The small details are what can set you apart from competition.
Kimberly Quinlan Bakker majored in Business at the University of Southern California. While at USC, Kimberly was also a volunteer teacher and served as the Women’s Advocate for the Panhellenic Board. She graduated in 1992 and was named one of that year’s Outstanding Seniors while working full time as the Director of Sales and Marketing for the L’ermitage Hotels.
In 2005, Kimberly was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom to be the San Francisco Protocol Officer under Protocol Chief Charlotte Mailliard Shultz in the Mayor’s Office. In that position, she helped produce the week long civic celebration of World Environment Day, managed all consular a#airs and often presented on behalf of the Mayor.
In addition to her full service consulting firm, Kimberly Bakker Events, she serves on the Board of Directors for Children of Shelters and Blue Star Music Camp, as well as on the committees for several San Francisco-based non-profit organizations.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
According to my dear mother, I began my journey into professional event planning as a young child, throwing elaborate parties for honored guests, including my brother, and animals. From a very young age, I thoroughly enjoyed paying close attention the small, intricate, and important details that make an experience wholesome, unique, and successful. Though my tastes, desires, and thoughts were much simpler, I understood the notion of creating an end result by putting together several moving parts. In essence, that is the backbone of event planning.
Coming from a family that valued tradition, ritual, and celebration of all things related to life, I developed a fondness for creating the sacred feeling that comes from partaking in little rituals. To this day, some of my fondest memories are based around my father’s ritual of bringing our family’s heirloom china, wrapped neatly in cloth napkins, to our father daughter picnics. Those small touches, consistent and special, made each trip feel like a grand excursion. As I look back fondly on these small touches, I aim to recreate that same feeling of yearning nostalgia for all of my clients.
From a very young age, I have always loved celebrating the milestones, accomplishments, and accolades of others. Driven by watching honorees feel loved and celebrated, I always strived to make birthdays special, and to genuinely provide love, care, and attention for others. These intrinsic qualities remained with me throughout my adult life, and have played an integral role in inspiring me to launch Kimberly Bakker Events.
Of course, my pertinent vocational experiences have also prepared me inadvertently for this role! After working for several firms, owning a restaurant, and working in protocol for the Mayor of San Francisco, I successfully parlayed those experiences into being able to successfully operate Kimberly Bakker Events. From hospitality and customer service, to time management and attention to detail, my former positions have taught me many skills that provided me with the confidence, motivation, and abilities to be where I am today.
I always say that one must have a little bit of OCD, and has to be a big dreamer in order to produce events. I certainly admit to both.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Typically, I awaken before the sun, and attempt to be wildly productive before the rest of the world stars stirring. After freshening up, and getting dressed for the day, I prepare a healthy breakfast for my daughter and I, and mentally prepare myself for the day’s events. From there, I run through my checklist one last time, and help my daughter prepare for the day. I find this time with her to be sacred, bonding, and by ensuring that my own needs are met prior to her waking up, I can dedicate my entire focus to her morning routine. Upon my daughter’s caretaker arriving, I immediately begin the whirlwind of my professional day, which often includes packing my vehicle to the brim with event furniture, bespoke accents, and little heirloom touches that I like to incorporate into events.
