Jill: Hey, good morning everybody! This is Jill with the Event Technique and Eventsburgh and we’re doing a roundtable mastermind interview with the one and only Adriane Diethorn, who is one of those folks who you just have to know. There’s just no question. If you’re in the non-profit event business, this gal can help you huge, and I’m going to have her tell you a little bit about her company and how she got into the business, so welcome, Adriane! Good morning!
Adriane: Good morning! Thanks for having me.
Jill: You’re very welcome. This is fun. So tell us a little bit about how you got into the event business proper.
Adriane: Of course. So my background is in psychology and I was working at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and I really loved my job there. It was crisis intervention and it was constant movement, new people coming in constantly and unfortunately, my mom passed away.
Jill: Oh, no.
Adriane: And I needed to take a break from actually treating other people because I had my own issues dealing with the death of my mother because it was so quick and so I took a break and I became bored really quick. I’m a total type A, so I got to be constantly doing something and my dad was like “Well, why don’t you go into event planning and non-profit [inaudible 00:01:19] fundraising?” He says “You grew up in a family that was constantly volunteering and was very philanthropic. Maybe this is something you should try.”
Adriane: So I was like “All right.” I literally walked into an organization with a resume not even knowing what I was really doing, and talked my way into my first job with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Health and Sciences Foundation and here I am today.
Adriane: Yeah, it’s been great and within the actual fundraising arena, I started doing events and the events for non-profits grew into corporate planning and then from there, it grew into wedding planning. I had planned a wedding for my best friend and from there, they loved the wedding so much … and mind you, I had no idea what I was doing, okay and so I was reading books and trying to figure things out and basically from that first wedding, I got several weddings booked out of that and here I am, six years later and now I’m doing major weddings across the country, so I am very blessed …
Jill: Oh, my gosh! Wow!
Adriane: With everything that I’ve been doing and I started my own company, which is Wish, Hopes, Dreams and I started it in 2013 although I had been in event planning and fundraising and so forth for over 20 years, but I thought “Why work for somebody when I can work for myself, and one, make even additional money, too?” I don’t have anybody that I necessarily need to report to.
Adriane: And [inaudible 00:03:08] really nice being on my own because I got to do a lot of different things in a lot of different arenas, so like I said, today, I love what I do and I get really excited about doing it and I love mentoring people, not only with fundraising, but also with event planning and wedding planning.
Adriane: It definitely is my calling. I really love [inaudible 00:03:30].
Jill: I would imagine that the wedding planning issue is probably the most high stress.
Jill: Does that sound about right?
Adriane: And everybody hears about the bridezilla. Are they out there? Sure, but there are so many intricate parts that go into planning a wedding and then on the wedding day, basically everything comes together. That is your show. You need to make sure everything is perfect and there’s always stuff that happens. There’s always vendors that are late or what have you and you just make the best of it. You just keep a smile on your face, remain calm, which anybody that knows me knows that I can get really bent out of shape really quick, but nobody will ever see me sweat. You know what I mean?
Adriane: [inaudible 00:04:18] have to appear that you’re calm, even though inside, you’re running around like “Oh, my gosh! What am I going to do? Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!”
Jill: It’s crazy!
Adriane: Yeah. It’s crazy, but I’ve been also very fortunate to have … I have 20 different consultants that work for me and I’ve been very blessed by each and every one of them because they really get it and they follow what the ultimate plan is and then it all comes together in the end.
Jill: Right. So where are those 20 located?
Adriane: They’re across the country. I have five in Pittsburgh. I have three in Miami. I have two in Indianapolis. I have eight in California.
Jill: That I can believe. Yeah.
Adriane: Yeah, because that’s a biggie. That’s where I go and two in Texas and two in New York City.
Jill: Oh, my gosh.
Jill: Okay. So those folks, do they do weddings and such as well?
Adriane: They do. They do anything from event planning for non-profits to corporate events to wedding planning and everything in between.
