The Badass CEO

EP 4: BTS with High End Event Planner Stephanie Cove

July 20, 2020 Mimi MacLean
The Badass CEO
EP 4: BTS with High End Event Planner Stephanie Cove
Show Notes Transcript

Stefanie Cove has over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry and founded Stefanie Cove & Co. Stefanie and her team create uniquely inspired full-service events around the globe including: social events, high-end galas, weddings, and private dinners for high profile clients and brands. In addition to her expertise in events, Stefanie has an extensive background with the five-star hospitality industry, enabling her to provide advisement for hotels and restaurants around the world. 

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Mimi (00:00):

Welcome back to the badass CEO. This is Mimi today. We have Stephanie Cove. She has over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry and she founded Stephanie Cove and company producing notable full service events around the globe. Stephanie and her team create uniquely inspired social events, high-end galas, weddings, and private dinners for high profile clients and brands. In addition to her expertise in events, Stephanie has an extensive background with the five star hospitality industry, enabling her to and provide advisement for hotels and restaurants around the world. Stephanie, thank you so much for coming on today.

Stephanie (00:09):

I am so appreciative to be here and I'm so excited to learn about your journey with, um, your company. Thank you so much for having me, Mimi. This is so fun.

Mimi (00:18):

So can you tell me a little bit, I don't even know how you got started, so I would love to hear like how you came about, um, with your idea and how long did it take you to kind of put it in fruition and were you like currently working on the side or did you kind of dive straight in?

Stephanie (00:32):

So originally I had been working in Los Angeles with another event producer for approximately eight years. So when that came to an end, I decided to move on and I wasn't really quite sure what I was going to do next, but obviously I assumed it would continue to be in the event planning business. Although I thought I would take a little bit of a break because we travel so much and we work seven days a week, 24 hours a day practically. So what happened was clients or people I had met over the past 20 years, just in the hospitality business in general, kept calling me about events. And I finally realized, I think this is the time I need to do this. If I'm going to continue being relevant and people will remember me. So I formed Stephanie Cove and Company right around the beginning of 2017, which happened all very quickly. And from there, um, it just became referral after referral and we became really busy and got to where we are now.

Mimi (01:40):

That's great. Now, did you change anything from when you started from when your original company that you worked with?

Stephanie (01:48):

Yes. I think a lot about Stephanie Cove and Company is different. Just because, you know, when you're a full owner of something, you can really do everything your own way. And I think a lot about that for me is the team, the office, how we act in the office, just kind of our general planning process with the clients. We're very mellow. We keep things very stress-free, that's kind of my motto for everything planning since planning, especially social events, such as weddings come with a lot of family drama, financial discussions. So I think that the planning process of it should be easy and enjoyable, and that really is what I base the business around.

Mimi (03:26):

Right. That's great, now, now, now that you've started and you look back, is there anything you wish you knew, that you didn't think of before you started?

Stephanie (03:36):

Well, I was thinking about this this morning and in the event business, you see pretty much everything, but one thing I had never imagined or thought about was the idea of a pandemic and having some kind of backup plan for when this happens and pretty much shuts down the entire event business.

Mimi (03:58):

Yeah. Right. I mean, it's like, who would ever think that would happen. That's where it's like about surviving. I mean, given that now has your business transition because of that? Are you still working? Like how have you been able to stay working even though there's not as many events or they're not as big or have you pivoted in some way?

Stephanie (04:20):

