Black-Owned Event Planning Business on Succeeding In the Space

According to IBIS, a global business intelligence provider, the party and event planning industry has grown by 2.9% over the past five years, reaching revenues of $5 billion in 2019. Lily Ehumadu is the owner of Lily V Events, a Philadelphia-based events planning company. In this interview, Ehumadu provides her insights into the events industry for those interested in opportunities in this unique business space.

Black Enterprise: What led to your career in event planning?

Lily Ehumadu: Once I graduated from law school, I handed my parents my degree and set out to pursue my dreams of interior decorating. I absolutely loved doing that and became somewhat good at it. So good, in fact, that a room I designed got featured on the-then HGTV web show, Rate My Space.” Soon after that, all my friends were getting married and asked me to decorate their reception halls similar to how I did their houses and that is how I really started in event planning.

How does one go about gaining planning experience?

I think the first thing to have is passion. The passion to create, passion to serve, and passion to deliver. Once you have this mix, you are well on your way. In addition, you have to be a very organized person to plan any event to precision. The details matter and close attention to those details go a long way. The experience comes with time; we learn every day from our experiences and apply them to become better at what we do.

Event planning is a business. What are the key elements of a successful business?

  • Adequate planning – just the way we plan our clients’ events, we also have to plan for our business and a lot of folks don’t do that. Itemizing your goals and setting margins of reach was key for me when starting out.
  • Market strategy – completely understand how you stay on message and maximize your outreach to maintain sustainable growth.
  • A customer service approach. We, as planners, are here to serve, serve, and serve. A client is all nerves on their big day regardless of what type of event it is, and it is our job to ensure the best service is delivered.
  • Team building. I always say if you want to expand, you have to grow within. Seeking new talent is key for us and this is the way we have been able to expand to other major cities like New York and Atlanta.

Should an event planner focus on one event type or broaden their range of events to accept?

I get this question a lot, and I always say if you are an event planner—your job is to plan events. It’s that simple. This is where passion comes in. For me, I love to plan all things events, so I plan all events from weddings to corporate functions, to album release parties.

Now, if you have a passion for a particular niche area, for example, weddings, and this is your forte, I say go for it and stay in your focal area. It all comes down to the individual and what they have a passion for.

What fabulous weddings/events are you working on this summer?

We have a couple of NBA and NFL athlete weddings and they are going to be epic, stay tuned.

Where do you see Lily V events five years from now and how can interested readers contact you?

I see us expanding nationwide. We already have three offices in Philadelphia, New York, and Atlanta and looking to move into Miami and LA in the next five years.

What are three key pieces of advice you have for event planners?

  • Build a relationship with your client. It is the only way to get to know them and tap into those specials moments you can highlight at their event.
  • Always remember the reason why you started especially in those moments when self-doubt comes in. The reason you started will always pull you out of the shadows.
  • Self-care is also very key. Take out time for yourself so you don’t get drowned with work, no one wants a tired event planner.

Black Enterprise Contributors Network