From my childhood, I’ve always been a planner, yet back in college is when I truly began event planning at Loyola University. After I graduated, I taught high school for seven years – I enjoyed teaching and my content area of science, but was not sure I was cut out for the public education system. I always participated in school-wide event planning with students and really enjoyed it. So after thinking about what I would do if I no longer taught, it was obvious to those around me before it even became obvious to me, event planning! I love the excitement that goes into fine tuning details and the challenge of making it all come together. Through all of the preparations, last minute adjustments and obstacles that develop day of, a surge of adrenaline rushes through me at every event I coordinate – I think I often get just as excited as my clients!
The vision that has been clear in my head throughout the entire planning process comes to life on this one special day and I just love to see their reactions!
I was inspired to venture on my own and become an entrepreneur from my family. My parents are entrepreneurs, so I have had wonderful role models and always been encouraged to set my goals high and to work hard to achieve them. The event planning industry is not your typical job, so having my family there to support me and work with my crazy schedule has allowed me to do what I love and be successful at it. – Melissa Phillips
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWBY RUTH OMANYA
RUTH: How long have you been a planner and what inspired you to become a planner?
MELISSA: I’ve been a planner for over 10 years, yet started Simply Perfect by Melissa in 2006. Since my childhood, I have always been a planner of sorts, yet I began true event planning 12 years ago at Loyola University. After college, I taught high school for seven years – I enjoyed teaching and my content area of science, but just wasn’t sure I was cut out for the public education system. I dabbled in school-wide event planning with students and had a lot of fun with it. While thinking about what I would do if I was no longer a teacher, it was obvious to those around me before it even became obvious to me – event planning! I love the excitement that goes into fine tuning details and the challenge of making it all come together on the day of the event. Through all of the preparations, last minute adjustments, and obstacles that develop as we put it all together on the day of the event, a surge of adrenaline rushes through me at each and every event I coordinate. I think I often get just as excited.
As for my inspiration, I’d have to say my family. My parents are entrepreneurs, so I’ve had wonderful role models growing up, which ultimately inspired me to venture out on my own and become an entrepreneur myself! I have always been encouraged to set my goals high and to work hard to achieve them. The event planning industry is not your typical job, so having my family there to support me and work with me.
RUTH:What is the story behind simply perfect, what inspired you to name it “simply perfect”?
MELISSA: When I began brainstorming business names, I did not want any-thing overly bridal to give me more flexibility in the events I could plan and execute. I asked myself how I wanted to remember my wedding day or special celebration, and with that, I felt I would want to look back and think of it as simply perfect- no changes or regrets<”simply perfect” as it was.
RUTH: As a former teacher, and now a successful event planner, which of the two professions would you say you enjoy the most and why?
MELISSA: Both share many qualities- communicating, teaching, detailing, and organizing. I love event planning because I get to plan a celebration with my clients. Weddings and life’s celebrations are joyous times, and being part of such happy, momentous memories is a privilege and such a thrill. With each event there is a rush of excitement as we brainstorm, plan, and ultimately pull everything together to culminate with an event that is more than a client could expect. It is their reaction when they first see themselves in a mirror with her wedding gown on, or a first glimpse when they walk into their event space and see what was created for them<all of those moments make the job amazing!
RUTH: What challenges do you face in your business or event planning in general?
MELISSA: Lack of education in an event planner’s role. I think there are many that assume it is a job of party hoping and, essentially, being a professional guest at events. I think many do not realize the time and energy that goes in behind the scenes to work with clients, manage their events, and execute them when the day comes. As a result, others in the industry as well as those who have participated in many weddings as attendants want to assume the role. Not that any of those individuals are incapable, but I am constantly learning, reading, attending conferences and workshops. This is my career and I have to stay up to date with the latest in the industry. It is very challenging to do this job to its fullest potential success fully when there are other roles to focus on such as the kitchen crew, entertaining music, or being a participant in the event. As a professional, I strive to be the best at what it is I do.
RUTH: Indulge me more on the creative force behind simply perfect.