So we're really lucky because the majority of our events are social. We also have some great corporate clients, but weddings and then events like birthday celebrations, anniversaries trips, three-day trips for those celebrations is mostly what we do. So those don't really cancel. They are postponed, you know, there's a lot of event companies that only do corporate events and they really are at a standstill because everything just canceled and they don't know when events will begin again in the corporate world. So we are lucky that we do still have work because our big year moved to next year. And then also we have other bookings that we'll be taking for next year, as long as everything is back to normal. But we did for the meantime pivot because, you know, we, I do have a team and we need to work on things in the meantime, until we can begin planning those events again and also bringing in some kind of revenue. So we started Cove Curations. And what that is, is a way some people have been calling it a party in a box. It's not exactly that it's more something that the clients can work with us. They still feel like they're planning and designing their own custom event. It's a little more streamlined obviously than what we do for the larger events, but we will present custom designs and we will do everything from food to beverage, to rentals for these small events, tend to be 20 people. You can do it, contact list where we set it all up, get it to your home and you can set it up with instructions and the chef can drop off their part of it. Or we also are providing a chef or providing a server or someone on our team to set it up for you. So it really just depends on your level of precaution with COVID-19

Mimi (06:13):

Now, is it mostly in LA or are you doing nationally?

Stephanie (06:18):

So for the ones with us going to set it up, which is usually for a lot of our regular clients that is in LA, but we're really doing it nationally. We just shipped one off to Maryland. We've done something in the Hamptons already and up in the San Francisco area. So yeah, we really can do it anywhere.

Mimi (06:37):

That's great. No, that's amazing. So I have a lot of people who graduate and they think, you know, entrepreneurship is so trendy right now and everyone wants to start their own thing without really thinking through the whole process. I kind of always say to people, you should definitely have some experience under your belt before you dive into whatever you want to start. I just wanted to see your opinion on that. Like if people have an idea, should they do that right out of college or for go college? Or do you think like building a network and building some kind of an expertise before you jump in?

Stephanie (07:11):

My opinion here would be to build an expertise before you jump in. I think it's very difficult. Of course, there's some situations that this doesn't apply, but it's difficult to jump into a business and run it successfully when you haven't experienced it and working within another one and working for someone else who does it a different way. Before I got into event production, I always knew I wanted to be in hospitality, but I first worked in five star hotels within the hotel learning the different departments. Then after college studying hospitality, but also psychology. I went to DC and I worked for restaurants there and food and beverage. And I did events. I ran a restaurant as a manager for many years, worked with the kitchen, worked with the servers, learned how to respect people who were older than me, how to do the numbers every night, how to close a restaurant and have that big responsibility on you. And then from there, I went back to hotels and did events there and also learned how the hotel rooms work for these big events. And then finally at that point started to really get into all just event production and design. But I think I would never be able to run the business in the way I did if I didn't have all of that experience, because I think because of it, I'm strong in the design aspect, as well as in the project deduction and the logistics and understanding why hotels work the way they work. And I think that that's a huge benefit for our company because I have that knowledge and I always suggest younger women and men who come to me to do the same before they get into this business

Mimi (09:02):

Right now, anybody else who's interested in hospitality? Where would you recommend them going into, like, is it working for hotel? Is it working in a restaurant or should they be going and getting a degree at like the Cornell hotel school? Like what's your experience or advice for anybody who's interested in the hospitality industry?

Stephanie (09:19):

I personally feel like the experience is much more important than school. I think school is great obviously, and I enjoyed my college experience, but I think that this kind of learning you get only through life. And I think if you don't know what part of the business you want to work in, I think working for a hotel that has all the different components, such as food and beverage, rooms division, events, et cetera, et cetera, to work within a hotel and get to experience all those different parts. If you really love food and beverage, move over to a restaurant, learn more from the chefs, the so many AEs and go in that direction. If you like the events, I would work for an event producer as an intern for a while to understand that aspect before you can get an entry level position in that field and start to build your way up.

Mimi (10:14):

Right. Right. So when you went out on your own, I mean, that's great advice. Thank you. And so when you went out on your own, you're pretty tied in person in LA and you have great clients right now. For those of you who don't know, your name's kind of everywhere. How did you, it's so hard to get customers I've learned like from people who are starting businesses and it's really hard. So how did you get clients? Like, was that just word of mouth? And did you send one and that kind of spiral or did you, how do you get clients?

