Jill: All right. There we go. Hi, everybody. This is Jill with The Event Technique and Eventsburgh, and we are doing some really cool interviews with various meeting planners and event people across the United States. And today, we are lucky enough to be talking with Ginny Fujino, who is the head of Blacktie South Florida. And welcome, Ginny. It’s good to see you.
Ginny Fujino: Nice to see you too.
Jill: Thanks. Hopefully, everything in your neck of the woods is going well, and it’s bright and sunny and nice even though you can’t really get out.
Ginny Fujino: Yeah, it’s hot. Yesterday, it was in the 90s. Today, it’s in the 80s.
Ginny Fujino: We need rain. We haven’t had enough rain.
Jill: You can have some of what we’ve had up here in Pennsylvania, dreadful, yikes. So anyway, today, I just wanted to take some time and talk with you a little bit about sort of how you got into the business and what prompted you to get involved with nonprofits, and how did you start?
Ginny Fujino: Well, I’ll give you a little background on Ginny Fujino. I have held two hats. I’ve worn two hats. One is in special events, and one is in construction build and design, and I think they all had the same kind of steps. You have a plan. You put the plan together. You have the event. In the construction business, you get the CO, certificate of occupancy. When event planning, you have the event, and you hopefully make money, and you hope it’s a success.
Ginny Fujino: And I’ve always loved working with nonprofits, and I worked with a few like the National Quarterback Club, Coach Shula Cancer Foundation he opened for his wife. I’ve worked with The Orange Bowl Committee. I’ve worked with the Lipton tennis on all their events for their major advertisers and supporters like Rolex and Adidas and Reebok and all those people that supported the Lipton, which is now the Miami Open.
Ginny Fujino: So, I guess, sorry, keep my hands off my face. I guess when I became single, and at that time before I became single, I had my own special event company. Well, events are either feast or famine. You have your busy time, and then you have your not so busy time. Well, I needed to get back into another business, like the construction build, design, so I worked for EXPO Design Center.
Ginny Fujino: In that process, I heard about Blacktie Cleveland and a woman that started Blacktie Cleveland. And I said, “Oh, my gosh, this would be great.” And so, I contacted Kenton from Blacktie Colorado and asked him about how I could become involved. And I thought it was a great opportunity because then, I could support not just one, two, three, or four nonprofits. I could support many, many, many nonprofits. And he came to Florida, and we had a group of people come to meet him and stuff. And then, he offered me the franchise. So, I’ve been doing it since 2006. So, that’s how I met you.
Jill: That’s right. Actually, you started I think a couple of years after me. We started in 2004.
Ginny Fujino: You were a huge mentor to me.
Jill: Oh, shoot. Thank you.
Ginny Fujino: You gave me lots of advice and leadership, and I’m always so happy that I got to know you.
Jill: Oh, well, thanks. I’m glad I got to come down and see you and some of the events that you were doing. That was a lot of fun. Lot of fun. Yeah, it’s oftentimes really interesting how everybody kind of wanders through things until they land on nonprofits, and all of a sudden, wow, this is really super cool, really, super cool. So now, what kind of events are you doing either with Blacktie or independently?
Ginny Fujino: Well, right now-
Jill: Well, not right now this second, but in general.
Ginny Fujino: Oh, no. Kids In Distress, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, Arc, which is a school for special needs kids that has a culinary school, a lot of nonprofits that… Some of the smaller nonprofits need my tools more than maybe the larger ones because they only have one or two people on their staff. The larger ones have a lot of people.
Ginny Fujino: I work with a lot of PR people because they want me to support their… They write the newsletters, and they support the nonprofits. And I’m not a writer. I take photos, and I depend on them, but then I do a newsletter like every two to four weeks to about 10,000 people, which lists the upcoming events for the next two weeks. But that brings people back to my website, and that helps support the nonprofits that have events coming up.
Ginny Fujino: Also, as you know, Jill, when somebody puts an event on the Blacktie calendar, I have over 6,000 people signed up to receive a notification about the event. So, that really, really helps. And the photos I take is very important with the marketing and PR, and people love to have their picture taken.
Jill: So, are you just in Miami, or what area does South Florida actually-
Ginny Fujino: No, Broward, Dade, Palm Beach, and Key West area.
Jill: Wow, that’s a lot of ground to cover.
Ginny Fujino: Right. But most of my members I’ll say are in the Broward area and the Broward County because that’s just been my concentration at this point.
