Vandana Walia is a community leader who has served on numerous boards and given back to the Chicago community. She is the past Executive Vice President of the Federation Of Indian Association of Chicago, President of Share A Smile Chicago, Executive board member of Chicago Dramatist, local board member of Akshaypatra, and involved in South Asian Talent Management in Chicago. She has successfully integrated and brought the South Asian culture to the mainstream in Chicago. She has been featured in Voyager Chicago, Business Media Radio, listed in the top 25 of the best in the industry in Chicago, Global Event Resource, Women’s Economic Forum, WGN TV, and Brown Girl Magazine.
Vandana is the founder of Vchilli Group – one of the only South Asian woman-owned Event planning and production companies in Chicago. Vchilli is a boutique event management company that not only plans and produces events across all spaces but also provides decor solutions, styling, and design solutions, corporate social responsibility solutions and, unlike other event companies, has a niche’ in CRM, event marketing and PR, and creative strategies to successfully achieve client objectives. Her extensive background in textiles, manufacturing, and fashion brings a unique sensibility to the organization
She has successfully grown her brand to become an expert in not only events but marketing, curating spaces for events, specializing in not for profit events, and was one of the first to bring South Asian culture to the mainstream in Chicago. Her clients love her calm demeanor, ingenious ideas, and her ability to bring any vision to life. Whether it’s a dinner for two or a big blowout for thousands, Vandana and her team have a knack for making their clients’ dreams come true.
Vandana and her team are known for planning some of the most high-profile celebrations and some of their clients include – Discover, IBM, Advocate Hospital group, Whole Foods, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, Akshaypatra Foundation, Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, Zee, and Bollywood celebrities – to name a few.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge has been the pandemic that has brought the event industry to a halt this year. A lot of our events have been either canceled or postponed to 2021 right now. So we have pivoted our business to meet the needs of the current situation by launching and executing our virtual and hybrid event platforms over the last couple of weeks – from executing virtual weddings to galas!
What are 2 trends in the event planning industry that you’re excited about?
Experiential events with Virtual participation that is more meaningful and engaging and event sustainability are two trends that I have been excited about in the event industry and they are even more significant during these times.
What are some tips for creating an elegant and memorable event on a tight budget?
When clients have a tight budget the key thing to keep in mind is – what is the goal of the event and what are the expectations after the event? Depending on the type of event there are several tricks – if it’s a wedding you could have signature drinks instead of a full bar and save a significant amount of money yet making it fun!
If it’s a networking meeting before dinner consider shortening the length of time the space is needed, as there is no reason to prolong the event, and save some money.
The best tip is to hire a planner who can help you with your goals in the long run. 😉
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
If I had unlimited resources and my dream client, I would “ideally” like to create a magical event with a Disneyesque, over the top look and feel where “Global celebrities” would come together and raise enough funds to feed and give shelter to homeless people in their respective countries.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Healthy relationships with vendors are the key to any successful planning organization and these are cultivated by mutual respect and integrity that builds over the years of working together in the industry. We have always supported our vendors and visa versa and this synergy is the building block of any event.
What advice would you give someone who needs to plan a fundraiser but isn’t sure where to start?
If you are planning a fundraiser make sure you have a committee/ team working hard to make the event happen. Always be clear as to the GOAL of the fundraiser as everything you plan has to resonate and ultimately achieve your goal – from the selection of your venue, partnerships, sponsorship, and even your guest list to name a few…
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Currently “Vchilli Virtual” is the most exciting thing for us professionally – incorporating that with a hybrid version to include decor and other aspects of an elegant event is the most exciting opportunity during these unprecedented times!
Personally its been great to have the kids home for such a long stretch of time after many years!!
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?
I started my career in events a little over a decade ago while I was still in the clothing manufacturing space – I used to do a lot of Fashion Shows for designers, their clients, and friends. I started organizing fashion shows for charity events and one thing led to another and before I knew it I planned my first wedding.
What’s the first event you can ever remember planning and how did it go?
The first event that I did was a party for some international clients where the chef was flown in to cook specialty cuisine. It was a very detailed event in every aspect but it went really well and we have not looked back since.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your business?
I wish I had known that there are innumerable resources at our disposal and that we are not alone – sharing the workload and collaborating with our event community makes a huge difference.
What’s the most surprising or unusual request you have ever received from a client and were you able to fulfill it?
There have been many but one stands out where the client wanted a floating dance floor for his birthday and with the help of some very skilled vendors we were able to fulfill his wishes!