Jill: Oh, good for them. Good for them!
Jill: That makes them hugely important as well.
Jill: Yeah, and valuable people, they’re always good. You need those.
Adriane: Yeah. Yeah.
Jill: Tell us a little bit about some of your most memorable best events, the things that were the most innovative, the most exciting, the most fun.
Jill: [inaudible 00:05:38] group, experience, there’s probably a lot of them in that group.
Adriane: There are. I could probably talk for an entire day about some of the best [inaudible 00:05:48].
Jill: Well, we’ve got a [crosstalk 00:05:49].
Adriane: But I honestly feel that the most exciting event that I was a part of was the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh marathon. It was on hiatus for nine years and it came back and I was one of the first four staff members that they brought on and my primary responsibility was building the sponsorships and procuring them and cultivating them and I was also in charge of the expo.
Jill: Oh, yes!
Adriane: And by the time … After me being there for five years, I was in charge of so many different things, that it was crazy but I loved every minute of it and it was truly one of the best events. In 2013, I was really honored to be able to bring in 25 Boston Marathon non-finishers.
Jill: Oh, wow.
Adriane: And they came to the Pittsburgh Marathon because in 2013, in April when the Boston Marathon happened …
Adriane: So many people didn’t finish, so Patrice and I and Dee were all talking about how can we make this something special for some people? We knew we could not bring every single one of them in because that would’ve been a small fortune, but Dick’s Sporting Goods stepped up and helped us bring in 25 of them. We paid for their flight, their hotel, their [crosstalk 00:07:18].
Jill: Oh, wow! That is awesome!
Adriane: We did a nice VIP dinner just for them on the Thursday before the marathon. It was fabulous and I was the one that was really talking to each of them, getting them all coordinated to come in and it was just the most amazing thing and it was something that literally had to happen in three and a half weeks.
Jill: Oh, my.
Adriane: It was quick turnaround and it was the most amazing thing and to meet each of them and I still remain friends with a lot of them today, so …
Jill: Did they get to run in the Pittsburgh marathon, then?
Adriane: They did. They ran the entire marathon and at the end, we had so many different opportunities for them within the four days that they were there. They got their medal and it was a really big deal for them and [crosstalk 00:08:08].
Jill: Oh, that is so cool!
Jill: So cool. I cannot imagine just going back to that particular event. I can’t imagine what must’ve gone on that day.
Jill: And how people were reacting and what do you do?
Jill: I just can’t imagine, so that’s really, really super cool. Tell us a couple of others that were really great.
Adriane: I’ve done a lot of non-profit galas across the country and one of the biggest and best ones that I was so fortunate to be able to do and I came in as a consultant only, but it was a … The American Heart Association Cotes Du Coeur which is held in Dallas, Texas …
Adriane: And this year, they actually had to postpone. I believe it’s in June this year, but it generally is in April and that is the most unforgettable event that … I want to be involved with it every year, no matter what. I want to go for free and I want to just give them all my time and energy for nothing. It is [crosstalk 00:09:13] fabulous event. It’s all focused on food and wine and of course, I’m a foodie and I’m a winey so I love it.
Adriane: It’s glitz and glam to the hilt.
Jill: It is Texas. Yes. Having lived there, I can attest to that.
Yeah and it’s the largest one. It’s the largest Heart ball, that they call Cotes Du Coeur, but it’s the largest Heart ball in the country. They have over 1,500 attendees and they raise five million dollars.
Jill: Oh, my gosh.
Adriane: At one event! Like, who does that? It’s definitely an amazing event.
Jill: Wow. Too cool!
Adriane: I’ve done … There was a big wedding in Miami two years ago that I did and we had over 1,200 attendees. This is a wedding, folks, okay? [inaudible 00:10:05] 1,200 of your closest friends come see you get married and it certainly was a logistical crazy nightmare at times because myself, as well as my consultants were in charge of making sure everybody had their hotel rooms, everybody’s flight was coming in time. We had to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs.
