LAURA RITCHIE & MEGAN POLLARD // EVENTS IN THE CITY
Events In The City is a coordination and design firm with a passion for creating unique, memorable and stress-free events. With a team mentality, their clients experience endless inspiration and consistent attention.
Was there a moment in your life when the lightbulb went off and you just knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Laura: I would say early on I knew I would be in charge of my own company one day. I was always the bossy kid on the playground. There is also a lot of entrepreneurship in my family and I was influenced by that go-out-and-do-it yourself attitude.
Megan: I was raised in a home with a father who was an entrepreneur and inventor. I grew up dreaming of potentials and what-if situations — they were part of everyday conversations. I knew that I wanted to do something special but was unsure what it was exactly. I dabbled in a variety of un-conventional professions and typically carried multiple jobs at one time looking for the right fit. When I came to my family stating that Laura and I were going to start a company, their response was “Of course you are, sit down and tell me all about it.”
How did you end up starting Events In The City together?
Ahh yes the fun how did you meet and think of this crazy idea story. Well let me start out by saying, as with any great decisions in history, it involved three bottles of red wine. We met sitting across from each other at jack-and-jill desks at a catering company. We were tasked with working on an event together that was supposed to be muffins and coffee for a Historical House Society group. Which quickly turned into a full on production of the first Thanksgiving just short of Daniel Day Lewis running through the buffet line with a tomahawk. It was over the top creative and while many people were critiquing how over the top this was; we found ourselves on cloud nine. The following weekend we got our husbands together for dinner and those infamous three bottles of red wine and dreamt up this company which Megan sketched out, and thus Events In The City was born.
How did you come up with the name Events In The City?
Well, at the time, many moons ago, Sex & The City’s movie had come out and we were still riding high from watching all those episodes of powerful, fashionable women. Furthermore the thought of luring clients that could be any type of personality and style was a huge thing for us, just like the characters in the show. We love that our clients want different looks, have different inspirations, it keep us on our toes and ensures that we don’t get stuck in a rut of the same looking event over and over again. We also wanted something a little stronger and not too frilly so this just worked!
Once you knew you wanted to launch Events In The City what steps did you take to make that a reality?
Well we got a bank account, both contributed about a thousand dollars each, hired a friend to do our first website (who ended up being a client), got badass business cards and went through LegalZoom to make it official. We both were scared to make the full-time jump and kept holding onto day jobs for as long as possible however EITC started to grow and life got in the way, so we both eventually jumped in both feet first. We also spent an entire year going to every single networking event we could wiggle our way into. We were convinced there was a secret invite list and luckily enough we just annoyed so many people so much that we finally got on it! We went to at least two events a week, and with supportive husbands, saturated the market as much as we could. We were fortunate enough that many industry colleagues that we had built relationships with over the years were instrumental in getting our company noticed. We took the jobs that we could get and were so thankful for every opportunity big or small. I think going in and thinking you can charge whatever you want or industry standard while trying to build your portfolio and experience is a mistake. It has taken us many years and many different approaches to find the proper calculations of how to charge for our services and no client or job is the same.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Be organized from day one.
Hire an accountant before you even start your company (something we didn’t do until a few years ago).
Also, genuinely enjoy your job. We spend SO much time working, thinking about work, dreaming about clients, worrying about feelings, reading and writing emails, and figuring out event logistics that without a true drive and joy for what we do it wouldn’t be worth it no matter what you are being paid.
What has surprised you about owning your own business?
Laura: Entrepreneurship, and especially event planning, is not easy. We literally work seven days a week so time management and perimeters with clients, and ourselves, has been a huge lesson we are still trying to deal with. My husband always says “are you done working?”and I always reply “I am never ever done.” There is always something to do!
Megan: I have been surprised by how much I love entrepreneurship. I often feel overwhelmed by all of the pressure and stress but then in that exact moment will create a new way to look at it or much to my co-workers chagrin, a new idea. I think everyone now shutters when I walk into the office saying, “So I was thinking…” However, that is the power of being an entrepreneur, it allows you to think way beyond boundaries and protocols, which is where my mind is happiest.
Do you have a daily routine or rituals you do?
Laura: I wake up about 7am and get ready for the day. Somedays I have meetings all day like tastings, site visits, or design meetings so I’ll shower and choose an outfit that I know my clients that day will connect with and appreciate. If I have a really fashion-forward shoe-loving bride, I’ll rock some killer heels for example. If it’s a regular office day I’ll skip the shower and get on gym clothes. I have a three-year-old son, Ethan, so I get him ready, have breakfast, and take him to daycare at 9am. Then I try to make it Barre Class at Barre Buddhi in Leesburg for a morning class. Honestly, if I have no client meetings I’ll head right to office from there and work all day, run errands for clients (like hunting down props), assemble invitations, and handle budgets, get quotes for clients, and sketch designs for vision board presentations. We usually quit work around 5pm as a company and head home for dinner and playtime. I make dinner for my husband and little guy every night and then get into bed right after that. I decompress best in bed. I religiously watch certain shows on certain nights. I’ll keep my computer and phone near by and answer clients in bed (which is horrible, I know) but it makes me feel better that nothing isn’t at least semi addressed before I turn the lights off.
