By Bill Beggs, Jr.
Just what meetings and events professionals need: Another organization to help them do their jobs. I know, right? Well, in just 18 months, chapters of the upstart, Event Planners Association (EPA) have already formed in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Raleigh-Durham and Denver. Folks like you in all the major markets are clamoring to get on board. A chapter just formed in St. Louis, encompassing the Gateway City west to Columbia and environs.
Did you ever wish you had legal eagles to look over your contracts to make sure they’re airtight— or those submitted by suppliers, to make sure they’re fair and square? Have you had a hard time finding the right kind of insurance for your business, something that will provide the right type of coverage in the event of a claim? Some companies say they’ve been denied liability coverage by almost a dozen insurance firms before finding relief by joining the EPA.
Legal services and insurance coverage are just two of the benefits EPA members receive. And EPA dues are lower than those of other groups that serve our industry. And as networking for contacts to build your business is the chief raison d’être for membership in industry-wide associations, who couldn’t benefit from more shoulder-rubbing?
Kim Sullivan, senior vice president of EPA, says it’s often the suppliers who get the short end of the stick in business dealings: amusement providers, caterers, photographers, comedians, motivational speakers, wedding coordinators, face-painters, videographers, florists, magicians, DJs, ice sculptors… and, by the way, meeting and event planners.
“We aim to be the resource for people all over the world who need support,” says Sullivan. “So, we’re a cheerleader for suppliers in the industry.
“Creative people are very good at what they do, but often not at building a business. We provide a safety net, peace of mind for entrepreneurial, small businesses.” With many major markets covered, Sullivan and her colleagues are busier than one-armed paper hangers responding to domestic and international inquiries. At this juncture, business is coming to EPA, not the other way around. Chapters are under development in Philadelphia, Phoenix and Jacksonville, Fla. Sullivan points out that it’s only a matter of finding the right leaders, the go-to guys and gals who know how to build consensus, and get things done.
“Here and there, all we need is to let it bubble a bit,” she says. In Los Angeles at present, Sullivan and Anne Lopez, director of chapters and membership, are overseeing the “back end” of EPA development —e.g. finding software to better serve the membership via an expanded and more functional, user-friendly website. While more chapters coalesce and come aboard, meanwhile features will unfold such as a searchable directory, job boards and internship postings.
“We are at an exciting phase as we launch a new interactive experience through our website featuring member-only content, webinars, education, forums and a search-optimized directory,” says Lopez.
What’s all this mean to meeting and event planners in Missouri? All that the national EPA leadership has described, just with the flair we’re known for in the Show-Me State. Joe Clote, publisher of this magazine, and Anne Churchill of AnnaBelle Events & Rentals, are organizing the first EPA chapter in Missouri. Clote, prime mover behind the ever-popular MM&E Expo events for planners and vendors, is the chapter leader based in St. Louis; Churchill is in Columbia. They welcome membership inquiries from Kansas City to St. Louis and Hannibal to Joplin.
Meanwhile, from coast to coast, members already have this to say about EPA:
“I understand more now about my insurance policies than I ever have before. (EPA) took the time to explain things in detail.”
— Ashley Farthing, Farthing Events,Tulsa, OK
“The EPA, first, has been extremely beneficial in the most bottom-line way possible; it brought us new clientele from other chapter members, actually within two weeks of becoming a member business. Secondly, it is also assisting us in building a stronger reputation and bringing more notoriety within the event industry in Los Angeles.”
— Darrell Hart, Xcel Event Staffing, Silver Lake, CA
“Being an EPA Chapter Leader has been a great opportunity for me to network and build strong business relationships with others in my industry, and offers a great referral source.”
— Tammy Shapiro, Talk of the Town Gourmet Giftsand More, Washington, DC
Sullivan says it is extremely rewarding to be of service to meeting and event professionals. For one thing, the legal department has corrected language in contracts that otherwise could have left members exposed. She doesn’t mince words.
“Some of the documents that we see, whether insurance-related or legal, are just shocking,” Sullivan exclaims. Empowerment is a word Sullivan and Lopez use often to describe the EPA’s chief value to members.
“We’re out there promoting everybody in the industry,” Sullivan says. “We showcase providers’ work—we do everything we can to get their names out there.”
Anne Churchill is the Owner & Event Planner of AnnaBelle Events & Rentals in Columbia, Missouri.
Anne’s experience stretches the Midwest with experience planning events at Soldier Field, nationwide for Learfield Sports and locally for Inside Columbia magazine. With Anne’s passion and experience AnnaBelle Events & Rentals was established in October 2012. The company has now grown to hold an annual event calendar of corporate events, social occasions and weddings. The company portfolio includes a number of social events, happily wedded couples and annual corporate and fundraising events throughout Mid-Missouri. Clients include the Columbia Daily Tribune, Stephens College, the Community Foundation of Central Missouri, Father Tolton Catholic High School, Stick Figure Productions and a number of non-profits. AnnaBelle Events & Rentals is also the Primary Vendor for Event Planning & Management Services for the University of Missouri HealthCare System, this agreement includes events benefiting University of Missouri Children’s Hospital and the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.
Along with event planning services the company offers an inventory of high quality event furnishings and essentials, with a focus in event decor and lighting. These two divisions of the company allow Anne to produce high quality events and offer the market a line of event rentals that would otherwise not be available.
Known locally at the event expert and a successful business owner Anne is continually recognized for her work and events. She was named the 2011 Emerging Business Women of the Year at the Annual Columbia Daily Tribune Women in Business Awards. She was also a part of the 2011 Class of 20 Under 40 – Columbia’s Bests and Brightest Business Men & Women. Most recently AnnaBelle Events & Rentals was named the Best Event Designer in the State of Missouri by the Wedding Industry Experts.
Much of this recognition must also be accredited for Anne’s involvement in the Columbia community. Anne sits on the Community Foundation of Central Missouri Board, the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center Gala Planning Committee and the Mizzou Athletics Career Advisory Council. Anne has a commitment to always provide the highest quality in event planning services and have one of a kind ideas for all of her events. Honoring that commitment Anne invests in professional growth. She is a member of Columbia Chamber of Commerce and Voices – a local organization for Female Business Leaders. In 2011 and 2012 she attended The Special Event Conference & Tradeshow and ISES Eventworld, she plans to continue to attend other top industry events that provide educational and tradeshow components.
For more company information and details on specific events please visit www.AnnaBelleEvents.com
Kim S. Sullivan
Event Planners Association
25432 Trabuco Road, Suite 207
Lake Forest, CA 92630