Jill: Have you started to see… Yeah, no, your season runs differently than a lot of other parts of the country in that you’re really busy in that December, January, February.
Ginny Fujino: I’m busy starting in September through May.
Ginny Fujino: Yeah, so I have a lot… It slows down the middle of December and into January. But after that, it picks up.
Jill: Yeah. So, are you starting to see in your neck of the woods events begin to stack on one another now?
Ginny Fujino: Well, I taught my members to look at the calendar because as a member, you can go backwards and you can see what everybody had on their calendar in January of 2013, so that people don’t step on each other. But it happens once in a while. Yeah. And the biggest thing is, is people are getting more and more comfortable with looking backwards to see what events were done. And I think the event calendars on Blacktie South Florida is very important so that people can see, and you can even see where events have been added for the upcoming months.
Jill: Yeah. That was my next question. Are you starting to see more of the events that have been canceled now and are postponed February, March, April, now being shoved to the summer, or are they going to next fall?
Ginny Fujino: Only a couple went to June, and I have a feeling those might change. A lot of them have gone to September and October.
Jill: Okay. Yeah, that’s-
Ginny Fujino: And some of them are during the week instead of on the weekend, so they’re not jumping on events that have happened year after year after year on a Friday night or on a Saturday night.
Jill: Yeah. When you’re working with some of the nonprofits, how are you encouraging them to keep in touch with people? Because of course, they need the event coming up, but then are they doing anything else to keep in touch?
Ginny Fujino: Well, again, one of the tools that Blacktie has is that from past events, they can download all the emails to their email blast site on Blacktie, and therefore, they can send a e-blast to people that have attended in the past. Because a lot of times, those people that have attended in the past are so busy they don’t look at the calendar on Blacktie, but when they get a notification from the nonprofit support, then that goes, “Oh, my gosh. Yeah, they have an event coming up.”
Jill: Okay, cool. Okay, it’s always fun to go back just briefly and look at what you thought one of your best events was. These are usually pretty easy. Most people are pretty proud of the event that they’ve worked on that really just was fabulous. So, what was one of your favorites?
Ginny Fujino: That I actually worked on myself, yeah, was the National Quarterback Club benefiting the Shula Cancer Foundation, again, that he set up for his wife. And it was fun to see Coach Shula and Wayne Huizenga, who has since passed away, at the event and the number one and number two quarterback from every football team, NFL, AFL, were at the event at the Doral Country Club. And it was just a great event. And I mean, they raised some really nice money.
Jill: Oh, I can’t imagine. The money had to be crazy.
Ginny Fujino: I was so honored to work with the National Quarterback Club. I don’t know what they’re doing right now because it’s been a few years ago. But yeah, for me, it was pretty amazing seeing all these football players, quarterbacks.
Jill: Yeah. That had to be cool. [crosstalk 00:10:22]
Ginny Fujino: Oh, yeah.
Jill: Really really fun.
Ginny Fujino: Guy was taking photos, and I tried to photo bomb a couple, but. And we honored Jim Kelly. You know Jim.
Jill: Yeah, I do. He’s actually from this neck of the woods. I’m trying to think where it was. I think east… I was going to say East Brady, but no, I don’t think that’s it. But somewhere in Western Pennsylvania. So yeah, very cool guy, very highly revered.
Ginny Fujino: Yeah. And they honored him that night.
Jill: Oh, how neat. That had to be fun.
Ginny Fujino: Anyway, and then you want to know the worst one, huh?
Jill: Yeah. The worst ones are the ones that are just like, oh, gosh, you don’t even want to think about them, but you always learn from them.
Ginny Fujino: Well, oh, gosh.
Jill: But don’t name names. That’s okay.
Ginny Fujino: I won’t. Mine are great because I kind of have a proud pat myself on the back that I haven’t had a really bad event.
Jill: That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
Ginny Fujino: I’m serious. When I got that question from you to review, I’m going, “What should I say?”
Jill: [crosstalk 00:11:23]
Ginny Fujino: I mean, I’ve done the Barry Gibb Love and Hope Tennis Festival. That was awesome. I’ve done for juvenile diabetes, and that was a good one. I mean, it was a lot of work.
Ginny Fujino: And the people, I won’t say know their names, but the people I was working with, basically, I did all the work, and they patted themselves on the back. Maybe, that’s one of the worst then. What do you think?
