Editor’s note: Sasha Souza, owner, Sasha Souza Events, an award-winning event planning company with offices in California, will give the lunch presentation at Events & Tents on Saturday, Feb. 9 at The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas. Souza opened her first design firm in 1995 and since then has expanded her event knowledge and design presence to other projects, including authoring a book, “Signature Sasha: Magnificent Weddings by Design” as well as being the founding president of Wish Upon a Wedding, a nonprofit organization that grants weddings and vow renewals to those with terminal illnesses and life-altering situations regardless of sexual orientation. In addition to her event planning business, Souza maintains her “Sparkliatti” blog, and has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Recently Souza spoke with Rental Management about how she handles all the facets of her business, her experience with rental companies and social media, and the sessions she will host at Events & Tents. An edited transcript of that conversation follows:
RM: What does your typical day/week/month entail? What is something you do every day without fail?
Sasha Souza: The best part about my job is that nothing is ever the same. My days are typically spent answering emails, working on upcoming events and selling to new clients, as well as working on Wish Upon a Wedding. I also have quite a few PR interviews, speaking engagements to prepare for and blog posts to write. I’ve found that I need to compartmentalize my day and have appointment times to speak to clients because if I don’t, I’ll never get anything done with all the interruption. Definitely my months during our heavy event season are spent finalizing the event and production, while the months spent outside our season are spent doing meetings, tastings, rental orders and other design work. I spend more time designing in the winter and spring and more time producing in the summer and fall. The one thing I do without fail every day is check my emails. I don’t take a lot of time off work and certainly don’t take time off where I don’t have access to email. Even when I’m on a personal vacation, I’m not far away from my cell phone. The fact that we’re all so connected is a blessing and a curse. It makes it very easy to work 24/7 without rest.
RM: Choose a recent event you worked on — what made it unique? What went well? What challenges did you have to solve? What did you learn?
Souza: We recently did an event in the wine country of Northern California where the guests were invited to four separate “events” over three days. Each of these events was a different style, a different design and had to reflect the couple. There was a welcome barbecue on Friday night, a wedding ceremony at 11 a.m. on Saturday, followed by a brunch and then an afternoon of field games followed by dinner and a concert that same evening. It was a convoluted schedule of rental pickup and teardown and we had four separate rental pickups and deliveries over the course of three days and about 18 trucks.
The event weekend started with a rustic, organic barbecue where guests were seated at picnic tables and enjoyed pies and s’mores around a fire-pit into the evening. However, that location was going to become our badminton court for the field games the next day, so early the next morning, all that equipment had to be loaded out at 7 a.m. The ceremony and brunch were mostly set up on Friday afternoon since we had to start setting tables at 5 a.m. for the brunch. The ceremony was early and everything needed to be camera-ready by 9 a.m. The field games were set up during the morning and ceremony/brunch time. Guests then had the opportunity to play card games, badminton, bocce, horseshoes, have mini massages, get cigars custom-made or have cake and ice cream. The ceremony and brunch event needed to be torn down during the afternoon games while we were trying to set up for the dinner and concert. The dinner was a relatively informal fajita Tex-Mex event, but the concert that followed had 40 different loveseat combinations in front of the stage and 5,000 ft. of overhead string lighting.
The biggest challenges we faced were having all the guests on the property (all were staying) while we were trying to create separate experiences for them. Having a property with enough space to move people through the separate spaces made it easier for us to set
up and tear down in peace. We used a lot of hedging and screening, so that the guests were not bothered during their experience while we
were heavy into production. Also, having enough staff members to set up and tear down and orchestrate a fluid and never-ending series of rental company trucks was important. We couldn’t have done the event the way we did without an efficient and skilled set of drivers since the space is very tight to maneuver. We were lucky that the companies we work with were amazing and followed everything we set up with them.
RM: You have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest as well as your own blog. How do social media impact your business?
Souza: It takes up a lot of time, that’s for sure. If you’re managing your own, like we do, you have to dedicate time to it in order to make social media work for you. There was a time when I was much more active on Twitter, but unless you’re following the conversations all the time, it’s difficult to keep up. I now use Twitter less often than I use Facebook. I probably use Pinterest and the newer website, Love It, more often because it falls into my wheelhouse of design. What I don’t look at on Pinterest is anything wedding-related, unless I have a client who has specifically pinned a boutonniere or bouquet. I usually am looking for items that are outside the wedding realm that are in the same vein of the feeling of the event and not such a literal interpretation. That takes time and Pinterest doesn’t have the best search engine, so it takes digging. Social media has had a very positive impact on my business because people realize there’s a personality attached to the name and that person has passion and drive and a relatable personality and style.
