Daniela Grafman made a pivot from fashion P.R. to run a successful event planning business after working at New York Fashion Week. You might think the models and glitz on the runway would excite her, but it was the people behind the scenes who inspired her to change careers. Kismet then brought Daniela and her business partner together and she became the Chief Amazement Officer & Partner of Vision Event Co. How’s that for a title? SheBOOM spoke with Daniela about her reinvention, important lessons learned and creating meaningful moments for herself and her clients.
What attracted you to event planning?
Those people putting up the tents, monitoring the flow, directing people where they needed to be [at NY Fashion Week]. That experience really pushed me to seek out event planning as a business. In hindsight, I had always engaged in events in my personal life but hadn’t considered it a possible career until that moment. I love creating experiences. Our lives are made up of a series of experiences that become memories, lessons and catalysts for what we do and how we feel every day. Being a part of that for couples, non-profits and communities is extremely gratifying, and gives meaning and purpose to our work.
How did you make the switch in your career?
After a few incredible internships and jobs in the NYC event industry, I was even more certain it was the business I wanted to be in so I started in non-profit event planning. I then met my current business partner and we built our company, which is now five-years old. We currently produce about 60 social and corporate events a year.
I understand you’re involved in industry associations. How has that helped you?
I joined associations like, ILEA (International Live Events Association) and started a group called, W.IN.E: Women In Events, which helped me build my network of resources and friends within the industry. Events cannot happen without a team, whether that’s my internal team or a team of vendors, so having a network made me more resourceful and a better planner for my clients. I’ve grown so many valuable relationships as business contacts and friends through my associations!
How did you meet your business partner and what’s your chemistry like?
We met through a friend of mine who knew I was looking to get involved in something new within the event industry. At the same time, my partner Rai was looking for someone to help him build and grow Vision. We’re very similar in our personalities: passionate, high energy, and creative, but we also complement each other really well with our differences. He’s great with numbers, business strategy and managing our team, while I focus on working with our clients, planning and executing the events.
We don’t necessarily have conflicts as much as differences in opinions and/or ideas. We’ll always try something and learn from trial and error together to move the business forward as opposed to holding either one of us solely accountable. We’re both open minded enough to see the others’ perspective and sometimes agree to disagree. We even acknowledge that the other may actually be right and have a great idea that sounds crazy at first!
What’s the biggest business lesson you’ve learned?
Always find the lesson in every mistake, failure, disappointment (and success!) and move forward. Being extremely passionate and genuine about what we do and wanting to give our clients the best experiences can become very personal. As a woman who can get emotional at times, I’ve learned it’s really important to be accountable, reflect and move forward with lessons learned, so I can constantly keep getting better at what I do. This will in turn benefit my clients, as opposed to getting stuck in the past or giving up.
What skills are most useful for a young woman entering the industry?
Psychology! Analyzing people, their expectations and what makes them tick. Understanding how and why they react in certain ways and knowing that these situations make a successful event planner. Being able to analyze a situation and react in the moment is a daily task for an event planner, along with problem solving, which is more of a learned skill. Lastly, composure. Whether that means training yourself on how to handle stress or taking some acting classes to learn to keep a straight face. Staying under control and level headed in times of stress will leave a positive, lasting effect on clients and help run an event better.
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