Jill: Sometimes, that’s really hard when you really work for an organization, and all of a sudden it’s like, wait a minute. So, that can be frustrating, and sometimes too, you come away with really great stories and some-
Ginny Fujino: No, no. It was great.
Jill: … enlightening things.
Ginny Fujino: I invited some friends to come to the tennis part of it, and two of my friends loved to moon people. They are the most amazing couple. They are so cute. I mean, and they mooned my mom. [crosstalk 00:12:25]
Jill: Oh, my gosh. At the event? Good heavens.
Ginny Fujino: So, that was fun. [crosstalk 00:12:31]
Jill: Oh, my gosh. That sounds crazy.
Ginny Fujino: I hope I’m not R-rating this interview.
Jill: No, no, I think we’re fine. I think we’ll be good. I’m sure there are people that have stories that are far worse than that. If that’s the worst thing that’s ever happened, I think you’re probably pretty fortunate.
Ginny Fujino: Yeah.
Jill: Yeah, I think over the last dozen years or so with Blacktie, we’ve pretty much seen everything. There wasn’t much left that we missed.
Ginny Fujino: Oh, you’re probably right, Jill. For sure.
Jill: They were crazy. So now, let’s shift gears a little bit to the environment now. How are you working with your nonprofits to get them ready for when everything actually opens back up again and then it’s off to the races?
Ginny Fujino: Well, the biggest thing right now that I’m trying to do is the people that had to cancel their events, a lot of times, it was because… It was not going to let have people being so close together that I’m saying, “Okay, everybody who signed up for this event, don’t ask for your money back because instead of getting a drink and some food for $75, you can contribute that as a donation to the nonprofit.” So, I’m trying to make it work for the nonprofit that had to cancel.
Ginny Fujino: And in some cases, some of the nonprofits are doing, whereas food and beverage, all different restaurants are there serving food. The restaurants are closed now, so they can’t even do it. They can’t even have the event because they can’t expect the restaurant to come and serve to 500 people their food. So, I’m asking people to, okay, you were planning on coming to an event. It’s been canceled, and a lot of it has to do with food and beverage. Why don’t you donate what you would’ve paid or something close to what you would have paid? I’m using $75 as one, but some of them are like $250. They could just donate $125 to the nonprofit, and that could still help the nonprofit through their bad times.
Jill: Yeah. Actually, that’s really a good idea. At this point, I think people sort of just don’t really understand how important those donations are to the nonprofit. One of the things that we’ve been telling a lot of folks is that you need to continually keep in touch with your donor base and your vendors and your sponsors so that they don’t think you’ve gone to ground and disappeared. So, that’s something that’s really, I think, people have a tough time doing because it involves money and people are always uncomfortable having that discussion, but-
Ginny Fujino: And I’m finding that there are so many people, especially on Facebook, trying to reach out for a donation, and I’m not saying anything bad about it. I don’t blame them, but I’m encouraging my members to reach out and say, “Listen, sorry, we can’t have the event. If you were planning on coming and you didn’t want to pay the $75 or $150, please donate something to our cause.”
Jill: Yeah. I understand that. Have you seen any that have actually changed the format to their events?
Ginny Fujino: Not yet, no.
Jill: [crosstalk 00:16:02] All in.
Ginny Fujino: No, no.
Jill: Kind of in a holding pattern.
Ginny Fujino: Yeah, they’re in a holding pattern. So, I mean, the ones that have changed their dates, June was one of my events. Then, they changed it to September, and it’s at Seminole Hard Rock. Well, Seminole Hard Rock is closed right now.
Ginny Fujino: Yeah, it’s going to be a hot [inaudible 00:16:25] I don’t know when it’s going to open. I hope things get better. But it’s still out there, sweetie.
Jill: Well, hopefully, it’s not going to be close too much longer because I just can’t see that going, but at the time that it would ordinarily open, probably June-ish, end of May, June, you’re going into your slow season, is that right?
Ginny Fujino: Right. But my biggest thing is for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same nationwide, many nonprofits are putting together their budgets for July for their new fiscal year. And so, I’m going to concentrate really, really hard on June and end of May trying to make sure I’m in their budget. Even if I have to give them a discount, I’m sorry. I have to.
Jill: Well, how can people get a hold of you now? So, why don’t you let us know the name of the website and email so they can get in touch with you and a phone?
