How do you take a full-time job in New York City and turn it into your own venture that works around your new schedule with kids? Carolyn Jeffrey planned events for Channel 13. But when her first child was born, she says, “I went back to work for a minute, but most events were at night, and commuting to the city on an early train and not getting home until after midnight was not working with a new baby.” She had to find something local. Approaching a friend who was an established event planner in CT, this became a great partnership.
Initially given several weddings to run, the experience Carolyn gained was invaluable. She says, “Managing weddings, especially, combines lots of emotions and a multitude of logistics and details.” In each event, Carolyn gets involved in choosing a venue, drafting the invitations; picking the floral arrangements, the entertainment, the caterer; coordinating transportation, tenting and lighting; arranging photographers and most importantly conceptualizing the unique touches that make an event, like a wedding, special. “It’s a fun and creative process but,” she says “building relationships with vendors and clients is huge in establishing a business.”
When her partner retired, Carolyn was now in charge of running a few key events that take place each year, these became her bread and butter and helped her grow. She has run the Yale Cancer Center Benefit since its inception, the YMCA Golf outing for the last 13 years, and planned many fundraisers, weddings and private events in between. So when the Glass House in New Canaan was planning a Gala Opening, it was Carolyn that they called. She was asked to develop a special events plan and coordinate a picnic for 700 people that included a performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. They made the right call – for this experienced planner, it was a piece of cake.
She laughs, “The one thing an event planner needs is grace under pressure. If a tent falls down, I calmly tell the client I have a back up, even if I’m freaking out inside. Anything can happen and you have to be prepared to make things go smoothly regardless.”
Getting assignments mostly through referrals, Carolyn’s business is thriving. “I love to get my kids involved, too.” In her dining room, many times filled with programs and goodie bag items, her three children ages 15, 13 and 10 all help her prepare for upcoming events.
Charging by the event or for her time, Carolyn can cover just about anything and work within a budget. “It’s a great venture for me as a mom. I can increase my work load when I have more time or lower it when I need to, for family commitments.” The biggest reason to hire an event planner, she says, “is so you can take a big sigh of relief and enjoy your own party.” That’s good planning!
Choose a venture that allows you to raise your commitment up or down depending on your schedule.