Carline is a multipotentialite with a broad spectrum of experience in the beauty, hospitality, entertainment and non-profit sectors. Growing up in a home of entrepreneurs made it somewhat inevitable that she would become an entrepreneur herself. Her mother has owned a successful hair salon for the past 38 years, a salon in which Carline started working when she was 13 years old and has managed for the past 8 years.
Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug from as young as five years old, she used her innate event design skills to help create jaw-dropping events for her family members. She started learning how to hone her skills and produce events people loved. Her early days of event design led to her being given full responsibility for planning family events in her early teens and young adult years. However, she never truly thought about event planning and design as a business endeavor until 2008 when she decided to turn her passion into profit.
Her entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t stop there. She understands that her purpose on this earth extends far beyond boosting her business’ cash flow. A challenging period in her life inspired her to create the non-profit organization, Pajamas & A Purpose Inc., with the sole mandate of empowering women and girls with diverse backgrounds through positive support. The network has grown to 4,000 members nationwide. Carline’s vision is to make this non-profit an international organization.
Carline’s mind is always brimming with ideas and her heart is full when she knows she has made a difference in someone’s life. There was no way she could keep all she has learned about the event management industry to herself! That’s why she created the digital media agency, Event Pros Let’s Talk. It’s a burgeoning media platform where aspiring event planners and event designers can learn how to succeed.
Where did the idea for Events by Carline come from?
There is a long history behind Events by Carline. Here’s a little secret…it wasn’t my first event design agency. I’ve always had a knack for event design and people really saw me at my best when I planned and flawlessly executed my wedding in 2001. Other women wanted me to plan their weddings!
So, I did wedding planning on the side while working as a hairstylist in my mother’s salon. The demand increased to the point where I decided it was time to make the business official. My first event design business, E New York Events, was born in 2008 amidst a recession and a tumultuous divorce.
The short version of the story is that I had to close that business. I wasn’t going to let go of my passion for event planning so when the right time and opportunity came, I took a leap of faith and revived my business under a new name, Events by Carline in 2010.
Pajamas & A Purpose Inc. was birthed from the immense struggles I faced in 2008. That was the lowest point in my life and I felt like I needed a safe space where I could be vulnerable. I hosted our first pajama party with a small group of friends on my birthday in 2008 and it just kept growing each year. My love for wearing my pajamas, dancing, having fun, entertaining and giving back to my community grew into an experience for women where we can celebrate friendship, womanhood, motherhood, sisterhood, and provide support to those who are going through difficult life changes or celebrating an accomplishment.
These pajama parties originally happened one night a year. Women came in their pajamas and enjoyed all the favorite things from girlhood memories of slumber parties such as: dress up, a photo bed, games & prizes, dancing, laughing, food & cocktails. It became the ultimate girls-night-out experience as new friendships and bonds were made.
Planning this event gave me something to look forward to every year while I was going through my dark struggles. It became my light at the end of the tunnel. The annual event has evolved into a movement and was officially registered as a non-profit organization in 2018 with a membership base of over 4000 women nationwide. We now have a network of pajama party organizers across the US who organize parties at least once per month.
Event Pros Let’s Talk began in 2018 and emerged from my desire to share my knowledge about the event management industry with others. I experienced the lack of diversity in the industry first-hand as an African American event professional. When I first started my career, there weren’t many top event industry pros who looked like me; there was no one like me who I could relate to or emulate. So, I decided to break these barriers when I reached a peak in my career.
With Event Pros Let’s Talk, I have implemented the Net-Learning concept which encompasses a process of developing and maintaining connections with people and information. This concept also involves communicating in a way where everyone in the network can enhance their learning, education and growth. Networking opportunities have opened members to my established network of over 50,000 event professionals internationally.
The media content on the platform supports the growth of emerging event professionals. I can now use my role as host on the platform to be the African-American event planner who encourages and inspires other event planners who look like me. We are stronger together and I am very passionate about helping people in this community grow and learn from each other.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wear many hats so there’s always a lot for me to do on a typical day. Each day is an adventure. Some days I’m monitoring all my children’s activities such as making sure their homework gets done, working on projects together…whatever the needs are for that day. Other days I’m in full Events by Carline mode where I’m dealing with client events. I may not be flying as much as I used to because of this pandemic but I do have a lot of virtual events to plan and execute. There are still other days where my focus is on the non-profit and my digital media agency.
My main trick for keeping productive is organizing my thoughts and tasks for the day. I create a daily schedule, prioritize what I want to do versus what I need to do, and delegate to my team accordingly.