Ginny Fujino: Okay. Okay, my phone number is (954) 707-2970, and my website is blacktie-southflorida.com.
Jill: And South Florida is all one word.
Ginny Fujino: And my email is kind of long. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ginny Fujino: And I’m actually working with an auctioneer, who is a great auctioneer and very well known in the whole state of Florida, may be using our auction software because for events that were canceled. And they had all these auction items, and they would like to go ahead and put them up and sell them on an auction.
Jill: Oh, that’s cool. Okay.
Ginny Fujino: I’m trying hard, Jill.
Jill: That’s actually a really great way to still have people involved. At least they can come and see the site and know that people are still out there doing things and still looking for support and such for the nonprofits. So, that’s hugely important. So, tell me what else you got going on. Anything fun coming up? Maybe June, July, maybe?
Ginny Fujino: Maybe a martini at 5:00.
Jill: Yeah, something like that, something like that.
Ginny Fujino: No, because I’ll say it, I’m 74 years old, and I’m not supposed to be out anywhere.
Jill: You don’t look 74 at all.
Ginny Fujino: I’m not supposed to be going anywhere.
Jill: Yeah, that’s actually very true.
Ginny Fujino: The only thing I do is go to the grocery store and the drug store, but otherwise, I’m trying to behave.
Jill: That’s good. That’s good.
Ginny Fujino: I’m doing my social distancing. I Zoomed with my grandkids the other day, and I Zoomed with LLS, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I Zoomed with them on a Friday night happy hour, but it was fun just to catch up with all the people that I’m on the committee. My brother is a lymphoma survivor, so I am very passionate about that organization. So, I’m on the committee, so it was good to see the people on the committee, and we had to hold up our favorite drink.
Jill: Oh, cool. That is one of the hardest things I think for all of us that deal with events and organizations is to not be able to see everybody. And Google Hangouts and Zoom and all that sort of stuff is cool, but it’s like, all right, well, enough of this, we need to get back to actually having events and doing stuff. So, it’s really kind of hard to sit idle and know that everybody’s sort of just standing in place, waiting for [crosstalk 00:20:21]
Ginny Fujino: Well, I mean, this time of year, I’m so used to being busy and out there and at events. And I take a lot of my own photos because it’s my way of networking and my way of seeing people out and about. And even going out for having a cocktail or lunch with friends, can’t do that. So, I’m not very good at being static. I like to be electrical…
Jill: Yeah, I think most of us fall into that same category where it’s like, “Oh, gee whiz, what are we doing today?” We’re used to running with our hair on fire. And all of a sudden, now that’s not happening. So well, hopefully, by early summer, things will open up a little bit, and we’ll be a little more on the road to getting things back to whatever the new normal is going to be, which-
Ginny Fujino: And by the way, I love your book.
Jill: Oh, thank you. Thank you. That was fun. Actually, a lot of cool information in there. Most of it-
Ginny Fujino: I wish I had about 30 of them. [inaudible 00:21:27] Nonprofits.
Jill: My experience from having dealt with so many nonprofits over the years, it’s always cool to work with them. And then sometimes, you run into them where they had a great event. It was a lot of fun. Everybody loved it, and they made no money. You’re like, “Wow, guys, what happened here?” And it’s interesting, and we’re lucky being in Blacktie for so long to be able to watch those unfold at like 50,000 feet, say, “Okay, well, we think you should be doing this.” And then sometimes, they listen, and sometimes, not so much. But it’s really interesting to see how it’s unfolded over the years. Let’s shift back to photography for a minute. Are you working with other photographers that work for you?
Ginny Fujino: Most of the time, I do them. It’s only when I have a duplicate or two events at the same time that I get another photographer that will do it. But I do almost all mine.
Jill: Oh, that’s awesome. That’s good. And actually, that’s a really good way too for the organization to get to know you and to see the quality of your work and what you’re doing and how you can relate with their guests, which is also really super important.
Ginny Fujino: Right, and then, there are a couple photographers out there that come to the same events that I’m at, and we get along really well. So, it’s nice to work side-by-side with them, and I miss them right now.
Jill: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Ginny Fujino: I miss those great guys.
Jill: When you go to photograph an event, do you have a list of people that you need to photograph? I mean, you’re usually there longer than most reporters would be, for example. So, do you have people that you need to get pictures of?
