Jill Kummer: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Event Technique, and Eventsberg. And this is a chance for you to meet one of the coolest meeting planners slash event planners that I know. Her name is Ashley Kurkiewicz, and she has a marvelous company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Hello Productions. So welcome to you Ashley. How’ve you been?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Good, good, thank you.
Jill Kummer: Good. We’re going to actually start by having you tell us a little bit of your history and a little bit about how you got into what you’re doing now and just have at it.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Okay. Well my background actually… I went to school for advertising and marketing. And working in the marketing field for many years, events played into that. And that’s where my love for events began. That was definitely more on the business side with corporate and nonprofit, and that eventually led to weddings and social events. So, now our business is focused a lot on the wedding and social side, but we also still work on the business side with the corporate and nonprofit organizations.
Jill Kummer: Wow. Okay. So you’ve been now doing… Do you do things like destination weddings and things like that?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: We can do destination weddings. But I would we target more in the city of Pittsburgh area, the outlying areas and then we also have an office in Raleigh, North Carolina. So the triangle areas.
Jill Kummer: Oh, okay. I spent a number of years in Charlotte, so I’m relatively familiar with where you’re at. It’s pretty up there.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Yeah.
Jill Kummer: Oh. That’s cool, okay. So when you’re putting together… I’m trying to figure out how to phrase this correctly. So, basically you’re handling everything from soup to nuts when you put together an event, and right now primarily weddings, does that sound right?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Yes.
Jill Kummer: Okay. So what made you land on weddings versus everything else? To me that sounds like it’s one of the most high stress things you could ever want to do.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Yeah, it is. I think it just happened, that a lot of companies have somebody internally who was handling their holiday parties or their corporate meetings. And so, people were starting to not outsource that as much. So for me, weddings, unless you’ve been married before, you don’t typically you a plan to wedding. So, where do you go for that? And people just start typing in wedding planner Pittsburgh, we show up. And so they found us online, and from there you build a reputation, you work with a lot of vendors in the industry. And it is an industry where everybody’s very tight knit. So, the word gets out and the relationships build and people, once they hear your name and you have good reviews, they spread the word.
Jill Kummer: Basically, what you do that is more word of mouth than it is actually advertising or anything like that?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: It’s both. They definitely find us online. So through Google, we advertise with The Knot and WeddingWire, they look at all of our reviews. We’ve won a few, several awards actually, we’ve been in business for 12 years now. So, they do start to look there, but then from when they find us, they do the research and they talk to other vendors and just make sure that you check out.
Jill Kummer: I can’t imagine the stress that must be involved with doing that, but it has to be fun.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: It is, it’s very rewarding. And I would say the weddings are in particular rewarding because you’re working so closely with them for a year or more, and you’re meeting their family members and their close knit circle. And their wedding, they’re going to remember that. They’ll have pictures from it and it’s a very important day in their lives.
Jill Kummer: That is so cool. We oftentimes get asked [inaudible 00:04:14] like to have Pittsburgh, if we did weddings. And I thought, Oh my gosh, no, I don’t think so.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Yeah. But that’s why it’s so fun because they’re all different, and everyone’s personality is different. So…
Jill Kummer: Do you end up working as their favorite photographers and such that you have, or do you have people on staff?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: We don’t have photographers on staff, but we do have vendors that we tend to work with again and again. Because we worked with clients who are typically in a budget range, and the photographers we work with are also in that range. Which doesn’t mean we can’t work with other photographers, it just happens to be that way. And the styles… a lot of our clients tend to like certain styles.
Jill Kummer: Okay. That kind of cool, because I don’t really know a whole lot about that end of the business. So, that’s pretty neat. What were some of your most memorable events? The things that really stood out. Not the best necessarily, but the ones that you came away going, wow, that was awesome.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Well for weddings, if they tie in any sort of personal elements. We’ve had grooms on stage with the band singing or playing, anything that’s a surprise and showcases their talent and their uniqueness, that’s always really cool. Any event with a band. We love our DJs also, but it livens the place up. It’s very interactive, so those are always really fun too. On the nonprofit side, I worked with hospitals on their galas and those are always really large events and they’re for a good cause. And you always hear these uplifting stories, and I think those ones are really fun too.
