event planning

"I read everything from Vanity Fair to Fast Company to the New Yorker" with Carol Galle

Carol Galle, CMP, is the co-founder, president and CEO of Special D Events, a strategic professional events company and its subsidiary, The Anniversary Company. Carol is active in many community and event industry organizations, having served on the Events Committee for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Editorial Advisory Board for Michigan Meetings + Events magazine. She is also the co-founder of the Detroit Events Council. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame as “Best Meeting Professional” by Michigan Meetings + Events magazine in 2013.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I have a bachelor’s degree in communications and began my professional career as a writer and editor for the auto industry. Along the way, I was exposed to the world of corporate events and made the leap to change industries.

 What inspired you to start your business?

While working for General Motors, I was tasked with coordinating the Dealership Management Academy, an extensive training program that prepared the sons and daughters of Chevrolet dealership owners to take over their parents’ businesses. I was exposed to some of the greatest business minds in the world -- the academy’s presenters. Until that time, I had never considered becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, just the opposite. I craved stability. My father was in sales and our family’s income and security always felt at risk. When I joined GM, the promise of a full-time salaried position felt like the brass ring to me.

 Where is your business based?

We’re based in the Detroit area, with offices in the city of Detroit and a suburb. 

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

My first step was to find a partner with the skills I lacked. I had become a skilled event manager and thanks to my Dad I could sell ice to an Eskimo. But, I found a partner whose passion was both HR and finance, and we made a great match. We shook hands over a Coney Island hotdog (it’s a Michigan thing!) and began by taking a class in entrepreneurship at Detroit’s Wayne State University.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Referrals and repeat business. I’ve owned the company for 28 years and our longest continuous client relationship ran for 24 years. My team’s ability to meet our clients’ needs is key to future sales. 

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them? 

The event industry is the canary in the coal mine for our nation’s economy. Although events can motivate a company’s workforce, generate sales, and build customer loyalty, many companies are quick to cut their event budgets at the first whiff of a downturn. It’s up to us to demonstrate the benefits of strategic event management. Still, we definitely struggled during the recession. During that time, I launched a subsidiary called The Anniversary Company which provides consulting services to organizations celebrating milestone anniversaries. While a special event is often part of an anniversary celebration, there are many other strategic initiatives that can be planned to not only honor the past, but also launch an organization’s future. Despite the recession, we were able to provide value to companies in a different way. Our clients didn’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate their 50th, 100th or 150th anniversaries, despite the downturn.

How do you stay focused?

My husband always says that the hallmark of a successful leader is his/her ability to consume a tremendous amount of data, but immediately sift out what really matters. I am a life-long learner. I read everything from Vanity Fair to Fast Company to the New Yorker, and I always seek the person who seems the most different from me in a room. There is so much to learn, and I practice sifting out what matters every day.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition? 

Our core values and they are not aspirational; they are genuine. My senior leadership team and I carefully considered what clients said they like about working with us, and we narrowed it down to five core values. We are responsive, accountable, consultative, nice and we roll with it. We hire, coach, and evaluate those values.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business? 

It’s impossible to choose one strategy. Our marketing plan is complex and evolves constantly.

What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

I recommend Googling the image for the Japanese word “Ikigai”. In English, the word translates to the “source of value in one’s life”. But the diagrams typically associated with Ikigai illustrate the intersection between what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what people will pay for. If your business concept incorporates all aspects, you have the foundation for success.

What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I’m obsessed with Furbo. I often travel for business, but no matter where I am in the world, I can use the Furbo camera and app to check in on my dog and even toss him a real treat. It’s pure joy for both of us.

Most of the blogs I read are event-related and I intentionally vary them so I’m always learning something new.

Danny Meyer’s book about the hospitality industry, “Setting the Table”, is one of my favorites. He is a master at making people feel welcome and valued, and that is crucial in my industry.

What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

We use Smartsheet daily at our office. It’s a very effective project management tool and easy for anyone to pick up with little training.

Who is your business role model? Why?

My husband. I worked for him as a writer years ago and I always admired his dedication, passion and unwavering support of simply “doing what’s right” when it came to the customer.

What is your beauty routine? What are some of your favorite products? 

Sunscreen, medium coverage foundation and lots of black mascara!

How do you balance work and life? 

It’s easier to balance now that my step-daughter is grown and has her own life. But, I genuinely regret how much time I missed with her while she was growing up and I was building my company. I will never get those days back.

What’s your favorite way to decompress?

A healthy combination of wine, cheese, comfy clothes, and talking with my husband on our back porch. That’s my idea of heaven.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

Balancing my business along with supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I belong to a global organization of entrepreneurs and we recently committed to helping the UN achieve 17 goals that represent a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. Over 178 countries have pledged their support, but the UN knows that governments and NGOs will need the help of business leaders and individuals to succeed.

How can our readers connect with you?