Ginny Fujino: Yeah, I mean, usually, I have a connection at the event, somebody who I go to see. And they’ll give me a piece of paper on who they want pictures taken. And part of mine is I don’t take a lot of just candid shots. I usually do setup shots and stuff like that. And one of my things is if a girl in a strapless dress hugs two people, I go, “You can’t do that. You’re a head and a chest and no arms.” And I make the guys button their jackets and things like that so that they’re proud of the photo they see when I posted them on Blacktie.
Jill: Yeah, actually, that’s very true.
Ginny Fujino: There’s a couple of people that I’ve known forever since I started Blacktie, and they say, “Okay, here comes Ginny. Put your drink down. Button your jackets,” because they know me. They know I want to make sure that they look good.
Jill: That’s good though.
Ginny Fujino: And then, I want to make sure that if they’re doing presentations to awardees and stuff like that, that’s really important for me to get those photos because [crosstalk 00:24:26]
Jill: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Some of those pictures when you take them or when we would take them as well, we’d get phone calls back later, “Don’t post that.” I’m like, “Okay, I don’t need to know the background story, but I do understand you don’t want me to post that, and that’s cool.” But yeah, it is fascinating. And it’s hard when people are in that party mode, and they don’t really want to put their drink down and that sort of thing. So, there’s some pictures that we’ve taken over the years where they’ve had drinks or whatever, but it’s like, I don’t think you want it out there. That’s going to look-
Ginny Fujino: And I don’t like name tags.
Jill: I beg your pardon?
Ginny Fujino: I don’t like name tags, those great big white name tags. I mean, and the camera seems to focus in on those name tags, but they all know my rules, almost anybody because… It’s funny.
Jill: Actually, that’s really good though because that way, you get great shots, and the organization is pleased with them, and the people are pleased with them. So nobody-
Ginny Fujino: Can I tell you kind of a funny story?
Ginny Fujino: I was taking photos at the Winterfest Boat Parade. They give out like a hundred awards. And I take photos. There’s two of us, two photographers, and part of them go to the right, and part of them go to the left where I’m setting up. Well, I’ll take their name tag off because it’s usually a stick one, and I’ll put it on my butt.
Ginny Fujino: And somebody that was behind me at a table took a picture of me with all the name tags stuck to my butt.
Jill: Oh, no. That’s not good. Hope that didn’t go anywhere.
Ginny Fujino: So.
Jill: Oh, that’s too funny. So tell me, what other things you have coming up for the fall because most of those are probably still in place? Am I correct?
Ginny Fujino: Well, so far, but a couple of my major events that were supposed to be in May and June have moved to the fall. So far, they haven’t conflicted with any other nonprofit or any other big events. So, I’m just waiting. I still have one event on May 29th. It’s a golf event that is still going on, so we’ll see. Yeah, we’ll see if they do it.
Jill: Do you do any other events? Do you do weddings or anything like that?
Ginny Fujino: I’ve done a couple, and I do private photography with me doing the photographs, like for private parties and birthdays. I’ve done a couple weddings. Weddings make me nervous.
Jill: Really, okay. I would imagine…
Ginny Fujino: Yeah. I always remember when before we had these photos where you can put a card into your computer and download them, and I sent photos of my kids to Kodak to get them, what do you call it, developed. Guess what? They lost them. Well then, they were gone because I could never do it again. So, I always have a fear if I goofed on the wedding. So, I’ve done a couple weddings, but I always had a backup photographer with me that took photos too. I would hate to lose those pictures.
Jill: I have never done any sort of wedding planning at all. I would imagine the pressure is enormous, just enormous, and heaven help you if you lose the photographs. Good grief.
Ginny Fujino: Oh, my God. Yeah, that would be awful.
Jill: Not good. Okay, well, I’m going to have you tell everybody where they can find you and get in touch with you. If you could give us the website again and-
Ginny Fujino: Again, you can call me at (954) 707-2970, and you can email me at email@example.com.
Ginny Fujino: And my website is blacktie-southflorida.com.
Jill: Awesome. Okay, very cool. Well, listen, thank you so much for spending some time with me today and going over some of these things that are just kind of out there that people need to be aware of. And so hopefully, we can bring a little awareness to what you’re doing. And hopefully, things are going well in South Florida. That’d be cool.
Ginny Fujino: Thank you, Jill, and thank you for all your support over these years. I appreciate it.
Jill: Oh, you’re so very welcome. All right, we’ll see you. Thank you.
Ginny Fujino: Okay, bye.