Jill: That was my next question. Did you have to get them from A to B?
Adriane: Yeah and it was a beach wedding and of course, crisis of the day is the weather and in Miami, it can rain for a second and then be done. Well, that particular day, it rained non-stop, so of course, at 3:00 in the morning, I’m on the phone trying to find a place that was large enough to hold that many people and we ended up holding it at the Fontainebleau in Miami.
Jill: Wow. Beautiful property.
Adriane: [inaudible 00:10:56] stunning … yeah, it’s gorgeous and we actually had to get special permission to bring in an outside caterer because everything was to be on the beach and in tents and all pretty and that was all paid for and can you imagine the bill on just the catering itself?
Jill: Oh, I can’t even fathom.
Adriane: Yeah, so it ended up working out very fine.
Jill: Yeah, I’m still stuck on rounding up 1,200 people that are friends.
Adriane: Yes. Yes.
Jill: Like holy smokes! Who does that?
Adriane: It’s like herding cattle.
Jill: Oh. That’s crazy, so that had to be actually fun though, so I’m sure it was amazing and that property is absolutely beautiful so it had to have been stunning, so what are some of those events that you had that weren’t … that didn’t go the way they thought they were going to go, I guess is the easiest way to put that?
Adriane: Sure. So there was an event in New York City and it was a combination of two different non-profits and in the middle of the keynote speaker, the electricity went out.
Jill: Oh, no.
Adriane: Okay, and I’m like “Oh, dear”, and I’m like “It’s all right. It’s all right”, and meanwhile, I’m like “Oh, my gosh. What are we going to do?” It was bad enough that it went out on the keynote speaker, but the other part of it was our auction system went completely down.
Jill: Oh, no!
Adriane: Yes. Everything had handheld devices or there was an app on your phone in order to bid, and we had very high ticket items at this auction. There was over 200 auction items.
Jill: Oh, my gosh.
Adriane: And an auction of that size can yield over a million dollars.
Jill: Really? Absolutely.
Adriane: Yeah and the type of things we had there were that type of price point to get it up to that and I was like “Oh, dear. This is not good”, and the company we used, which shall remain nameless, basically had no backup plan and guess what? I didn’t either. I didn’t even think of that and I was a senior event planner, so you would think “Oh, yeah. She got it under control.” No! I didn’t, so the best of the best can still make mistakes and not have a contingency plan.
Adriane: And eventually, what we did is the hotel had a few generators and I just brought them upstairs, plugged in everything and we finished the gala and it was a huge success, but that was a little unsettling for like an hour.
Jill: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve had one or two of those where all of a sudden, you’re just sort of stuck and for a minute there, everybody just says “Well, what do we do?”
Adriane: Right. Right.
Jill: The speaker’s up there. They’re in the middle of serving dinner and I’ve had events where we’ve had kitchen staff on their lines that are actually using their phone flashlights.
Jill: And holding their flashlights trying to get everything put on these [inaudible 00:13:56].
Jill: Eventually, it all ended up actually working out well, I trust?
Adriane: It did. Yes, of course.
Jill: Cool. Okay. Do you do an awful lot of outside events, besides just the beach wedding, but do you do other outside events and [crosstalk 00:14:10]?
Adriane: Oh, absolutely.
Adriane: Yeah, I have clients out in California that really try to do most everything outside. The weather there, no matter what time of year is absolutely exquisite and so we do try to do a lot of outside events there but the good news is is you usually know when a front’s coming in, so there’s always a plan B of moving inside. It’s a little more difficult when you have 1,200 people to move inside, but if you have three or four hundred, it’s a little bit more reasonable and because of what happened in Florida specifically of that giant wedding, I always have a contingency plan A, B and C, just in case and the outside events that I’ve done range from just a beach wedding of a few people up to even a gala outside and those are always difficult because when you are literally near an ocean, whether that’s Miami or Texas or California or what have you, you always deal with wind …
Adriane: And oftentimes, it is just not safe to have things outside when the wind is really whipping because you don’t want a tent that have the wind go up underneath and then pick it up. It can happen and I’ve seen it happen … thankfully not with mine, but it can happen, and I’m … When I start seeing that wind gust very high, I’m like “Nope. We’re moving it inside.”