From the moment of arrival on-scene, I delegate tasks, partake in the set-up of events, and care for each tiny detail, ensuring streamlined, successful, and thoughtful set-up. Throughout the duration of an event, I like to keep moving, maintaining a clear understanding of all facets of the event’s progress. After break-down, and sending honorees home with to-go boxes of food (they are always too busy to eat!), I head home for a relaxing evening with my daughter. After our nightly bathtime ritual, we read stories, snuggle up, and eventually, she peacefully succumbs to sleep. Then, I replay the successes and downfalls of the day’s event, and consider ways in which I can streamline my processes, and continue to exceed clients’ expectations. Finally, unless I’ve exhausted myself completely, I make a small dent in the pile of books on my nightstand, before eventually succumbing to slumber myself.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I truly believe that anything is achievable, whether that be in the scope of event planning, or in everyday life. Thus, when discussing various aspects of an event with clients, I aim to take their ideas, add grandiosity, and provide them with an end result that far exceeds their wildest imagination. While many people may experience anxiety related to the challenges of taking ideas from inception to reality, I gladly accept each challenge! In fact, the challenges motivate me, excite me, and encourage me to dream big! It’s all about dreaming big, being resourceful, and never taking no for an answer.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Recently, I’ve begun to take note of the growing impact of the legalization of cannabis, an influx of cannabis related products on the market, and the ways in which those products can be utilized in an event setting. Throughout some of my events, I have begun incorporating cannabis bars, where educators teach guests about the vast array of products available that can benefit their lives in a multitude of ways. From curing insomnia, to natural pain management, cannabis has shown to create positive effects for various ailments, and continues to be integrated more and more into mainstream society. Utilizing cannabis for its’ various potential purposes showcases an exciting time for medicine, and I have found that people are positively receptive to learning more about cannabis in a social setting.
As cannabis continues to become fully integrated into modern culture, the marketplace for cannabis infused products will continue to flourish. From gourmet edibles, to essential oils, I am excited to utilize these new products at various events, and to be a part of a learning experience for clients who are interested in cannabis.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Organization is absolutely crucial for any entrepreneur. For me, that equals extensive lists! Most entrepreneurs would agree that owning a successful business requires the effective maneuvering of a lot of moving parts. Thus, without successfully maintaining order and organization throughout each part, and within the whole, a business will undoubtedly fail. While this reigns true for most businesses, it is especially crucial toward maintaining client satisfaction throughout each interaction.
Each event requires the complete attention and coordination of dozens of vendors, artists, and professionals. If any of the professionals involved in an event drop the proverbial ball, the failure still reflects poorly on the event planner. Thus, a portion of the burden lies in not only maintaining faith in the carefully selected team of vendors that an event planner works with, but also, in keeping everyone in check! Therefore, organization is the key to success, and the utilization of lists is the key to maintaining sanity.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Though I truly believe that all of my previous experiences have helped to shape me into the person I am today, I would certainly give my younger self a few tips! First, I would remind myself to trust my gut, and not care so deeply about what others think. As a young professional, there can be vast pressure to succeed, make the right choices, and to excel professionally, all while towing the line between “boss” and “bossy”. For women, especially, it may be difficult to express their needs, desires, and expertise professionally, without fearing negative repercussions from peers. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that these fears are mostly self-inflicted, and that garnering one’s own success comes from steadfastly moving forward, even despite these nagging fears.
In gaining the wisdom of time, I’ve also learned that one cannot control the manner in which people see things, or what others may think of you. Thus, why waste time worrying about it? That time is better served in a more productive, positive, and powerful manner!
Finally, on a much less serious note, I would certainly tell my younger self to bring a pair of flats to events! I’ve certainly ruined my feet, and endured a lot of pain, whilst trotting in stilettos throughout a fifteen hour work day! Now, I wear stylish, professional, and fashionable flats, and change into kitten heels only throughout the duration of an event. Those are the little gems of knowledge that make a difference!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m not certain that there is anything that comes directly to mind, mostly because I tend to be tenacious, stubborn, but also entirely understanding. Thus, if I believe in something that I find to be true, but no one agrees with me, I can respect the notion that my particular truth may not be someone else’s truth. I’m okay with that, and while my own convictions are steadfast and dear to my heart, I support others who hold their own convictions close to their hearts, even if they oppose my own.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Though it seems as though it goes without saying, but I always recommend that everyone always triple checks all electronic invitations, flyers, and collateral. You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and you certainly don’t want to make it one riddled with spelling errors! For entrepreneurs, business owners, and other professionals, it is crucial to create effective, beautiful, and on-brand collateral, and within my own business, I’ve recognized the effect of well created collateral, versus the negative effect of mistakes!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Event planning lies within the realm of hospitality, and thus, must be treated as such. Within my business, I aim to provide the best customer service, and to go the extra mile for all clients. There is no request that is too grand, no idea that is too obscure, and no service element that can’t be fulfilled. As a result of this customer-centric attitude, I’ve been fortunate to gain a reputation amongst the community as a reputable event planner. Truly, there is no better strategy for growth than maintaining a positive reputation, and building trust within the community.
