Hi, I am Michelle Schurman, founder of Flyte44 Events which is a premiere social and corporate event planning business headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. I have over 24 years experience planning corporate events all over the US and Canada and about 8 years planning social gatherings and weddings. I have planned and managed all types of events – from 8 people to 1200, hotels to private estates, multi-day to just a few hours, trade shows, networking functions, educational conferences, grand openings, weddings, milestone birthdays, engagements and even anniversaries.
Flyte44 is spelled with a “Y” to serve as a constantly reminder that each celebration or meeting is something unique. Even though it may sound like something familiar, there is always something special about the event and/or our clients to highlight and showcase.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
The biggest professional challenge I have ever faced probably was a power-outage. I was running a multi-day, multi-room conference for a client in Anaheim, CA when high winds knocked down the city’s power. At the time of the outage, I had four rooms of attendees sitting in the (now) dark to consider. I quickly asked the hotel staff for as many candles as they could find and went to assure all my rooms that we were taking care of the issue and to not panic.
My clients’ internal staff and speakers luckily were all linked on laptops, so we gathered everyone in groups around tables with lots and lots of candles and the meetings went on. When the power went back on eventually, we hadn’t lost any attendees or content.
Later the President of the company told me he’s never seen anyone move and come up with a solution so quickly without losing meeting efficacy, all the while maintaining a sense of control. Which is always nice to hear.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
I am the type of planner that doesn’t like to just repeat things over and over, so my dream client and events are always changing. I don’t reinvent the wheel, but there are always fun ways to change things up and make them unique to that occasion. No one wants the same wedding as someone else or even the same trade show. I enjoy changing things up, but also keep some things familiar as to not cause confusion.
For my corporate side, I love planning executive retreats and networking events for corporate clients. I value communication and getting people out of their normal environments so they can be more creative and make different connections than usual.
On the social side, I really enjoy planning weddings. Seeing the joy and love that surrounds everyone is a treat.
If I could plan an event anywhere, I think I would choose Baanf, Canada, South Africa or Scotland. They all seem like great destinations that I haven’t worked in, but I know people who have.
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Covid-19 has shifted everything in the events industry, but I have used this downtime to continue my learning both professionally and personally. Probably the most relevant and exciting thing I am working on right now is getting my Certificate in Meeting Management (CMM).
Most of my clients hire me for my experience, creativity and my calm demeanor, but getting my CMM has been a bucket list item for me for awhile. It is a 15 week course and so far it has been very enlightening. The pandemic not only opened up the time for me, but it also is an added bonus to take this course with other seasoned professionals with Covid as the backdrop. Not only am I learning a lot, but it is also nice to be reminded how much I already know.
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?
Flyte44 Events is actually my second event company. My first company only managed corporate events. I connected my clients with replacement planners when I left to have children. I always knew I would go back to paid planning, it is something I have always loved, but I also cherished the ability to stay home with my children for a few years.
With my first company, my clients were constantly referring me to their friends and colleagues. It is the biggest honor I know. With Flyte44 it was harder to get traction. Most of my previous clients were in new companies and positions or they were still using the planners I originally connected them with. I focused on advertising and then added in the social aspect because so many people were asking me to do social events – weddings, in particular. I have high standards and insisted on using only authentic reviews from real clients. It took about a year to build up enough that people now find me more easily.
There is a perception that a planner can’t plan both social and corporate events. It can make marketing more tricky, but I feel most fulfilled when I am doing both.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
It may sound silly, but I was 13 when I planned my first event. I planned a dance with other local middle schools. I convinced the principal that I would handle everything and I did. I got other students to help and we didn’t ask him for much. I would love to say that it was altruistic and about building community before we all joined together in the same high school, like I pitched to him, but my primary goal was to meet boys. I personally didn’t meet many boys, but it did help to build a community. Other schools followed our suit and the practice continued long after I was there.
It wasn’t until I was looking to change careers that an informational interviewee pointed out that I had consistent event management experience, albeit unpaid, throughout high school and at university. She offered me a job and I have been an event planner ever since. I consider myself fortunate to have found something I love and am passionate about so young.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?
If I could go back and talk to myself just before starting Flyte44 Events, I would remind myself to value balance in life. Event planning can be all-consuming and so can starting a business. They both lead to high amounts of stress. It is important to value your personal life and time as much as you do your clients. No one is going to willingly give you time off if you don’t ask for or schedule it.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
I have been given many unusual requests over time, probably because we value uniqueness in our events and finding ways to reflect our clients’ style. I had a client once ask me to find baton-twirlers. I thought “no problem”, until I started looking.
In Vegas that is fairly easy, but we were in CA and he wanted them to also be teenagers to fit the theme. I am so grateful for the internet. I called various associations and finally found one who fit the criteria, but she was too shy to perform alone. Luckily, her 19 year old sister twirled too. They didn’t drive, and their dad couldn’t bring them, so we needed to get a car service as well. Not a cheap solution, but the client was thrilled.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Just a personal thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed. I wish you very happy holidays.