View Gallery in Washington, DC

Industrial warehouse

What’s great about warehouse event space is that it’s usually located in the heart of the city or near major highways, making it an ideal location for attendees. Some industrial event spaces we’re digging right now are located in Fort Lauderdale’s FATVillage and Miami’s Wynwood District, Washington, DC’s The Loft at 600 F and New York’s The Dumbo Loft.

Photo Credit:  FATVillage Project North

Botanical Gardens, Greenhouses and Glasshouses oh my!

Looking for a wow factor? Tired of the stuffy and traditional hotel ballroom? Botanical gardens, greenhouses and glasshouses should be on your list. They have a way of bringing the outdoors indoors. They are great for galas, company retreats, bridal showers, and other milestone celebrations. Florida’s Naples Botanical Garden, Indianapolis’s Artgarden and The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden are terrific options. 

Photo Credit:  Indianapolis Artsgarden

Rooftop

Rooftops are great venues for late spring, summer and early fall and in most major cities, they are plentiful and available for rent. They are ideal for bridal showers, birthday parties and networking events. For your next social or corporate event, consider 230 Fifth in NYC, Perch in downtown L.A. or P.O.V. at the W hotel in Washington, DC.

Photo credit: Perch LA

Photo credit: Perch LA

Do you know of other types of unique venues for an event? Shoot us an email and we’ll add it to this list.

 

 

DIY Tablescape

Floral arrangements reign supreme when it comes to event design-- and for good reason, they are versatile, can tell a range of stories and work in any settings. But if you are looking to do something different or have a tight budget for decor this DIY tablescape design will come in handy!

I planned and styled an intimate dinner party for a client that wanted a tablescape that was lush, abundant and colorful. I wanted to source as many items as I could that were in season and local. The inspiration for the tablescape came from designer Justina Blakeney.  

The brightly colored produce are the stars of this tablescape! Don’t get me wrong, the proteas and ranunculus are show stoppers too but the focal point of the tablescape was produce and how displaying them whole and cut brought out their natural beauty.

For this project I used a mix of blood oranges, apples, papaya, grapes, peaches, plums, grapefruit, kumato tomatoes and artichokes. Then chose red and orange proteas and ranunculus to compliment the produce and added greenery to dress the table. The beauty of this project is that you can use whatever you want, depending on the vibe or color story you want.

Tools and Materials:

Cutting board

Knife

Floral scissors

Vases

Decorative accents

Flowers

Greenery

Produce

Table cloth or table runner

Step One:

Lay your greenery (you can chose any kind that you like, its not the star) and decorative accents over your table runner or table cloth.

Step Two:

Decide what produce you want to cut or use whole, mix it up so that there is depth, texture and dimension to your design. Produce that is bright on the inside and with visible seeds, like blood orange, grapefruit and papaya look stunning cut open. Likewise, produce that is shiny or has a textured exterior are beauty left whole.

Step Three:

Once you have a nice mix of whole or cut produce, arrange to your liking, either end to end or as several smaller arrangements, then cut and arrange your flowers. For this project I used gold balls to anchor the tablescape and placed red and orange ranuculus and proteas in several tall cylinder vases.

Step Four:

Step back, take a look at your design and see if there is anything out of place, fix and enjoy!

I hope you try this design idea for your next dinner party. Let us know your results by leaving a comment below!

 

 

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