MELISSA: I love coming up with new ideas and ways to present the more traditional components of an event. I spend a great deal of time reading blogs, looking through all sort of magazines from bridal, interior design, entertainment, and/or furniture catalogues. Several times a week I type in various key words related to events and search through Google images and flickr just to see what is happening. I keep inspiration books which I often refer back to as I design events with my clients. That is definitely my most favorite part of my job!
RUTH: Does your event planning extend to other forms of events or is it solely wedding planning?
MELISSA: We do all sorts of special events- Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, non for profit events, showers, birthday parties, anniversary parties<they are all different and I love being able to try new and different things with each that may not fit with a wedding.
RUTH: As an educator and a planner, what advice or tips can you share with readers about event planning?
MELISSA: Give yourself plenty of time- There is no need to rush with your plans. When you budget the appropriate amount of time, you tend to make better choices, there are more options available to you, and you simply enjoy the process much more. Educate yourself- Do some research and learn what questions to ask, key qualities event professionals should possess, ask questions and look through portfolios, and check references. Be an educated planner just as you would if you were making a home or car purchase.
RUTH: From experience, what are some of the lessons, facts or observations you have made along the way in the industry that you can share with readers?
MELISSA: This industry is constantly changing. Being successful in the industry requires time and a commitment to stay well informed and connected. Balance this profession requires a great deal of balance. Not just in balancing a work load, but in balancing a career, family, and personal time. Achieving balance is not easy and something I always work towards. It is very easy to sacrifice personal and/or family time, but the challenging comes in maintaining a good amount of all three. On a personal note, since I am constantly coordinating events, attend them as a guest is a challenge. I think I am the worst wedding or event guest because I cannot just relax and enjoy the party I am looking at the details. I also am the worst at RSVP’ing on time for the events. It makes my friends and families laugh.
RUTH: You come from a family of entrepreneur parents who also happen to be your role models and support sys-tem; please share more about the support and influences you have had from your family.
MELISSA: I was always encouraged to set goals and reach for them. That means having a strong work ethic, a value in education, and being an honest, ethical worker to achieve my end result. I think it is very important as a parent to practice what you encourage, and I am a very fortunate to have parents who have done just that and have been successful from it. I am extremely close with my family. Their support and encouragement is what gives me strength during stressful times and when I get a new challenge that seems overwhelming. I have seen what they have achieved and that provides me constant encouragement.
RUTH:What is next for Melissa and simply perfect, where do you see your growth in the next 3 to 5 years?
MELISSA: Simply Perfect by Melissa is expanding to the Milwaukee area, so we will be spending the next 2 years growing our business there. We will continue working hard here in Chicago creating new and innovative events. We will be bringing a couple of new staff members to assist with events and our overall growth and expansion. I would love to see us get involved in more local non for profit work, as well as expand our special events division. The past 4 years has brought me more than I ever thought I cannot wait to see what another 3 to 5 years will deliver us!
Event Coordinator and Owner,
Simply Perfect by Melissa
Melissa Phillips is the founder and creative force (genius) behind Simply Perfect by Melissa. Melissa is a unique combination of right brain and left-brain skill sets – she has a creative mind that manifests itself in tasteful, stylish, well-designed events that delight and wow clients, guests and vendors. Her analytical and organizational skills are exactly what you need to deliver an event that is on budget, run with efficiency and without stress.
Melissa is known for her passion, great listening skills, industry knowledge and for being a trusted and reliable partner in the process of creating and delivering your event. Her satisfied clients often rave about her - describing her as “the gem that we didn’t know about, but are so glad that we discovered her,
because she gave us incredible service, anticipated all our needs and was always so patient and easy to work with.” Melissa draws inspiration and energy from the people she has met in her life and from her diverse hobbies (adventure travel & eco-tourism, bungee & base jumping, mountain climbing, sports, cooking/baking and reading). She holds multiple degrees in Education from Loyola University, Dominican University and National Louis University. Melissa credits her early career as an educator as the reason she loves to share knowledge and for giving her unwavering patience.
Melissa has been creating simply perfect events for over 10 years. Melissa and her events have been featured in numerous publications including Chicago Style Weddings, CS Brides, Chicago Sun-Times, and The Daily Herald. Melissa is an active member of the Association of Bridal Consultants.