Stephanie (10:50):

So honestly, with what I do, it has been word of mouth mostly. And from people I've worked with to friends, who have connected me with friends of theirs, who then continue connecting me with their groups of friends. And because of my network obviously is in LA, but also we have quite a large network in Los Angeles. I'm from Palm beach, Florida. I lived in Aspen, Colorado. So everything is kind of connected in that way. And you know, I think once in a while, I'll get a new client on Instagram, through Instagram, which is super rare that it can happen that way since it is usually word of mouth. But it's nice to know that sometimes there's another way they're coming in

Mimi (11:38):

Right now. You have an amazing team that works for you. I know because I had a party with you and we worked with them. So how do you find them and what do you look for when you're hiring somebody? Cause I do think that's one of the hardest things that people have spoke when running your own company is hiring good people and knowing how to hire them.

Stephanie (11:57):

I think it's probably the hardest part of our job is finding good people. I think that my process is a little nonconventional. Obviously when they first come in, I still feel like I can tell from my gut, if someone's gonna fit in and be able to work with us, our pace is super fast. We work all the time. I like people to respond to emails almost immediately because it feels like that's what keeps everyone very calm. And I think, you know, there's good interviewers and bad interviewers or interviewees. Um, but I think you can look past that. And I also want to know what kind of a person they are. And I think that is really more important than what their experience is or how much they know about lighting and sound. Because if they're not a kind thoughtful soul that really wants to take care of others, it's probably not going to be the position for them. And I have a couple of my other team members always interview as well to get their opinions. But in the end I really liked to rely on my gut. I also have like a great group of women. We just happened to be all women and it's like a family. And I find that it's very important that you bring in the right people. So that rhythm can't get messed up. We don't have anybody around who's catty or competitive. We really work together as a team. And I think that that element is important too.

Mimi (13:33):

No, it's true because if you bring one person in that could kind of ruin the whole Apple cart. Right. And then, then it's hard to get rid of them also. Um, but it's totally true. Okay. So staying organized in your business especially is key, right. And, and managing your days. Um, do you have any advice to that or is there any apps that you use or your paper person or digital person, how do you keep your team organized?

Stephanie (13:59):

So I think the calendar is super important. So I keep a crazy detailed calendar with every little thing on, and even like my own reminders of people I need to call back so that I don't miss anyone. Even if we're playing phone tag, I keep a notepad as well. That I've always done that. I write each event with notes for just that week to make sure I get through them all. We're very anal at our office, a bunch of type a women. I don't keep notes on my phone. It's my notepad and my calendar is really my Bible and I am super organized, but what's interesting when it comes to my personal life, I start to get a little bit less.

Mimi (14:47):

So when you say your calendar, do you, um, do you have digital or you have a paper?

Stephanie (14:52):

Digital that's digital. Yeah. Digital. My notebook is kind of broken up into quadrants by events and I keep an ongoing list and I keep updating it each week.

Mimi (15:04):

And is there a program that you use amongst your team?

Stephanie (15:07):

We use Google docs quite a bit, not an organizing program because what I found is we each are so organized and that we have our own methods. I'd rather, they do their method perfectly go with their method than try to do mine.

Mimi (15:26):

Right, right. That's a really interesting, so what qualities would you say is important for an entrepreneur to be successful?

Stephanie (15:36):

I think there's quite a few. I think obviously you need to be focused and driven and organized, but I also think you have to really love what you do. I don't think, you know, if I was running a company for something I didn't love so much, I would be a completely different type of entrepreneur. I think you also have think skin, be able to talk about finances at any moment, which I know is not everyone's favorite thing. And also be willing to listen to the people that work with and for you and be open. I mean, you know, now I just turned 40 and I realize I'm not the youngest one anymore. And a lot of the ladies on the team that are in their twenties have a lot of really good ideas and know how this world is moving and in what direction I resisted Google docs for a long time. Cause I didn't like it. Um, and I've learned that, you know, as an entrepreneur, I need to let in let go and, and take their advice and learn about these new things and continue to go with what technology is coming up with.