Jill Kummer: That was always one of the coolest things about our time with nonprofits, is you came away with such amazing stories of people and things they’ve been through and stuff. And you just get home at the end of an event and go, wow, that was just nuts. You really learn a lot.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Yeah.
Jill Kummer: So, really, really fun. On the wedding side, are there DJ’s that you… DJ’s aren’t all the same by any stretch. So, are there ones that are specifically geared towards weddings?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: I wouldn’t say necessarily geared towards weddings, but there are some who the MC part of the job is a big focus for them. So, if a couple really wants the DJ to talk a lot and to be incorporating their personality into the story of introducing a bridal party or something like that, then we pair those DJs with that couple. Now some couples don’t want a lot of talking or an MC. So, that’s when we would focus on a different kind of DJ.
Jill Kummer: Okay.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Also, depending on what kind of music they like. Some people are very specific, and some people are more like, Hey, you can read the crowd. You know what is best to get people up on their feet. So it’s just-
Jill Kummer: Oh my gosh how fun, that has to be nuts. What are some of the more memorable or unforgettable events in terms of wow, the weather crashed everything and it was horrible and things like that. Have you got any of those in the back of your mind?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Oh, yeah. So, Pittsburgh is known for its rainy weather. And even though that’s the case, people will still really want to have these outdoor weddings. And we always recommend having a tent as a backup plan or just to have regardless, because you never know. We’ve definitely had weddings, typically it’s when they’ve been on their land or in their backyard. Where you plan for things and sometimes even with tent, the rain comes in, it’s all over the floor. If it’s really hot outside there’s bugs, and you have to think about all of those things. So, I would say the outdoor elements have been our hardest thing for us. So, whenever we’re planning a wedding that might be outdoors at a residence, we certainly try to get involved working with them at the very beginning so that all of those things are set in place.
Jill Kummer: That makes sense. In that vein, are there specific caterers as such, that you like to work with? Oh oh, I think I lost you.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: So it depends on the venue. So some venues, either they cater in house or you have a list of Peters to choose from. Some people if it is in their backyard or another venue that’s a free for all, they’ll bring in a caterer of their choice. But typically, we work with certain ones.
Jill Kummer: A lot of the big trend I’m seeing on Pinterest, believe it or not, is barns. Have you done things in barns and things like that?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Yes. So, that trend’s been going on for a few years. And in being in the south myself, that’s definitely all the go everywhere. But even in Pittsburgh, and a lot of venues have actually been created from old farms or just old residences, buildings. And it’s very fitting, couples love it. They’re a little bit outside of the city, so they have to be okay with that. But it is kind of cool. It definitely makes our job a little bit harder because again, we have to make sure that you have all the things in place that you need. Because it’s not necessarily an accommodating venue like a hotel, but it is a unique experience for the guests.
Jill Kummer: Yeah, the pictures always look wonderful. And given that I’m not in the wedding planner business, I always wonder if it ends up looking, at the end of it, just like that. And you get it all set up and it’s perfect and I’m like, wow, it’s amazing.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Well that’s our job to make it look like that.
Jill Kummer: That was my next question. Now you’re out there buying baby’s breath and all sorts of crazy things to decorate the inside of a barn, it’s like wow. But the premise sounds really cool and the pictures are beautiful. So. That’s really good. Talk to me a little bit about what some of the changes are that you have made. Oh oh, my dog, seeing the deer. Some of the changes that you’ve made in the business to accommodate what’s going on now.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: So, we have a team in Pittsburgh and we [inaudible 00:11:15] you how calls and check-ins and now you’ve been doing that more frequently. So, every week we try to check in, go through all of our clients and see where they’re are. If they’ve thought about rescheduling, this keeps changing week by week. So, we’re really trying to stay on top of the news. We’re trying to talk to other people in the industry in Pittsburgh and other cities, because each state is also different. But yeah, it’s pretty much just being really open with the clients and telling them this might go on beyond even the end of summer into the fall. If you have a 200 person wedding, that might not be able to happen for quite a while. So, we’re just trying to keep open communication channels.
