Earlier this month we hosted our first Career Connect event of the fall semester. We were honored to welcome two very successful wedding and event planners – Luanna Cole of The Plantation House in Pflugerville, Texas and Rachel Hollis of Chic Events based in Los Angeles, CA. Event planning and hospitality are two industries that our students have become very interested in lately. As two seasoned and successful entrepreneurs and veterans of the wedding and event industries, Luanna and Rachel brought lots of stories, wisdom, advice and encouraging words to our students.

Luanna and her husband, Norris, has been owner/operators of The Plantation House for 17 years, having hosted over 700 weddings, receptions and corporate events at their venue. Rachel begin Chic Events almost 8 years ago in her basement and has planned and styled weddings, corporate events and parties for various celebrities, motion picture studios, non-profit organizations and magazines. She was named one of  Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs in 2008.

Event Planning panel featuring Luanna Cole (L) and Rachel Hollis (Center)

We sat down with two students who attended the event. Calli is a sophomore journalism and mass communication major from Carrollton; Kelsey is a senior management major from San Angelo.

1) What’s one thing you learned (or that really stuck with you) about the business of wedding and/or event planning?
Calli: “One thing that really made an impact on me about the business of event planning was how much of your time you have to invest in order to be successful, therefore those with passion for the business will most likely be more motivated to devote themselves to their work.”
Kelsey: ” I found it interesting that a common misconception in regards to event planning is that it is a glamorous line of work. Hearing Rachel and Luanna talk about their experiences allowed all of the girls in the room to recognize that a great amount of time, energy, and hard work is placed into their event planning jobs. I enjoyed learning tactics that each of the women used to balance their careers and family lives. It was interesting to hear that from an early age, Luanna involved her children in the process of setting up events at their home. Her stories about her daughters ending their dates by inviting the guys over to help set up an event were quite comical. It was neat to see that each member of the family contributed in some way to ensure the success of their family owned business.”

Career Connect: Event Planning

2) Did you learn something that will change how you approach the rest of your time here at ACU or has encouraged to try something you wouldn’t have otherwise?
Calli: “Yes. I learned that I want to attain as much experience in the field as possible before I graduate so that I feel prepared for the “real world”.
Kelsey: “I was encouraged to dream big just as Rachel and Luanna did, but to realize that with big dreams comes great responsibility and time commitments. Pursuing a career that you are passionate about has many phenomenal rewards but comes with a lot of hard work.”

Luanna Cole shares with ACU students interested in event planning

3) Did these events encourage you to pursue this career track? If so, how?
Calli: “I definitely want to get more hands on experience. Both Rachel and Luanna encouraged us to work in all sides of the field such as the florists, rental companies, caterers, photographers, etc.”
Kelsey: “I am not drawn to this particular career track, but I feel like the speakers gave great advice that can be carried over into any future career.”

Rachel Hollis sharing with ACU students

4) How does hearing from industry professionals (no matter the industry) enhance what you are learning in the classroom?
Calli: “I have never really heard experience first hand like this so I was incredibly inspired to hear what they had to say. It affirmed every idea i had about the field and reassured that this is exactly what I want to do with my life.”
Kelsey: “Hearing real life experiences straight from a successful business person, enables us (students) to learn far more about a specific industry and/or valuable life lessons that could not be communicated as effectively from a textbook or lecture. One of my favorite parts about listening to the “powerful” speakers that ACU brings to campus, is hearing how the individual overcame a variety of failures and conflicts to get to where they are today. The wisdom that we receive through hearing about other’s past failures gives us the opportunity to avoid making the same mistakes and the ability to put into practice the tactics that the speaker has found to be the most effective. We are encouraged to live humbly just as the speakers do. It seems like usually one of the main differences that sets ACU speakers apart from other successful career people is the fact that the speakers we listen to are so down to earth and exhibit humility as they share their stories with us.”