On Reinvention by @AmyZaroffMonday, March 03, 2014
Today's guest expert is Amy Zaroff of Amy Zaroff Events and Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In 2004, I purchased a thirty year old invitation, stationery and gift store with the desire to turn it in to a one-stop shop for all things party and paper. The world of production and hospitality were old hat to me as I was a former television producer and restauranteur and I knew I had what it takes to engage and delight the customer and tell their stories through events. All I needed to do was convince the customer base that I could not only sell them paper but also a party that they would never forget. I began with nine events the first year, then eighteen the following year, then topped thirty two years after that. We quickly grew to become one of the premier planning companies in the Twin Cities and began doing events in other parts of the country as well. The kicker: we were known as a paper store.
In 2008, when the recession hit, like many others, I had tough decisions to make regarding how I would continue to survive as a business. Paper sales were declining not only due to the economy, but because the Internet had taken so much of the brick and mortar business. I had a 3,500 square foot retail space in a high traffic neighborhood and tons of inventory that I was not very interested in selling. My passion was parties and helping people create life’s most memorable experiences. I was busier than ever but practically giving away our event services charging package prices and undervaluing what we were worth for the level of service we were delivering.
I made the difficult decision to move from a bustling retail storefront space having employed sixteen people to a small suburban studio space taking three employees with me. Although bittersweet, I was thrilled to have lost the additional overhead and knew I could make what was once paper and parties now almost solely events. But I made one mistake: I still sold invitations and stationery to the public. I was confusing my clients because the space I was attracting them to was really a space for event planning and not at all a storefront. The name of my business was still Give My Regards To (which was the name of the business I purchased) and the community at large still saw it as a paper store. Even though people knew we planned amazing events, it wasn’t sinking in that the core of our business was no longer paper.
I was selling paper to fund my love of planning events and basically running two separate businesses under one roof. I was confusing my clientele and running in circles. In 2010, we changed our name so as to clearly state who we are and what we do:
Amy Zaroff Events + Design. What do we do? Events + Design. Today, I have a team of five in Minneapolis, three in New York and we do over fifty events a year for social and corporate clients locally and nationally. We no longer sell paper to the public -- only to our event planning clients.
Over the past three years, I have focused on what I do best: create life’s most memorable experiences. I am passionate about personalizing the details and engaging guests in a meaningful way. I am a luxury event planner and charge a design fee and a planning and production fee and I get paid what I am worth.
Reinvention is tough but I have learned from many smarter people than I am that the moral of the story is this: you don’t have to say yes to the wrong clients and the wrong business. Do what you are best at, charge correctly for it and accept that you are worth it.
Think Splendid will be offering insights and perspectives from Splendid Guests for the months of February and March while I am working in Africa.