I also have what I call a ‘Post-It Wall’ where I put all my ideas. Each idea that comes to my mind is written on a Post-It note and then placed on the wall. At the beginning of day, I look at the wall and put all the Post-Its with tasks/ideas I need to accomplish that day together. I also arrange those tasks/ideas into monthly and annual buckets if there isn’t an immediate need to complete them. A great sense of accomplishment comes over me when I’m able to remove a Post-It from the wall because the idea/task is complete.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My mind is always filled with ideas. It never really has an “off” button. I view each project as an opportunity to make things different and do things better. The challenge of making an event or idea better than it was before thrills me.
Here is what my ideation process looks like:
I get a notebook specifically for a particular project or idea. Yes, I have a notebook for each project or idea and no two notebooks are the same. I choose books with specific decor or wording that speaks specifically to me about the task or idea.
The first few pages of the book are where I brainstorm. I just put all my random thoughts on paper. This process helps me empty whatever is in my head at that point in time about the idea. It’s the best process for me to release the thoughts in my head.
The remaining pages are where I strategically develop the idea. I take the time to develop the idea in a step-by-step way. Anyone can take up one of my notebooks and develop the idea on their own based on what I’ve written.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Technology is always trending and it always excites me. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to use technology to adjust their creativity. We still have to find ways to connect even though we can’t really meet in person.
I’m an event designer so you can imagine how quickly I had to pivot to keep my brand relevant over the past few months. My team and I had to find even more ways to be creative with how we use technology for our clients. Sure, we had hosted virtual events before but those events were really only for corporate clients. We now had to help our social event clients understand how their events, like baby showers, could work in the virtual space.
Some tricks we’ve used are:
Mailing gift boxes to all guest
T-shirts for the event
One-on-one help for each guest who was unfamiliar with the technology
3D virtual events
Events by Carline has always been an empathetic brand. However, we’ve become even more empathetic as we work with our clients to get through this pandemic together. It’s important for our clients to know they’re not alone.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’ve learned to not try to accomplish everything in one day. Some things can be put off until tomorrow. There is only one me and I can’t do everything in one day, neither can I do some things alone. I’ve also learned to delegate tasks and hire people with the requisite skills to get the job done so that I don’t have too many things on my plate. I now trust myself to lead by allowing others to do what they’re good at. This frees up my time so that I can act on more pressing matters.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Although entrepreneurs themselves, my parents wanted me to get a stable career and live the 9 to 5 life. They were immigrants from Haiti who dreamed about their children becoming doctors and lawyers. I spent too much of my early life trying to see how I could fit into their dream.
I vividly remember an experience I had at my first (and only) 9 to 5 job when I was 17. It was at a retail company and I only lasted there about three days. Here’s why – the manager was horrible and I saw many ways in which things could have been done differently. I started on Monday and submitted my resignation letter on Wednesday.
My resignation letter outlined points of constructive criticism for the manager. I hoped that pointing out these things would help him improve. This experience showed me the strength of my willpower and leadership potential; I found a way out by resigning and charting a better course for my life.
I knew from an early age that a typical 9 to 5 job was not my path. Although I knew this internally, I still tried to live up to my parents expectations. So, I battled with myself for years when it came to selecting a career path.
The best advice I could give my younger self is to drown out the noise, follow my creative path and embrace mistakes since each mistake is a learning experience. If I had stayed at that job, I wouldn’t be where I am today and if I didn’t try to fit into the confinements of what others thought I should or shouldn’t do, I believe I would have been much further along in my creative career, sooner.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The truth is that no one ever agrees with my ideas at the onset because they just don’t understand them. My ideas tend to be way ahead of current times. I have learned that I think differently from others; I am a visionary. It’s okay that people don’t get my ideas…their chatter doesn’t deter me. If I had listened to the naysayers, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Pajamas and a Purpose is a perfect example. People never took the organization seriously until I had an interview on ABC News in 2020. Two years after the organization was formalized; six years after the organization moved from just a group of friends getting together to a network of women nationwide. I always wanted this organization to be more and do more. It’s getting there. No idea is ever stupid.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I take time to process my thoughts and strategically plan. My work as a business consultant over the past few years has shown me that some entrepreneurs can be hasty in their decisions, especially when it comes to spearheading a new idea they get excited about. But, acting before you think only creates more problems. You become less effective when you operate like this so always take a deep breath and think carefully and strategically. Stay 10 steps ahead of the game.
