I have had a passion for event planning pretty much all my life. I started with coordinating events for school activities, then graduated to corporate events, so gradually progressed to start my own event planning business. Therefore, I started Yowa Events.
Yowa Events is more than just events. It is a full-service event planning, marketing, and public relations agency. Yowa Events offers event planning services from private events to galas to summits! In addition, Yowa Events also provides you with social media & marketing services to help enhance your online brand presence.
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
I’m really excited about the experiential aspects of events such as Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. As a proud nerd, I’m always excited about the innovative things that have come about with technology and even science (molecular gastronomy is one of my faves!) so I love introducing that to event attendees to give them a truly memorable event. I am really excited to see what new heights we can go to with these new technologies.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
I’ve always loved sports and outside of event planning, I really wanted to be a sports broadcaster and the first African-American woman on ESPN’s College Gameday. But, alas, it is very clear the role was made for Maria Taylor! However, I’d still love to incorporate my love of sports and merge it with my love for events.
With unlimited resources, I’d love to coordinate an exclusive party possibly around the ESPYs or some type of event involving sports (Olympics, Super Bowl, etc.). I like more intimate settings rather than a huge, packed experience where everyone feels like a sardine packed into a cacophony of noise and strobe lights. I’d like an elevated event with multiple levels to cater to the taste of each attendee. I’m thinking I’d book a whole building/castle/mansion and each level will have something special for each person. There’s a lounge area with music spun by ?uestlove to welcome guests and that will always be the go-to room throughout the evening.
Most importantly, there will be lots of food and the food would be made by some of the top chefs like Gordon Ramsey, Arron Sanchez, Grant Achatz, Alex Guarnaschelli and Duff Goldman on the treats. I’m thinking each chef can make one (respective) course for the dinner portion of the evening.
Following the dinner, it will just be a once in a lifetime party back to the lounge area with great music, experiential activities with VR/A.I., some visually stunning pieces with floral, lights and the beauty of nature.
I just love to create one-of-a-kind and exclusive experiences for my clients. I love it when people walk away from an event knowing that it was not commonplace and that it was truly unique and meticulously planned.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
My relationship with vendors is one of the most important aspects of being an event planner. The key for me is responsiveness and candor with the vendor in the early stages. With responsiveness and candor, trust is then built and with trust comes good rapport. As a result of the good rapport I’ve had with vendors, I’ve been able to save clients thousands of dollars and also get items with a very quick turnaround.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
My biggest suggestion is: research, research, research! Research what kind of companies align with the mission of your client. It’s also important to get an early start; 1 year out at a minimum. Also, don’t just copy and paste when reaching out, be thoughtful and explain why you’re reaching out to them. And, most importantly, follow up (especially with a phone call).
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?
My biggest inspiration for becoming an entrepreneur are my grandmas (paternal and maternal), Kayiba Kalenga and Beya Lutunda. They were both entrepreneurs in Congo (Zaire) and because of their sacrifice and hard work, here I am in the United States with my very own successful business!
There was always that fire of entrepreneurship in me and so when I was working in different fields but not really taking full ownership of the whole process, I realized that I should just bet on myself and start going out there and doing events on my own.
It took a few years to finally start it and when I started to really consider it, it took a year before I finally went public and got the licenses, web domain and all that fun stuff. As a perfectionist, I didn’t want to launch or make any announcements if it would be tied to mediocrity. I take great pride in what I link my name to.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
It was my school dance in 4th grade. I was so excited that my teachers at Hamilton Alternative School in Columbus, OH gave us children free, creative reign on a school dance. From what I can recall, we planned out the theme, the group choreographed dance, and what kind of food and drink would be served (surprise, surprise: it was punch, pizza, and popcorn; the 3 main food groups for kids). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go to the dance because it fell on the same day that my Dad had to drive me out of town for some immunizations that were pre-scheduled, but I made sure to get feedback on Monday. Everyone said it was the “best dance ever!”
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
The biggest thing I always advise to others in event planning (and careers in general) is to be kind. There literally is nothing wrong with being a decent human being and it actually pays out in dividends when you treat others with dignity and respect. Also, stay calm; when it comes to events, hysteria definitely has a domino effect. So if you, the planner, are running around looking crazy it will trickle down to all else involved and chaos will surely ensue. I always compare the right demeanor of an event planner to that of a duck (or swan if we want to be more regal), calm on the surface but paddling like crazy underneath. Lastly, remember to take a moment during your event to step back, take it in and tell yourself “great job!”