Megan: I do my best to get up at 6am but am a constant offender of the snooze button. My brain is very active at night which makes early mornings tough. If I can get a run in before starting the day I am off to a good start. I start by preparing breakfast and getting my two daughters (Maryn is 6, Grey is 4) ready for the day. We will usually use this time in the morning to work on reading or any other skills we are trying to tackle at that time. When it is time for me to get ready I have developed a habit which I am sort of obsessed with. When I am putting on my make up I will turn on a TED talk. Having a new inspiring thought first thing in the morning for me is like drinking a pot of coffee! Then depending on the day and schedule I am either off to the local Leesburg studio or hitting the road for a variety of appointments. My work day ends at different points, if I am able to make it a short day and be at the bus stop at 3pm to pick my daughter up from the bus, I will. I do my best to be with my kids as much as I possibly can. I typically do dinner for my kids, baths, and get them tucked into bed. My husband doesn’t get home until later so it allows us to enjoy some wine, eat our own dinner, and catch up on the day.
What hardships have you had along the way?
This is the like companies underlying warrior cry. Unfortunately Megan and I share so many things in common, one of which is that both of our moms passed away from cancer within about 18 months of each other. Megan’s passed September 2008 and my mom passed in August 2010. There really isn’t any other way to say this other than IT SUCKS. However we have found immense strength, drive, and comfort in each other and both of our moms would have been so utterly proud where we have taken the company at this point. We constantly find signs from them and know they are with us, telling us to kick ass!
What do you wish you would have known going into this?
How much time I am away from my family, both physically and mentally. This is a 24-hour job (we work a lot of Saturdays for weddings) and in most cases our clients most important day of their lives. There is no room for error, and since we take that so seriously, it can be draining sometime to feel that much responsibility.
What have you found works for each of you as far as organizing your business and time?
Over the years, we have found that each of us excel at different areas of our business, whether we like it or not. Megan handles a lot of the finances and business processes. Laura handles a lot of the marketing, social media, and publications. Another thing we have done which has saved our lives is finding an amazing Event Manager in Brittany Dumond. Brittany was our intern a couple of years ago and she was so incredible that we asked her stay on as a, gulp, full time employee! At first we basically just said, come and work for us and we don’t know how we are going to pay you but we can’t live without you. It has been the best investment we have made in ourselves and the company. She manages all the clients, production, new inquiries, contracts, and we delegate a lot of tasks to her. However I think delegating tasks only works when you implicitly trust the person on the other end. We always know she does everything with great attention to detail, care and thoughtfulness. She also has fast become a huge part of our company and our personal lives.
Highlight of your career so far?
We can fortunately say that there have been so many — growing year after year, having our first studio, being featured in our first major publication, gaining access and experiences in elite venues, and having the opportunity to meet mentors along the way. However, if we have to select one moment it would probably have to be watching our team on HGTV for the White House Christmas Decorating special. We were honored to have the opportunity to be involved and giggled hysterically to watch it all on TV.
Looking back, what would you do differently?
We would restructure the original business plan to be more detailed with specific budgets on a month by month basis. Hindsight is 20/20 for a reason, but the name of the game is to stay flexible and be ready to change when you need to.
Best advice you’ve been given?
Laura: In one of my mom’s final diary entries it said GRIT & GRACE. It has truly been something over the last year or so that has underlined my outlook on not only my job but my life.
Megan: Keep Evolving. Just because you have to change doesn’t mean it was wrong, it simply means that it isn’t applicable any more. I tend to be very hard on myself and understanding this has given me some perspective and allowed my creativity to sneak back in and help me troubleshoot.
Any advice that you’d give other entrepreneurs?
Laura: Be humble. Get a mentor. Doing right the first time might be more expensive but it’s worth it.
Megan: Think of yourself as a CEO, every business big or small should be run as such. This is not just something you do, it is your job! I think too many people are timid and afraid to really commit to themselves or their ideas. I would also say to take the time to make concrete contracts that protect yourself and your services. Hire the professionals needed to get yourself on the right track the first time.
Photo by Abby Jiu
Behind the Biz takes a deep dive behind the scenes with business owners and entrepreneurs.
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