By: Alyssa Curran
If you’ve attended a cool event in Nashville recently, the ladies of A&M Events probably had a hand in it. Founded in Nashville by Amanda Stone and Micaela Reed, A&M Events produces corporate and special events across the country. Not only are Amanda and Micaela boss women, they’ve hired a fully female team and they go out of their way to support fellow women in business. Alyssa chatted with Amanda and Micaela about practical tips for building a business from scratch, best practices for networking in Nashville, and what you must remember when throwing an awesome party.
What led you two to go off on your own and start A&M Events?
Amanda: Micaela and I began working together straight out of college at a local events management firm and immediately beginning looking for a creative outlet on the side. We began reaching out to other area planners to see if they needed help with their events and we were working as many events as we could both in our day job and as a side hustle. Ultimately, we knew we could see ourselves having our own company in the events space.
Micaela: We saw the opportunity that was arising in Nashville with such rapid growth. We saw a need to fill here in Nashville and throughout the Southeast. What’s unique about our model is that we see ourselves as a long-term partner with clients rather than a transactional vendor and we’ve built our business accordingly.
What are the most important details to remember when hosting an event?
M: One thing that people so often overlook is music. They’ll plan an elaborate experience with larger-than-life details, but you walk in and it’s silent. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I carry a Bluetooth speaker with me wherever I go, in case I need to swoop in with some tunes.
Another easy fix that will make or break you is lighting. There’s a Danish term called “hygge”, which essentially means the feeling of coziness and comfort caused by a warm glow. This is most important. Nothing bothers me more than showing up to a well-planned event, but the light is so bright you feel like you’re at a doctor’s office. Mood lighting doesn’t have to be expensive. Buy a dimmer or remove a few light bulbs.
A: Think about the event from your guest’s perspective. What will your guests see first? How was the parking experience? Was the invitation clear? When they walk in, do they know where to go and what to do? If your guests don’t immediately know what they’re supposed to do, they’re already feeling stressed and not enjoying themselves. Incorporate clear signage, provide ample instructions on communications, and make it easy on your guests and on you as the planner.
Finally, if you want to add flourishes to your event, pick one or two areas to focus on. Add a balloon installation or a funky menu, for example, but don’t go over the top. Don’t let every detail be the statement, otherwise they will get lost and won’t be appreciated.
What have you learned as you’ve grown your team? What are some tips for learning to delegate?
A: We’re simultaneously narrowing in on the types of clients and projects that we want to be working with and diversifying the types of events we’re doing. We’ve moved into the creative project management space more than exclusively events. What that means is, when a client throws out a seemingly “impossible” or “crazy” idea, we take their creative concept and make it into something real. As we continue to build our team, we’re able to be more strategic and focus on the big picture rather than being in the weeds coordinating events. We have more bandwidth to focus on our culture, mission and values.
Maintaining good culture starts with the hiring process. If you’re not bringing on the right people then you’re already shooting yourself in the foot. That being said, A&M Events is our baby and growing your team does make you more vulnerable.
M: We’re planners, which means we innately like to have control. In order to let go, it’s important for us to clearly define our goals and paint the picture of what success looks like. I’m an only child and a Virgo. Letting go of control is the antithesis of my innate being, but we’ve hired a team of people who are also leaders, and entrepreneurial themselves, and who we trust wholeheartedly to represent our brand. We’re not bringing people on to simply do tasks, but to complete our team and contribute their own valuable skills.
What have you learned about each other working as partners for so long?
A: We describe our relationship as a professional, life partnership. We have grown to be completely open and honest with each other. We can pinpoint different areas where one of us shines and the other needs support. We also take it to the next level and have taken countless personality assessments to utilize psychoanalytical techniques to pinpoint our strengths and weaknesses.
What networking and professional organizations in Middle Tennessee have helped you to grow your business?
M: We’re involved with Scale Nashville, a competitive training program focused on scaling your business, put on by Chamber of Commerce. In this course, we’re learning to treat our business as if we’re franchising (even though that’s not an immediate goal of ours). This has been very valuable.
A: One general tip for involvement in professional organizations is you only have so much time and money to devote to memberships and fees, so be strategic. We don’t go into an event industry specific organization expecting to leave with a client. We do leave with a sense of community or camaraderie. Other organizations or networking events are better suited for strategic business development and brand alignment, like the Chamber of Commerce, for example. Know what your goals are and what you’re hoping to accomplish before signing up for everything in town.
What parts of your business are you hoping to expand in 2019?
M: We have naturally grown in the experiential marketing arena. People are looking to be more creative and there’s a growing trend toward experiences rather than traditional campaigns or events. Our clients want to touch and feel and do.
M: An example of this is a fun partnership we have with BarkBox. During CMA Fest, we worked with BarkBox to manage five days’ worth of dog friendly activities in Nashville designed from the dog’s perspective, as well as the dog owner’s. Their goal as a company is to be more than a toy and treat company. They want to be physical and interactive and connected with their customers. This is the essence of experiential marketing.
Amanda, as a mother, how has your professional life changed when your daughter was born?
Both of my parents worked for themselves and were usually working from home when I was a child. I knew I wanted to have my own business and I was always thinking ahead to a space where I could have my child with me and work as well. The day-to-day is very challenging, but also worthwhile. There are days when my daughter is with us and doing well and well-behaved and other days when she wants to chime in.
The most valuable lesson that I’ve learned as a mother is that time flies. That has never felt more real than when you’re pregnant or when you have a baby. Time really slips through your fingers. This can be very grounding. It makes me realize it’s okay to slow down every once in a while, and take a break with her. It also makes me realize I need to accept help from my team, partner, business partner, sitter, etc.
M: We are opening our second 8th and Roast on Charlotte any day now and that business has a lot of opportunity. Every new office, hotel and company needs delicious coffee. Look for 8th and Roast coffee wherever you may go.
A&M Events is a relationship-based events agency specializing in fresh experiences. Connect with A&M Events via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram:@ameventsnashville.