Cincy Chic: Tell us how you got the idea to start your own business and how you're growing it.
Alison Wenstrup: I've always wanted to own my own business, ever since I was a little girl. I must have caught the entrepreneurial spirit from my dad, who is also a small business owner. I started working on events while I was in college, assisting another coordinator on a freelance basis and planning events for the organizations I was involved with at Xavier. Knowing that I eventually wanted to work for myself, I decided to start my business part-time after I graduated. Keeping the business part-time while I was working full-time in other positions allowed me the time I needed to build up my contacts and experience. I officially went full-time in November – Aviva Events has grown quicker than I expected it to and I couldn't be happier!
Cincy Chic: Any advice you'd like to share on how you're growing your business?
Wenstrup: The vast majority of my business comes from referrals, so the key for me has been networking. It is so important to get out there and meet everyone in the industry, to demonstrate your creativity and to earn their trust. I started going to ISES (International Special Events Society) meetings in the earliest stages of starting my business, and the contacts I have made there have been valuable. It's not always easy to get started in an area as popular as the special events industry, so you can't be afraid to create your own opportunities. Early on I volunteered my services for several non-profits, gaining more hands-on experience and developing some wonderful contacts.
Cincy Chic: Why did you name it Aviva Events?
Wenstrup: "Aviva" is a Hebrew name that my grandmother Bess gave me. Bess Kanter certainly knows style and fun, so any name she chose I decided would also work well for a company that produces stylish and fun events. Plus, doesn't "Aviva Events" just sound so much better than "Alison Events"?
Cincy Chic: Why do you feel so passionate about what you're doing?
Wenstrup: The people! I am so lucky to get to work with such a great group of fun, creative people on a regular basis. I love meeting other event professionals (photographer, caterers, florists, etc.) and learning about their talents so that I can share them with my clients. In addition to the great professionals I get to work with, I absolutely adore my clients. Every single client is so unique and I love working with them to bring their individual personalities and styles into their event. Events take place in celebration – in celebration of love, of achievement, of a cause, of a person, the list goes on. Being able to take part in that spirit of celebration with so many different people is totally and completely satisfying, and is why I love what I do.
Cincy Chic: What's your favorite type of event to plan?
Wenstrup: It's a toss up between weddings and fundraisers. Weddings are the bulk of what I do, and it's so much fun to help a couple's vision come to life! When planning a wedding you very quickly become immersed in a couple's life and their families, and the excitement is contagious. I work on fewer fundraisers, but look forwarding to planning them more. They are a ton of work, but so rewarding. This past year I partnered with the Bridal Studio to produce the Bitter Bridesmaid Bash, which will be an annual event. Getting it started this first year certainly wasn't easy, but it was well worth the hours we put in; we ended the night with 200 dresses to give to Kenzie's Closet. I can't wait to see how the event grows next next year!
Cincy Chic: If you had to give us one event planning tip, what would it be?
Wenstrup: If I could only give one tip, it would be to plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to take care of the details. A great event can be planned in a short amount of time, but you'll have many fewer options as the majority of venues and vendors may already be booked.
Cincy Chic: What's your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
Wenstrup: On a professional level, my favorite thing about Cincinnati is the number of unique locations that we can choose from for events. If you're looking for something a little bit different, Cincinnati has many options.
On a personal level, my favorite thing about Cincinnati is the arts. Despite our conservative reputation, Cincinnati has an amazingly diverse arts scene. From our museums to galleries to theaters, there really is something for everyone. My personal favorites are the Contemporary Arts Center and the Know Theatre.