Contessa T. Walker – Jackson lives by the mantras “can’t give up now” and “there’s nothing too hard for God.” Tess is the CEO & Owner of Exclusively By Tess, a full-service event planning firm. Tess is also an entrepreneur, team builder, author, civic leader, product specialist, mentor, visionary, mastermind, speaker, educator, and blog series – Tessology Tuesdays. She has worked behind the scenes at the Steve Harvey Neighborhood Awards and BET Hip Hop Awards, to name a few. Tess holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, a Master of Arts in Educational Administration and Supervision, a Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education, and is a Certified Specialist in Event & Party Planning. Tess is the Founder and Owner of Teacher’s PETS Inc. (non-profit educational organization) and Teacher’s PETS Virtual K12 Academy.
Exclusively By Tess is an event management and planning firm— laced with sophistication and meticulously planned. We deliver a memorable experience that will linger for years to come. It will delight and inspire you to want to do more business with us. No request is too small or large. We can respond to requests at short notice and still deliver beyond expectations. The Executive Pro by Exclusively By Tess will cater to your business’ every need.
We provide professional services such as appointment scheduling, various travel accommodations, detailed event and meeting planning, and reservations for your upcoming business trip. Our expertise meticulously handles office administrative systems aptly through pristine organization, ordering supplies, office layout, and interior office design.
The Executive Pro will enhance your company’s growth and manage correspondence and queries while ensuring that all invoices are paid on time. Exclusively By Tess connotes a lot of things—from the atmosphere (which must be eclectic) to guest experience, food and decor. If you’re looking for an out-of-box event, Exclusively By Tess is your company. We bring a customized vibe to every occasion under our care, giving the client a unique experience from start to finish.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I have ever faced while planning an event was working with a client who wasn’t an effective communicator. I reached out to him several times via email, phone call, and text, and to no avail, he never responded. The event was approaching and the night before, he demanded so many changes and add-ons which were impossible to execute.
I overcame this plight by coming to a mutual understanding so that the event wouldn’t be canceled or lacked skills. Overall, the event turned out better than expected and the client paid more than the original quote.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
I am so excited about all of the apps that allow potential clients to see everything in real-time. From seating arrangements and paying online to checking in at the registration desk. Technology plays a key role in the event planning industry.
The other trend I am excited about is lighting. Visual effects are essential and can make a room look bigger and chic. I really love LED Gobo lighting and uplighting.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
From invitations to event promotion, use social media instead of paper. Most everyone is on social media, so meet them where they are. Instead of hosting an event in a generic, square room, position the event components in adjoining rooms. Use a big square room for the buffet and cocktail tables, a hallway to accommodate the line for bar service, and an atrium for mingling and music. The money you spend on a special occasion is the same, but the event will appear bigger and more elaborate.
Consider unconventional venues. It adds an element of surprise and can be quite cost-effective. Instead of hosting a staff luncheon at an expensive restaurant, try a venue that’s free, such as a park for a picnic.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
I dream of this all the time. My dream client is any organization serving pregnant teens. The event would be so nurturing and educational to the mothers-to-be. The place would be filled with balloon arches, light elevator music played through the monitors, encouraging and inspirational quotes on canvases through the room, informational booths (children’s books, education, health, dental, etc.), Gobo lighting with spandex draping, and uplighting. There would be chic buffet-style dining, pampers, strollers, car seats, and cribs on individual pallets for the mothers-to-be wrapped in red ribbon, and free parental resources and gift cards in designer baby bags for the mothers.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
It is vitally important to cultivate a rapport with vendors. Mainly because you know what you are getting every event, and when the trust has been established, it’s easier to communicate the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most importantly, networking and constantly giving business to the vendors will be reciprocated.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
I would advise them to research similar fundraisers and get ideas. Check out the competition and see what type of fundraisers they may be hosting and see how they are marketing and who they are marketing to.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
The most exciting things are being recognized by the Better Business Bureau and being chosen to be interviewed by Eventplanner.com. I don’t take it lightly or for granted to set out time to discuss my goals and thoughts, and possibly inspire other event professionals. It helps keep me abreast of the industry trends and knowledgable about what my company does.
On the horizon, I am looking to make my website more user-friendly for clients and hands-on. I am also looking into having a monthly magazine of different decor designs and trends.
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?
As a teacher, I always knew I wanted to do more. I planned all of the school’s events, and I enjoyed every single one. So, I decided to venture out and start an event and party planning business in 2011, and here I am today…still going strong.
It took me two months to get started because I was business savvy after forming my nonprofit organization the year before. Gaining clients were easy because I knew all of the vendors and clients while planning for the school. It was God-led.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
My first event was a baby shower, and I had so much fun. Everything was DIY and from Party City. Nothing was handcrafted or personally designed. I hosted the event, and it went very well.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?
I wish I knew to have an open line of credit and to be more financially equipped. However, I am glad I never got a brick and mortar with overhead expenses. I wish I joined the Party Mavens Facebook Group earlier and became a part of business trends expo.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
The most unusual request was to get real hydrangeas from a client’s house FILLED WITH BUGS and place them in vases with water on the tables as centerpieces. Yes, I fulfilled the duty but it was the worst experience EVER!!! Ants were crawling in the water, which was visible, and I vowed to NEVER do that again.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Thank you for choosing to interview me and learn about my company. I have been called “Jill-of-all-trades” because I run three companies. Now that there is some downtime in the event world due to Covid19, I am able to focus on my virtual academy. The fundraising is going well, and I have more students than I expected. I have implemented an event planning and entrepreneur course, so I can’t wait to see what the middle and high school students do.