INTERVIEW:
THIRD AVENUE FOUNDERS

The Third Avenue Events team is excited to bring a brand-new interview series to our blog! Throughout the year we will be chatting with several of our trusted partners to provide insight on all aspects of the event process. Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering “what does a production company really do?” or “what is the first thing a transportation team does after receiving an arrival and departure manifest?” These questions, and many more, will be answered.

First in this series, none other than the founders of Third Avenue Events: Kristin Hems and Annie Rector.

1. What made you start your own business?
AR: Kristin made me. In all seriousness, we saw an opportunity to make a difference and a lasting impact in the industry and being able to do that on our own, instead of for someone else, was hugely appealing. But mostly, Kristin made me do it.
KH: It’s something that I didn’t see in myself, until others around me – people I graduated college with – would say, “wow, I’m surprised you’re still working for someone else. I thought you would have figured it out on your own by now.” I grew up with two hardworking parents, and a mom who paved her own way. She’s hustled her butt off to build multiple companies and become the best in her industry by building a brand and reputation. A large part of that made me want to have my own company. Having my mom as that role model was critical – always someone there to say “why not give it a try?” makes a huge difference when you are putting security on the line. She was also a great resource to bounce ideas off when we were first getting started.

2. Why did you choose to pursue event planning as a career?
AR: I needed a career that would offer a variety of challenges across my responsibilities. I just really didn’t want to do the same thing all day every day. Event planning has consistency in tasks, but the objectives and goals for each event can vary greatly as well as the different types of events that I have been able to plan or contribute to. And while it can be exhausting and stressful, there is definitely some fun intertwined in planning, creating and exploring locations!
KH: This is going to sound cheesy, but I swear it’s true! The movie The Wedding Planner. I do NOT want to plan weddings, but loved that movie, and it introduced me to the fact that this could be a career.

3. What took you by surprise when becoming entrepreneurs?
AR: The administrative tasks, and the time it took to complete them. I think we identified quickly the things we were good at and the things we needed assistance or guidance on which led us to reach out to individuals who specialize in specific tasks.
KH: I think it’s surprising how many people are also out there fighting the good fight. And I was a little taken aback by how much I had to defend the fact that I had a “real job” – still do to some point. But eventually, you stop caring about that, and focus on the task at hand: running, and growing a successful business.

4. What do you think is the most common misconception about the work Third Avenue Events does?
AR: That it is easy and anyone could do it. People see our overall job as very task specific, and a culmination of easy tasks, at that. I think people discount the strategy that we bring to the planning process. Not only do we complete tasks, but we tie them all to the goals of the event. We help our clients feel confident that each decision, and each attendee touchpoint, is directly impacting those goals.
KH: That it’s all fun and games! It took my husband by surprise the first time he went on a program with me! He never feels sorry for me when I travel – and he shouldn’t! But it’s not all five star hotels, room service and laying by the pool – I actually think I’ve only been to the pool once in my career – total fluke (thanks, weather delays!). During his first trip with me he finally realized, you are the first person up and the last to go to bed. And while the food not being out on time might not seem like the end of the world, it can back everything else up when you need to stick to a schedule. That small delay could have 50, sometimes 500, maybe 2,000 hungry people coming your way and that’s not the most fun spot to be in!

5. What is your favorite part of your job?
AR: I have two. 1) Rooming lists. I just love them, seriously! 2) On-site execution. I truly enjoy seeing the planning come to life and interacting with attendees and clients during the event itself.
KH: Travel. This job fulfills my itch to get up and go. I’d go stir crazy sitting in one spot all the time. I also love the behind the scenes work. Getting to see everything all setup right before the first attendee arrives, and thinking “wow, we did it again!”

6. Third Avenue Events is a little over three years old – when looking back, is there a moment or accomplishment you’re most proud of?
AR: I think I’m the most proud of an ongoing accomplishment, which is our stick-with-it attitude. Nothing deters us from moving forward. When we are faced with a challenge, we identify solutions, we make a decision and we keep moving forward. Like Dory says, “just keep swimming!”
KH: I think the first full year, 2016 – we were the little engine that could! I didn’t even realize how much work we were cranking out until our accountant called us and said, you’ve got to start paying yourselves, and we need to switch your company business structure or taxes are going to be terrible this year! That moment was like wait. It’s June and we’ve already done four major events, mainly just the two of us.