Jill: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I would think in California, especially with the Santa Anna winds at certain times of the year, it becomes almost impossible to be outside, so that has to create all sorts of issues going on.
Jill: Any event ever had a rumbling of an earthquake through it?
Adriane: No. Thank goodness. Knock on wood. I’m really knocking right now because I hope that never happens.
Adriane: very once in a while, you’ll feel little small, little … They call them earthquakes, but they’re very small. In California, they’re all the time, but I’ve never felt anything that was “Oh no. We’ve got a problem here, people.”
Jill: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Okay, well let’s move on from that and talk a little bit about what’s going on now because there’s so many things that are in upheaval, so many events have actually come to a stop.
Jill: So what are you seeing and what kind of changes are you making to your business to be able to accommodate all this?
Adriane: Well, the good news is is that the non-profit clients that I have and I continue to get are really focused on a lot of the emergency grants right now, so I’m doing a ton of writing.
Adriane: And thankfully, there’s been several that have been awarded, but others take a long time for a decision, even in the emerging situation we’re dealing with. We also, on Giving Tuesday, which is generally the Tuesday after Cyber Monday for non-profits, they actually are doing something on May 5th, called Giving Tuesday Now, and it’s a global event and it’s a giving event where online platforms are going crazy to get money in for non-profits that are really, really in need, so we’re all ramping up those right now and starting to do a lot of Facebook posts in regard to that and that is a lot of management on my part to actually do a social media campaign for them and each of them seem to have a different platform to use, whether it’s giving now or they’re doing … Oh, what is it called? It’s a peer to peer fundraising platform and it’s escaping me, but it’s a lot of managerial things that I need to be doing myself. [crosstalk 00:18:13]
Jill: You’re in the event business but you do an awful lot of grant writing, it seems.
Jill: That makes you really, really unique because a lot of event people don’t do that and even in working with the non-profit, the grants are so important so I didn’t realize that about you in your business. If you could expand on that a little bit, that’s hugely important for people to know.
Adriane: Yes. Grant writing is really important for really anybody to be able to know, whether you’re a non-profit or a for-profit, because a lot of for-profits can get money from the National Institute of Health. That’s one of the biggest ones that are out there. Now that’s a federal grant. Those take days and hours to do because there is a multiple choice as it were, part of it in the beginning and then there’s a yes and no part of it and then there’s the narrative and the narrative is pages upon pages upon pages that you have to fill out and you have to be very consistent in how you fill it out.
Adriane: Make sure that you answer the questions exactly the same on each page. You consistently stay with the same theme. Those are really hard to do and like I said, they take hours to do, but the return on those, especially for non-profits sometimes is in the millions.
Jill: Yeah. Yeah.
Adriane: And they’re multiple years.
Jill: I wanted to take a chance, just answer how can people get in touch with you, in particular if they’re looking to not only do their event but do the grant writing thing and then we’ll come back to finish the question, but how can they get in [inaudible 00:19:47]?
Adriane: Sure. Sure. My cell phone number is 412-913-1494 and my email address is Adriane A-D-R-I-A-N-E at wishhopedreams dot com. Make sure you put the S on dreams because sometimes people don’t and then they don’t get in touch with me.
Jill: Okay. Good. Okay. I just wanted to make sure the people that they only see parts of this talk that we get that information out there. That’s really, really important. Okay. Let’s go back and finish that conversation.
