They say if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I don’t know who “they” are, but I say if you love what you do, you will work so hard and passionately that you’ll never actually know what day it is! You will, however, get to go to bed with a content and full heart… if you ever get to sleep. What? They say you’ll never work a “day in your life,” but who knew I’d work nights!?!
So how did I develop this passion for parties? I started young. I grew up in a large, Latin Jewish family, and was blessed to have all of my aunts, uncles and cousins all live close by. I’m talking all the time togetherness; every Shabbat we were together at my grandparent’s home, every holiday and every birthday party we ALL showed up! From singing happy birthday at preschool to school plays, graduations and dance recitals, you could count on us to be the loudest, most embarrassing family for whoever was being celebrated. And let’s talk birthday parties. My brothers and I all celebrate our birthdays the same week in February. Four birthdays in the same week lead to one RAGER of a birthday party! Our mother would go ALL out. I’m talking carnivals, costume parties, block parties, all with hundreds of guests because we each got to invite our grades.
With all of that, it would seem natural that I wanted to be an event designer, but no… I went the route of fashion instead. My father encouraged all of us to intern in our desired fields to see if we really wanted to pursue it. I did not like my summer working for a random fashion brand, so I decided to go big or go home. I decided I would become a fashion editor at Vogue. So the following summer, I applied for and got an internship at Conde Nast, where they placed me in corporate sales. NOT Vogue. Who knew you couldn’t just waltz into Vogue demanding an editorial position? Interning in the corporate sales division is precisely as fun as it sounds, but it was there that I discovered what I truly loved doing. Doing my best to “broaden my scope of work” and get out of my office, I volunteered to help the woman in charge of hosting events for large corporate advertisers. I offered to help her with anything she needed. I was smitten! And upon my return to Miami, I interned at Karla Events, who at the time, was designing THE COOLEST parties. Upon graduating from UM, I went to Florence, Italy, to study interior design and then began working full time for Karla. She not only showed me the ropes, but taught me what it meant to work passionately, enthusiastically and tirelessly to make sure every event was special, spectacular and flawlessly executed.
In 2005, my family was launching the Paris Hilton Fragrance (this was PEAK Paris guys) and they offered me the opportunity to handle the launch events in Mexico, Brazil, Paris and New York City. Like any other optimistically naïve 22-year-old, who just a few years earlier believed one could demand a position at Vogue, I was all over that! Without knowing exactly where it would lead, I knew I wanted to get paid (eventually…. haha) and I founded J Group Events on blind faith alone that if you build it, they will pay.
Fast forward a few years… I got married, was living in NYC, and I was producing events for brands such as Cartier, Maria Sharapova, Guess, Christian Lacroix, Movado and countless private clients. I was loving the fast pace and working on building up my brand, getting published in magazines and getting my name out there. I was even planning on publishing a coffee table book and dreaming of a full party line at Target. What an ambitious and super energetic 20something I was.
And then, the biggest and most important project I would ever take on began. I was pregnant with my first baby and thought, obviously I will keep working and be able to hang out with my baby too! Like any other ambitious first-time mom that goes after what she wants, I thought motherhood would be like the Vogue internship I was sure I was getting…I had no idea!
And then Edmond was born. I took one look at his sweet face and did not know how I would be able to part with him for even a minute. Conveniently, my new motherhood project collided head-on with the 2008 financial crisis and I began my maternity pause sans guilt! Six years in, my parenting pause became more of a full-on hiatus until the day that I ran into Karla and she offered me a partnership in her business. Since Jacob, my youngest, was starting PK2, I jumped back in the ring, thanking the party gods for their timing and took the offer. Partnership was great for a while, but the same way that they don’t tell you the whole truth about work and passion, they also don’t tell you the whole truth about partnership. It’s not so easy! That same passion and motivation that pushes you to thrive, also wants you to push past boundaries; yours or otherwise! I realized that I needed to be fully in charge of my brand, so I restarted J Group Events.
Up until this point, I knew what I loved to do but I wasn’t sure if others really understood my truest passion. I was definitely involved in every detail of the party and I was always pushing myself to create designs that were completely bespoke to my client. But, I wanted more. I wanted to build up a company that would be known around the globe… as I said, an ambitious child from the start. With this new chapter of the company, I really had to understand how to explain to people what it is that I do.
Anyone can decorate a party, create a schedule, run a setup and make sure everything runs smoothly according to plan. My goal was to create experiences that would become unforgettable for everyone there. I wanted to transport people away from the minutiae of their everyday lives and give them incredible moments that they will never forget. Tears of joy became my gold standard. I am proud to say that I have done it often! When it happens, I know I have exceeded their wildest dreams and expectations By focusing on this, I became the “best-kept secret” that people told each other about. The secret sauce ingredient for why “so and so” always has the best parties….The secret sauce is not just one ingredient. The key was also to build up those around me. By encouraging the same kind of passion and inspiration in my employees and showing them that their abilities extend well beyond their imagined limits, I became even more successful. With them and for them, we were able to build a company that could even survive a pandemic intact.
Being a woman, I know the saying “it takes a village” all too well. Well, it’s true. We women have been told that we can do it all, and as someone who gets it all done, I can tell you that we most certainly cannot do it all without a tribe of amazing people behind us. By building up those around us, we actually create our own support system to rely on. Where you are strong, I may be weak, and we look out for each other. My mother, supportive husband, my housekeeper, my amazing team at work, my extended family and friends encourage me and allow me to be able to focus not only on making incredible events for my clients, but also on being a mother who is there for her kids when they need me. A mother who plans really fun activities and trips, who reads the stories even though she can barely stay awake, who says Shema, who makes sure they can point out the miracles in everyday life, and who can set an example to her sons and daughter. I also make sure to not only donate to charity, but to actually serve on a board (JCS), donate at least 3 events a year to causes I believe in and to engage in random acts of kindness in my everyday life. I may not cook, clean or do laundry, and my children’s projects look very half-assed, but if I have to fly back for the day from an event in Costa Rica to make it to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and my son’s lower school graduation, you better believe I will do it.
Many people ask me how I stay sane and happy despite all of the stressors of my industry. I have to give all of the credit to Shabbat. Keeping Shabbat has been the biggest blessing of my life. Having one day a week where I can really converse with my family, sleep without a care in the world, read books, play with the kids, rest, catch up with my friends, and sleep even more is what gives me the strength to face anything that comes my way. There is no better feeling than powering off my devices and truly shutting down. It is also when I get my most creative. The silence and stillness make me dream up all kinds of crazy things.
And yes, being Shomer Shabbat may seem completely incompatible with producing events, which mostly land on the weekends, but I’ve found ways to make it work. That same team I was telling you about earlier sure comes in handy on Shabbat. My clients understand that they can’t get in touch with me on Saturdays, and that I will stay in sometimes questionable places so that I can walk over and be there during the setup and event. And my team somehow does even better without me! Boy does it give us some fun stories, from staying in the most random hotel in Lima Peru that was so sketchy I had to have a security guard escort me to and from the setup, to having my team follow me in a golf cart in the pitch black island of Staniel Cay, to biking in torrential rain from Mar-a-Lago to the Breakers in Palm Beach. Sometimes, after particularly stressful events, I will quite literally jump off a cliff (hello Lima Peru!). When I finally get around to writing my coffee table book, I will be sure to have a whole section on my Shabbat adventures. I would not give it up for anything.
So this is me, this is my story and if you are a parent reading this and start to wonder if just maybe…… you CAN do it!!