Mimi (16:47):

No, that's true. Now, being an entrepreneur, you always are working. I feel like because it's your company, right. So, and you love doing it. So like how do you make sure there's an off button and that you're not just working all the time.

Stephanie (17:01):

So that's an interesting question, cause I'm not sure that I've mastered that. And the problem is I like working so much that it's, I I've never tried so hard to master it, I think right now, because of COVID and being home for a month straight, which I don't think I've ever been home for more than three nights at a time in 12 years.

Mimi (17:24):


Stephanie (17:25):

So I've definitely made some really good habits for myself in exercise and eating and personal time that I am going to try and carry over when life goes back to some kind of normal and events are back again. So I think that those methods will be putting it all away at a certain time, deciding that at eight o'clock there's no more phone messaging and calls with clients and perhaps my phone doesn't need to sleep right next to me all the time. So those are the things I'm actually working with as goals right now, because I never really said any before now. I.

Mimi (18:11):

t's true. Now, did you always think you were going to be an entrepreneur and doing your own thing or it's this kind of happened upon you?

Stephanie (18:17):

It happened upon me. I wasn't sure which direction I would go in, but I did always like managing teams and running things. So I think it was somewhat natural when it happened, but I never had something planned to have a specific company when I was Oliver.

Mimi (18:40):

Right. No, it's true. Um, how about, I, I know I didn't give you this one as a heads up it's to feel comfortable answering. Is there any big fail? We all fail, right? Entrepreneurs like everyone fails and that's how you learn. Is there any big, like fail and you don't have to mention any names that you would be like, Oh, I don't even know if I'll be able, this is, this is a big one. Like I'm so embarrassed. I don't know if I can keep going on from this...

Stephanie (19:07):

So. No, not quite like that. And I think that's somewhere that the best comes out with me when something starts to go wrong. I never want a client to know anything goes wrong. But for example, if a generator is about to go put to me, if in the middle of an event, a generator stopped, that would be a huge failure. I would be so incredibly embarrassed. Luckily with the team we've put together and myself, we've always caught these things before they happen, which is what I love to do is like that problem solving, even if Uber stressful, but nobody finds out about it. So I think, you know, maybe my fail and I don't even know if this is a fail, but my soft spot is, you know, I care a lot about my team and sometimes I'll make emotional decisions over business decisions, which I'm not sure yet if that's negative or not. Um, and that's been an interesting thing to kind of go through during this period of COVID and keeping a team together versus making it smaller and having to let anyone go and all of that. That's probably the area I'm weakest in and kind of figuring out a good balance between emotion and caring for people who have worked super hard with you and then having to make a business decision.

Mimi (20:39):

Right? No, that's, that's good. Um, I think, you know, it's interesting cause I feel like with entrepreneurs it's, um, you always feel, um, it's so hard to do, right? There's like there's failure, whatever, but once you're an entrepreneur, I think it'd be really hard to go back to work. I mean, I, I would assume you would agree with that. Like if for some reason something were to happen and you needed to go, it's kind of once you're like an entrepreneur, like you're working for somebody else possible.

Stephanie (21:10):

Right, right.

Mimi (21:10):

So do you just to end on this, any other last advice, last minute advice for anybody or suggestions or any kind of tips that you would give to someone thinking about starting their own company or, um, or doing something on their own?

Stephanie (21:27):

I think my advice would be to definitely do it. I think if you don't do it, you will always wonder what happened if you did. I think you need to have experience, don't jump into it too early, because I think that can set you up for failure rather than getting into it when you really know what you're doing and you're ready to take all the hurdles as they come, I think have a backup, always have a backup, save, save for an emergency and you know, always surround yourself with good people. I think that for every successful business, there's an amazing team behind it. It's never just one, one person.

Mimi (22:08):

That's great. That's great advice. I love it. Stephanie, thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate it. And I just admire your business and the talent and creativity that you guys have and you bring to every event that you did to my event for my event and other events that I've been to in LA, they've been beautiful, like unbelievable. So, um, thank you so much for coming on. Hopefully we'll be able to all party again together soon.