7. If you weren’t working in event planning, what would you be doing?
AR: I would run a bar, in a tropical location!
KH: That’s a really tough question. I’ve never worked in any other industry, so I’m not sure. Maybe I’d work still in the hospitality industry on the hotel, country club, or restaurant side? I really don’t know. This has always been my passion.

8. What resources have become invaluable to you?
AR: Great partners. Sometimes we need additional expertise and being able to rely on trusted partners for this is hugely invaluable to our team.  
KH: Family and support of friends. Not a chance in hell I could keep up with all of the travel, and running a business without the help of those people. When you strip all of the tools away, it’s the people that make the business. The people that help us be cohesive and one team onsite. And the people that keep things going at home while I am on the road. Without the support system, nothing else matters and none of this would be possible. – Sorry, I’m sure you were looking for a software or technology oriented answer, but now that I am becoming a mom, I have become more reflective.

9. Is there a lesson you’ve learned the hard way that you’d like to share with others so they don’t make a similar mistake?
AR: Double-check your work. Read the sentence or email or contract again, and read every single word. Do the math again. Our brains are trained to skim over large chunks of words or quickly move along a stream of numbers, and this results in absolutely avoidable mistakes. Another hint here, double-check the work and information you receive from partners, vendors, clients, etc. Everyone makes mistakes, but when you take time to do just one more read through or one more calculation, most of those can be caught before they might impact to the event!
KH: We learned this relatively quick, but hire people to do the things you aren’t good at or know nothing about. We hired an attorney, and an accountant pretty quickly after getting started.

10. What is one piece of advice you would like to offer those looking to get started in the event planning industry?
AR: Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! Take the opportunity to reach out to planners you already know (or us if you don’t know any!) and ask to shadow during either the planning or execution piece so you can get a feel for the work that goes into this career. And try to find a variety of events to shadow, you may find yourself really loving one specific type of event!
KH: It’s a tough industry, but a LOT of fun! And you are never too old to learn. There are lots of right ways to do something, so always be open to someone else’s ideas and experiences – you will definitely learn something new!

Questions submitted via social media/email:

What is the worst trip you’ve ever been on?
– Matthew Valbuena  
AR: There are challenging moments of every trip, but my worst was a trip to New York that I was added to just a week prior to the event and only two days in a new role with a new company. In a true comedy of errors, everything that could have gone wrong, did. Our 6’5” product specialist got reassigned to the jump seat of a tiny plane; FedEx lost the collateral and supplies shipped for the event, the space lost power for 30 minutes during the opening presentation, and lunch arrived 30 minutes late. Talk about a rocky start! HA!
KH: That’s easy – there was one event we worked in San Francisco. It was a whole slew of issues. Felt like a new one appeared each day. Although, one time I did a family trip and the client wanted everyone to have very similar outfits for beach photos – so I accidentally swapped up men’s shirts and boys shirts, and exchanging them all was a nightmare!

What do your clients do that makes your life as a planner easier?
– Kate Elliott
AR: Trust the expertise that our team brings to the table. And include us in discussions as soon as possible in order for us to make recommendations that fit the event goals early in the process.
KH: They are usually pretty decisive, and trust our super planner instincts! HA! They really rely on us – they remember that they hired us because we do this ALL the time, so we are the experts, and defer and trust from there.

Do the clients direct you to a hotel or do you provide them options that they then choose from?
– Carl Slater
AR: Both! Some clients have a very specific idea of the location or venue or hotel where their event is held, while others really want us to bring ideas to the table. Our team makes it a priority to stay on top of the hottest properties, brands that provide the highest levels of service, and new properties opening on the horizon. This helps us pull together options for clients that meet their event goals, in a timely fashion!
KH: It depends. Most of the time, we do our absolute best to stay up on the latest and greatest hotels. We believe that adds a ton of value to our clients, and is our responsibility. Sometimes, they have the most perfect property in mind from a personal vacation, or something of that sort, and we go from there. It’s a team effort, but we try our very best to do the heavy lifting and know about all of the fantastic properties in their areas of interest.

Did you have a question for Kristin and Annie that didn’t get answered above? Drop it in the comments and they will happily answer it.