RM: What do you look for when you work with rental companies?
Souza: Honestly, I look for companies that have a wide breadth of interesting items. I like a lot of different things to choose from, whether it be chair types, tabletop or linens. The ability to mix and match product while working with only one rental company makes my job much easier. When I have to get things from multiple companies, it becomes harder to make sure the right items go back to the right companies. All in all, I really need a rental company that turns over their orders to me quickly, so that I can create my billing for the client. I bill all my clients for anything rented, so it’s important to me that I get the order back and make sure that all the items I have on my wish list are available. We are very organized in how we fashion our rental orders to make it easy for the company to read and pack their truck/deliver the items. We pay for all setup and teardown of all equipment and for one-time delivery and pickup, so companies that are full service are who I go with. For me, it doesn’t have to be the biggest companies, but instead those with the greatest offering of product mixed with great customer service.
RM: What do you plan to tell those who attend your sessions? What will they come away with?
Souza: I’m giving two sessions at The Rental Show. For the “Attention to Detail” session, attendees will learn how to improve upon their decorating and design skills, choose what to showcase in their portfolios, learn why details are so important to today’s clients, and see how I blend linen and tabletop details as part of my uniquely detailed designs. In the “Color Couture” class, attendees will learn how to use color to upsell their clients events creating higher profits, use tabletop design as the key center element to showcase a client’s event design, define what color means to clients and how they decipher your brand, forecast the hottest color trends in your area and showcase their work through the art of photo shoots and how to use them to their advantage.
Inspiring those in party and event rental
There’s only one educational program that offers education specifically related to party and special event rental — Events & Tents, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, at The Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.
“Events & Tents is designed to provide inspiration, connections, solutions and new opportunities just for the party and event rental segment of the industry,” says Allison Box, senior administrative director for association services for the American Rental Association (ARA), organizers of The Rental Show and Events & Tents.
“Events & Tents is the only education program that focuses on rental, which makes it unique and beneficial for those with years in the industry, those just starting out or even those exploring entering party and event rental,” Box says.
Events & Tents 2013 kicks off with a continental breakfast and a unique event focused on creativity: The program’s first-ever Fabric Fashion Show. Students from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Las Vegas will take products supplied by linen manufacturers and create one-of-a-kind looks.
Sixteen seminars are scheduled throughout the day.
Sessions from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. are:
- Accelerate Your Growth With an Effective Sales Team
- Take a Seat: Is Renting Furniture Right for You?
- Gadgets and Gizmos: Get the Most From Your Devices
- Storm Watch: Plan for the Unexpected
Seminars from 10:30 a.m. to noon are:
- Round-Tables: Standing Out From the Competition
- Learn the Secrets to Processing Your Linens In-House
- From Showroom to Design Center
- The Right Tent for the Right Job
Lunch will feature a special presentation from wedding designer Sasha Souza on “Attention to Detail: Showcasing Your Art, Craft and Design.” Following lunch will be a special session exclusively for graduates of ARA’s Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) program attending Events & Tents, “One on One With Sasha Souza.”
Afternoon seminars from 2 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. are:
- Exhibit Essentials: Secrets to a Successful Bridal Show
- Grow Your Bottom Line: Efficiencies in Dispatching Management
- A repeat session of Gadgets and Gizmos: Get the Most From Your Devices
- Dress It Up: Décor and Design Ideas for Your Tent
The final seminars from 3:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. are:
- Social Marketing: What You Need to Know for Success
- Virtual Tours: Unique Solutions to Operating a Rental Business
- Color Couture: Transforming Space Into Higher Profits
- Staging and Tent Permitting: Be Part of the Solution
A special reception will conclude Events & Tents at Keep Memory Alive, a Frank Gehry-designed venue that supports the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
The registration cost for Events & Tents 2013 is $250 for ARA members through Dec. 10, with an additional charge for the reception. Complete details are online at TheRentalShow.com.