Carol A. Galle, CMP

President/CEO

Special D Events (and The Anniversary Company)

535 Woodward Heights

Ferndale, MI 48220

P 248.336.8600

carol.galle@specialdevents.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolgalle/

www.specialdevents.com

www.theanniversarycompany.com

Q&A with Event Planner & Entrepreneur Angelica McDonnell

Angelica McDonnell

Green Orchid Events is a Las Vegas based wedding and event planning company founded in 2007 led by owner, Angelica McDonnell. They love building relationships with their clients and believe in creating a great team of talented professionals to work together with the same goal in mind: producing your event and creating your magical day. They believe in offering the highest level of personalized service with prompt communication, attention to detail, and working hard to exceed your expectations!

https://greenorchidevents.com

Can you tell our readers about your background?

 I was originally going to school with the intention of getting into broadcast journalism.  At that time my passion for weddings and events had peaked and I knew that was my calling. After attending a school to kick-start my career in weddings and after completing several internships, I was hired by Green Orchid Events in 2008. I started from the bottom as an assistant and then grew to be their lead wedding planner. I then purchased the company, becoming an owner in 2015.

What inspired you to start your business?

My story is a bit different as I didn’t actually start the business, although I did help grow the business alongside the previous owner. But I can speak on what inspired me to continue the business. I feel like I am one of the few people that can confidently say they love what they do. A huge inspiration for me is my daughter and owning my own company allows me the freedom to still be a very involved mom. I didn’t want to have to ask someone permission if I could have the day off to attend her first day of school. It is truly the best of both worlds. I know I was never meant to be a stay at home mom, but being a semi-stay at home working mom (she is in preschool three days a week) is the best! 

Where is your business based?

We are based in Las Vegas, but we are proud to say we travel for love! We will go wherever our clients are willing to take us. We have an upcoming wedding in California next fall.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

Social media plays a huge role in my business. It is built into my daily routine to post at least once a day. That is where my future clients are shopping around so I need to make sure I stay relevant and have a presence online. Also, creating relationships with fellow wedding professionals. They are my walking resume and a lot of business comes from referrals, word of mouth, and past clients.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge has always been charging what I am worth and what I deserve. Wedding planning isn’t tangible so I feel I need to educate couples even more on why they need me and why I charge what I do. I overcame my fear of charging too much or too little by tracking how many hours I put into each wedding. I know what I want to make per hour so charging certain amounts became easier for me to justify!

How do you stay focused?

I have to be honest, staying focused while running a business from the comfort of your home is hard! I had to discipline myself with where my hours each day were going. I calendar everything and set alarms. I have dedicated days in the week where I focus only on blogging, or taxes, or updating my website. I have to remind myself you can’t do it all in one day so focusing on certain tasks each stay help me stay productive and my business thriving.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

Wedding planning is an extremely emotional and exciting time. From what we have been told by brides who have shopped around for planners, we ask the questions and provide details that others may not and that lets them know that we truly care. We go deeper than just wanting to know the stereotypical things when planning a wedding. Also, we get complimented often on our response time. We don’t like to have to wait for answers, therefore we don’t want our clients to have to wait for answers! 

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

Instagram and the best part of that, it is free! It is the best way to showcase your portfolio and I get a lot of couples because they saw me tagged on a photo from another wedding professional or from a wedding I shared. I make sure to share professional and personal things that way I am relatable and they can get a feel for my personality by what I post and talk about. Also, networking and being involved in your industry. I truly believe, “out of sight, out of mind” so I strive to nourish the relationships I have created with fellow wedding professionals and stay active in the community.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Know your brand and own it! Figure out who you are, what you stand for, and what you love as that is going to be the foundation of your business. I am a firm believer that your vibe attracts your tribe! This will also help you from taking on clients who you regret taking on because they aren’t a good fit.

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

I run off of Cozi which is our shared family calendar so we know what our week is going to look like, Viber which is a great app for me to talk and text with my clients in different countries, and a weather app as I stalk the weather the week before every wedding. My favorite blog (which changes often) is currently Barbara Weltman’s Big Ideas for Small Business. Books, I always share that I need to read more! My favorites when I did once upon a time read are Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and The E Myth series by Michael Gerber.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

I love looking at wedding blogs and Pinterest as a resource of inspiration. I don’t like to mimic an idea but I like to take that idea and turn it into how it relates to the couple. My other favorite tools include WordPress which is where I run a blog from, Shoot Q which is the program I use to send contracts, track my leads, and collect payments, and my iPhone which I use often to send emails, take pictures, and research!

Who is your business role model? Why?

Bethenny Frankel, she is feisty!  No matter how many times she gets knocked down she gets right back up! She is so assertive and a go-getter. She doesn’t let anything get in her way and she is a fellow working mother as well!

What do you have planned for the next six months?

I plan on rebranding which is exciting and scary at the same time, getting ready for Spring wedding season, watching my little girl turn four on May 5th, and hopefully have all of my weddings from 2017 on the blog!

How can our readers connect with you?

You can find me on all social media outlets shown below!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/greenorchidevents

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/greenorchidevents

Twitter: https://twitter.com/greenorchid

Email: angelica@greenorchidevents.com