Take a day (or two) in between to recharge. I often do this in between working on a project so I don’t burn out or get creative-block. Burn out creates a clog that prevents my creative juices from flowing and it’s one of the worst things that can happen to me. It’s like being trapped in my own body or head.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Building connections is the powerful strategy that has truly helped my business grow.
I have never spent a dime on advertising because my work speaks for me. My approach to any event is that I am entering a room of potential clients. It’s all about creating the best possible experience for guests and hosts so that my brand leaves an indelible mark in their minds. Word-of-mouth referrals are what have helped my business grow.
Before COVID-19, my team and I would leave a gift from Events by Carline at each guest’s place-setting at an event. We also ensured that we check on each guest to ensure everyone’s having a great time. COVID-19 has changed that dynamic dramatically because we haven’t been organizing in-person events.
However, we still pour our hearts into ensuring each guest has the best experience possible at any virtual event we organize. From guiding guests through how to use the virtual platform to mailing gift boxes to each guest, we make all guests feel special. That makes us memorable and keeps the business going.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t like the word ‘failure’. Every experience in life provides a learning opportunity. I think through why things didn’t work, what I learned from the experience and how I can move forward. You only fail when you give up.
What I will say is that I face a major challenge as an entrepreneur – money. I have been bootstrapping since the inception of my business and offered services I knew would help my finances grow faster. However, there always comes a time in any business where you want to scale and need investment capital to do it.
I’ve learned to build off of one product or idea that doesn’t require considerable capital. I build to the point where I can reinvest in more things to help my company get even further. Here is an example of what I have done with Events by Carline. The company began with a slew of in-demand event planning and design services. I then built on that to include products, such as venue furniture. I also ventured into rent to own properties and expanded online.
All my business ideas have a diversification plan from the very beginning of the planning process. Having such a plan has helped me scale successfully and has also provided a more secure cash flow.
A classic mistake made by some entrepreneurs is acquiring debt too early. I saw this play out in a negative way back in the 2008 financial crisis and again now during this global pandemic. Both startups and established businesses went bankrupt because they didn’t have the cash flow to manage their debt obligations and daily operating expenses.
Some entrepreneurs hastily make the decision to acquire debt because they need money to help the business grow. I’m not saying debt is unnecessary but think very carefully about your decision before you take the plunge. Debt acquisition should be a strategic decision.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A good idea would be an app or some type of software that makes email creation easier. I envision a system that will automatically organize, read or provide vocal response options. The amount of time it takes to organize, read through and type out email responses is ridiculous and not the best use of time and resources. I know there is someone out there just as annoyed as I am about this emailing problem who is tech savvy and can make this happen!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I have invested in expanding my design team. They are talented individuals who have helped me optimize my time by helping me tackle projects. They know how to transfer my thoughts to paper and I love that!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
A colleague of mine recently created the software, Vow. It’s an all-in-one platform that helps event planners communicate with vendors and other professionals in the event planning niche while making it easy to collaborate with my team and share updates with my clients. There’s a chatroom, main community space, workspaces for team projects and Client Relationship Management interface. It really has helped tremendously to have everything in one place.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I am going to be very honest; I haven’t had much time to read recently. However, there’s a book that caught my interest some time ago that I’m hoping to read soon. It’s called “Building a Story Brand” by Donald Miller and it grabbed my attention because I believe in the power of storytelling for brand development. People connect with brands better when they can relate to the brand’s story. I’m interested to read Miller’s thoughts on the topic.
What is your favorite quote?
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” There will always be challenges but I know I’m not going to fail. I’m going to fight my way through and help others out along the way.
An entrepreneur’s journey is often lonely and riddled with potholes, seemingly insurmountable hills and countless obstacles. I’ve had my fair share of challenges. Never would I have thought that there would have been an economic crisis six months after I started my first business back in 2008 and that my divorce would leave me with nothing. I’ve had to rebuild my life from scratch.
Now, we’re dealing with a global pandemic 12 years later. Who would have ever thought something like this would happen? Holding on to my faith and fervent belief that I will make it through keeps me going. I always try to find a way or create a way, but failure (giving up) is not an option.
- No idea is ever stupid. What matters most is how much you believe in your idea and the willpower you have to see it through.
- Don’t act on impulse. Take the time to process your thoughts and develop a strategy.
- Connections are crucial for helping your business grow from zero to hero.
- Stop trying to cram everything into one day. Delegate and understand when it’s time to shift tasks over into another day.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.