Jill Kummer: We started to see a number of organizations begin to stack events, lots and lots of events now that we’re March, April, may. Done being shoved into July, August, September.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: A lot of people, July and August, they know it’s so up in the air that that’s actually happening for September. And October, which in the wedding industry that’s the busiest time of the year anyways. So-
Jill Kummer: Is it really?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: You add on… It is, yeah. You add on top of that, people now booking on Fridays and Sundays. That we’re supposed to get married in the spring or the summer. Our policy is always… we have a coordinator focused on one wedding per weekend. Because there’s so many moving parts, you can’t piece it with numerous weddings throughout the weekend. At least have one planner. So, we’re really trying to make sure we balance that when we’re talking to these clients who are rescheduling. And a lot of them, some are rescheduling for 2021
Jill Kummer: Well that was my next question. Are you seeing a lot of them just moving to next year?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: We are actually starting to recommend that.
Jill Kummer: Wow, okay.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: We weren’t, but the longer this goes on and how many times do you want to reschedule as a bride? It’s so stressful to plan a wedding anyways. Even with a planner, there’s so many moving parts that if you have to continuously reschedule, it’s a little disheartening. So, whatever works best for them, but we are, obviously trying to give them the best plan.
Jill Kummer: Yeah. In light of that, are you keeping in touch with them? And I’m assuming that you probably are, but how often are you keeping in touch with people that have events and weddings and such booked? Are they calling you every week, or is it more like you don’t hear from them? I’m intrigued.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: I would say on a weekly basis or biweekly, just because things are changing so much and we’re getting new information. It’s heartbreaking, but that’s what we’re there for. It’s just hard that we also don’t have an exact answer. But we understand we’re here for them, we’re working with them, we’re their sounding board. And-
Jill Kummer: Cool.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: We can.
Jill Kummer: How can people get in touch with you? What’s the easiest way?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Well, they can visit our website, Helloproductions.com. You can email me at Ashley@helloproductions.com. All of our contact information though, is also on the website and a contact on there as well.
Jill Kummer: Excellent.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: And we are on social media. We have a great Instagram following and we’re very active on there, Facebook, Twitter. So please visit our social media.
Jill Kummer: Oh, I’ll bet some awesome photographs, so like weddings and all that kind of cool stuff. What else do you have coming up in the future? Anything really cool going on? Some really neat events you want to talk about or promote?
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Well we do annual golf outings in Pennsylvania and also down here in North Carolina, they’re nonprofits. That might be something that, if you’re a nonprofit organization, usually have an indoor event. You really want to have an event in the fall and not quite sure what’s going to be happening. That may be the safest bet, and they’re really fun and you can raise money that way.
Jill Kummer: okay.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: You can go outside, down here the golf courses have not closed at all. So….
Jill Kummer: Wow.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: You can do an outdoor golf tournament, you can have the dinner outside. You could do all of that still keeping your social distance. And they are fun, they’re really fun.
Jill Kummer: Yeah, that has to be cool. Here in Pennsylvania they’ve closed all the golf courses.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: I heard that. Hopefully they’ll open soon.
Jill Kummer: A lot of open space, I’m not quite sure, but okay. Where you are, you have much longer seasons, so you can do an awful lot of things outside.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Right?
Jill Kummer: You know, which is also really cool. Which is also really cool. So, I’m going to have you one more time, tell everybody how to get in touch with you so that they can find you.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Yeah. [inaudible 00:16:34] helloproductions.com, or email me at Aashley@helloproductions.com.
JillKummer: Awesome, okay. I did want to take the opportunity to thank you so much for coming and talking a little bit about all of this. And we want to make sure that we send some folks to your direction because you’re doing cool stuff, and we definitely liked that. So, thank you so much for being here today. We sincerely appreciate it.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Thank you, thank you.
Jill Kummer: Alright, thanks. We’ll talk to you soon.
Ashley Kurkiewicz: Bye.