Adriane: Sure. Of course and a lot of the grant writing for … yeah, especially in Pittsburgh are … I’m writing to Hillman Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, R.K. Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Endowments. Those are some of the biggest ones here in Pittsburgh, so I’m doing a lot of writing to them right now.
Jill: That would absolutely make sense. On the event side, what are you seeing there with where things are?
Adriane: Tons of events are canceling versus postponing because … even the weddings. I’ve lost 40 weddings already and some of them are postponing them to a date later on in the year, but it’s really hard to know exactly when things are going to start opening up, so you really hate for them to postpone it now to June, July, August because we really don’t know where we’re going to be sitting at those times.
Adriane: So I am encouraging them to try to think about 2021, because we don’t know exactly what the Covid-19 virus is [crosstalk 00:21:29].
Jill: Right. Right.
Adriane: We don’t know if there’s going to be a rebound of it. Once things start to calm down, things start opening back up, people are going out that are infected that don’t know they’re infected?
Adriane: Is that going to cause the rebound effect and people get sick again and then hence, we’re going to be shut down again.
But non-profit events, some have postponed them until later on, November, December, but the problem is when you postpone them to a date in November, December, you’re talking about Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa. You’re getting into the holiday season and that almost prohibits you from getting the audience that you want.
Jill: That’s right and some of the things that we’re starting to see as well is that events are beginning to stack up on one another.
Jill: So that is sort of creating this sandwich which is going to split those people into where they’re going to go and how they’re feeling about which non-profit event they want to go to, so that’s an issue too.
Adriane: Yeah. It actually already happens in Pittsburgh. You have March, April, May, which about 70 to 75% of the galas in Pittsburgh are held. You’re dealing with the Friday night, Saturday night, Thursday night, some on Sunday even and they are already doing that, trying to decide which on they’re going to, but then you push everybody into the last quarter of the year. It’s going to be crazy!
Jill: It’s going to be nuts. Yeah, I fully expect that most of us will be running around with our hair on fire in the second half of the year because it’s just all of a sudden, bam! Here we are.
Jill: Listen, if I could have you just explain once or twice more how people can get in touch with you and your website and all that sort of stuff.
Jill: Because you are just a huge source of not only inspiration to event planners who can look at you and see what you’re doing and how you built your business, your level of professionalism which is absolutely awesome and even in this amount of time, people look at their event person as “Help us. We don’t know where we are”, and so you’re one of those folks I always look to as being out there and just solidly on top of it, even if below the water, [inaudible 00:23:41] thousand miles an hour, but on the surface, cool, calm and professional. It’s so cool, so if you could list just a few minutes about your … how to get in touch with you again, that would be so good.
Adriane: Sure. My website is wishhopedreams.com and when you go on there, you’re going to see … immediately comes up of course, my picture and it talks a little bit about what I do as far as the non-profit and events, but then you can also … There’s a huge wedding section that you can go to as well and I work with every budget. Don’t think that I’m going to charge you X amount of money because you need a full year of planning.
Adriane: I need you to be honest and come to me and essentially say “Hey. I have this budget. This is what I need to stick with. What can you do?” Like I said, I work with every budget. That’s the same thing with non-profits. They have a budget that they must stick with, large or small, and everything in between. I have to work with each and every budget that’s available out there, so please, if you think “Oh, my gosh. She’ll never be able to help me because I only have X amount to spend.” No.
Adriane: Don’t think that way. Call me. I’ll work with you and my phone number is 412-913-1494 and my email is Adriane, A-D-R-I-A-N-E @wishhopedreams.com.
Jill: Awesome. I just wanted to thank you so much for coming in and chatting with us today. I know that we’ll see so much of you in the future going forward because this is a really pretty exciting time to be an event person.
Jill: And I just wanted to wish you the very best and thank you so much for coming on!
Adriane: And thank you for having me.
Jill: You’re very welcome. You take care! We’ll talk soon.
Adriane: Thank you. Bye.
Jill: Bye, bye.