Additionally, throughout my events, I aim to take all stress away from the planning process, and to ensure that my clients are able to just enjoy the positive parts of celebration, rather than stressing about the mundane details, elements that don’t go over smoothly, and the many surprises that come with the territory of having a large party. By allowing honorees and hosts to only focus on the positive aspects of their event, I provide them with an experience that is memorable, without the stressful elements that may sometimes tinge an event.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It’s tough to point out a singular failure that I’ve experienced as an entrepreneur, as I continue to challenge myself to seek creative methods of problem solving, and consider potential failures to merely be difficult challenges. I tend to also shy away from touting experiences as “failures”, as I consider the positive effects that I can take away from all such experiences. For example, if I have a negative interaction or experience with a particular vendor, and it results in having to scramble to find a suitable substitution in a hasty last-minute fashion, I may consider committing to vendors earlier within the next event, or changing policies that will protect a similar type of situation from occurring in the future. I always say to myself, “you either do it right, or you learn something from it.”
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Though I know there are already a handful of companies that provide file sharing, and photo storage options, I would like to see a company focused on editing, sharing, and storing photos in a meaningful way, with the ultimate in user friendly experiences. Though the millennial generation is quite familiar with applications, it would be wonderful to see a product that is geared toward the ease of use for older individuals, making it easy to share meaningful family photos.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently donated to UCSF Children’s Hospital, and it was a very meaningful means of aiding a cause that is near and dear to my heart. The work they do there daily is literally a matter of life and death. They focus on medical advancement, technology, and provide families with hope, faith, and healing.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe that organization is key within my professional scope, and thus, I utilize my phone’s organizational tools daily. Particularly, I utilize the calendar and checklist applications, as they allow me to stay on top of the day, whilst I’m on the go.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I am a huge proponent of literacy, and find it inherently crucial to teach children the benefits of reading, and to continue reading throughout life as a means of learning, creative thinking, and relaxation. Within the haste of life, especially in today’s technology driven community, it can be very easy to become distracted with smartphones, tablets, and television. Thus, I make very concerted efforts to read with my daughter, and to read throughout the evenings whenever possible. I am currently in a book club with my daughter, which has been a great motivator for us both!
For any new mother, or expectant mother, I highly recommend “Mitten Strings for God”, written by Katriana Kenison. The book is a fantastic read, and has helped me shape my style of motherhood. Furthermore, it gave me permission to be creative in my parenting! The author has written many other thought provoking books, and regularly maintains a blog.
- Don’t underestimate the power of organization in a professional environment, and for peace of mind. Though event planning certainly lends itself to a lengthy to-do lists, many other professionals find themselves bogged down with recurring thoughts of things to do, things to remember. Thus, I highly recommend maintaining well oiled to-do lists, and calendar reminders on your smartphone. It will save your mind from the mental checklist, and allow you to feel confident that you will not forget the smallest of details.
- The small details are what can set you apart from competition. Within the event planning world, parties can be wildly successful by providing all of the basic elements: food, libations, music, furniture, and a great atmosphere. However, the things that make a party memorable often involve small details. For this reason, I often inject bespoke items, heirloom pieces, and other thoughtful items that will speak to the honoree, and guests.
- Ask a lot of questions, and communicate effectively. In any profession that requires the coordination of several parties (no pun intended), it is crucial to maintain appropriate communication, in order to ensure that all individuals involved are on the same page. Between several vendors, clients, and specialists, there are a lot of people involved in putting together a singular event. When the breakdown of communication occurs, there is an invitation for error present.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.