AJ Events is nationally recognized for producing notable events around the globe. AJ Williams is the consummate event professional providing unparalleled expertise, creativity, and resources while executing ideas from concept to completion. Known for tirelessly working for her clients, exceeding fundraising goals, discretion, refined taste, and gorgeous floral design. Our goal is to create a reaction, generate energy, and stimulate untapped possibilities. From transforming fundraisers into legendary events to driving brand campaigns, creating one-of-a-kind weddings, as well as private dinners for high-profile clients, and brands we develop that are authentic and captivating.
Our focus is on strategy, content, and innovation, and always the experience. AJ Events is one of the only companies around that conceptualizes, designs, fundraises, produces, and oversees all key elements of an event in-house. We don’t just say we provide it. We actually execute it! This allows for unmatched quality control and ensures that the vision stays cohesive. Our flow is seamless. Our high-level of detail puts AJ Events in a category all on its own.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
AJ was hired in late May 2018 to work with MLK Boston, The Boston Foundation, and the City of Boston to conceptualize and produce a one time only, highly visible fundraising event to support the design and construction of the King Memorial on Boston Common in a short period of time. The Founder then gave us a goal to raise $1 million dollars.
We thoughtfully conceptualized the event plan and experience to bring in donors before and during the event. To achieve that we established a long-term partnering relationship with the Museum of Fine Arts, developed and executed a fundraising campaign pre-event via sponsorships and individual donations (including activation), as well as on-site fundraising – the live auction.
We added multiple celebrity headliners – Earth, Wind & Fire, Esperanza Spalding, Tamron Hall as Emcee, civil rights leaders, a gospel choir with Pop Icon Taylor Dayne, as well as promoted a surprise performance by Common. We created BUZZ! The King love story of both Dr. King and Coretta Scott King was implemented in each component of the event (music, activation, content and the script).
We secured bucket list items for the live auction, knowing they would raise a large number of dollars for King Boston. We also enhanced the event experience by adding an interactive 3D video Instagram component during the event, created a social media campaign pre-event, and social media experiences during the event.
It worked. We raised $1,475,000 in under 6 months including $500k the night of during the live auction and received countless press for the event.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
One trend is adding a live virtual video component to events. I am excited to add this for all types of events for engagement. Imagine for a wedding, a guest favorite that could not attend giving a surprise speech or, for a fundraiser, a live conversation with a notable speaker.
Another is the activation wall or video Step & Repeat wall. It’s great for adding content, branding, and photo ops for social media.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
Lighting can be a great add on for events. It carries through the event and changes the atmosphere during the event. It’s worth it and goes a long way!
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
Our dream clients are people who trust us to do our thing and appreciate our knowledge. Someone who is confident and stylish and who’s interested in joining us on a creative journey during this process. Most of all, they want to have fun!
A weekend wedding in Italy, St. Barts, or somewhere exotic but a highly experiential, decor, and energy filled weekend is more important.
For a fundraiser, an event similar to the Met Gala or Charity Water. I love to be creative with events.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Executing the perfect event – weddings, fundraisers, or special events – is all in the organization and logistics. We value the vendors we work with on a regular basis and keep them organized and keep them in the loop at all times. The devil is in the details and communication is key. We appreciate the hard work they do to ensure the event’s success – we know we can’t do it without them.
Under AJ’s direction, our brilliant team of designers, AV team, auctioneers, photographers, floral designers, printers, top chefs, and entertainers create captivating signature events with exquisite detail.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
I would ask them to start with a meeting with us to learn more about what they do. From there we will develop the best event strategy to move forward.
Our goal would be to provide exposure, great content, and implement the best fundraising campaign. Call us we will show you how.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Personally, I am engaged so it will fun to plan my own wedding extravaganza.
Professionally, we opened a second office on Nantucket so I am happy to conduct business in a place I consider my second home. I love it there.
What inspired you to launch your own company in the event industry? How long did it take from initially having the idea to setting up and starting to attract a client base?
Ha! Well, I have always had a party hat on since high school. My high school yearbook dubbed me as Julie McCoy from the Love Boat. I am dating myself. 😉
I worked for the Miss Universe system for years producing events for 4 New England states and left to run the private dining room at Ambrosia on Huntington. After 911, I had an epiphany and started my business. Yes, in the climate, but I think it was the time to start.
I learned a lot and was able to establish relationships better while spending time to properly grow the business. I started with social events (weddings, parties, bar and bat mitzvahs), then I was planning a lot of events with lobbyists and was hit with the nonprofit bug. I then focused more on nonprofits and was successful.
Now I plan both social and nonprofits with ease.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
I was lucky to receive 2 events right away, planning at the same time for the same month. I remember I was nervously juggling the two events.
I had a great couple planning their wedding at the old Ritz and the corporate client was Merrill Lynch planning a corporate outing at Kings which was easy to plan.
Both events went well and I still talk to my Merrill Lynch client to this day, who I consider a friend. The bride and groom moved out of state but I have their photo in my office as a reminder as they were my first client. You always appreciate your first.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?
This is a loaded question. As much as you learn via courses, hospitality programs in college, and certification classes, you can’t learn the ins and outs of events without experiencing it first hand. It’s the what-ifs that you have to be prepared for.
Other than that, I wish I knew more about how to handle cash flow, creating value for your customer base, crisis management, and that free time is nonexistent.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
Usually, we receive requests for a celebrity headliner but not more than 4 for one night. For King Legacy Night, our client wanted Tamron Hall to Emcee then Esperanza Spalding, as he was a huge fan, Earth Wind and Fire, and civil rights leaders as they fit the theme of the event initially.
Then it kept growing not by fault of his own. The event grew and so did its entertainment. Taylor Dayne was added to open the program as we became friends and then Common was added as the surprise performance.
We nailed it. The event was a complete epic mic drop on all levels.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Our signature aesthetic is thoughtful, creative, understated elegance, and the illusion of effortless luxury. Conservatively wild, but never standard. We have trademark energy and add conversational pieces to every event which adds exquisite attention to detail.
We believe the greatest events are ones that are able to capture all the senses (taste, vision, sense, sound). When you create energy, guests linger. When guests linger, the party is a success. We love our clients and will go above and beyond for them.