Think of the best wedding you’ve ever been too. Imagine the original food, the unique design, the flowers you’ve never quite seen at another affair. Something about it is just different than your average tango with a slice of filet mignon and a piece of rubber chicken. You arrive home and gleefully post your pictures to Facebook exclaiming “Best Wedding Ever!” Chances are you were attending a wedding design, planned, and executed by one of the best around: Diane Solaja of Dee Kay Events.
I first met Diane while managing a 400 person charity gala for Dina Manzo’s charity Project Ladybug, which raises money for children with cancer and their families. It was no small affair and Diane arrived as a volunteer with Lovegevity, an event education organization. Right away Diane stood out and we both quickly became co-leaders managing people, tasks, and timelines.
Diane’s Sound Change Story
As the Sound Change event manager, Diane brings her unique story of brave career change, making it a perfect match. She started her career in the legal field and initially was on track to be an attorney. After moving ahead and becoming a legal secretary working for several firms, Diane’s creative bug was gnawing at her. She always threw great parties, and this self-expression was dying to come out in her everyday work. She first made the transition to doing communications, marketing, and events for a legal firm. Though she was able to learn a lot, her creative expression was still limited. As her responsibilities increased and her pay didn’t match the workload, Diane felt there had to be another way.
Diane: “I noticed the lack of respect that permeated the corporate culture. I needed a break to reassess and see if I could really pull off my own full-time event businesses. I talked to my husband and we began to discuss the possibilities. Right away the expectations of others came to my mind. I was always told I was a great speaker, was good at arguing and that I would be the best lawyer. But wait! I really loved parties, making clothes, painting, drawing , and making something out of nothing! I thought I had to be “big” where success was measured by dollars and not other factors. I come from immigrant parents who worked hard no matter what. I owed it to them to be successful in their eyes.”
The Big Move
Diane, with the support of her husband, left her job and launched into a 90-day game plan. She reached out to friends and family and spread the word about her new venture into professional event planning and design. She picked up three parties: a bridal shower, baby shower, and a birthday party.
Diane: “I spent way too much and charged way too little. I didn’t realize all that was happening. It was much harder work than I thought. I knew the concepts of party planning, but I needed to know how to run a business. I invested in myself by taking courses with Lovegevity and the Association of Bridal Consultants.“
Diane grew and expanded her business and In January 2013, Dee Kay Events became an LLC.
Diane: “It’s been a huge, amazing, and crazy learning curve! No one teaches you, you have to educate yourself. My main focus was education. The design is inate. If I want to survive, I need to be a business. I can’t be playing around at Michael’s making favors. “
Support & Advice
- INVEST IN YOU! “It was nerve-racking to spend the money and invest in myself and hard for me to accept my husband was completely supportive. I couldn’t have done it without him. A lot of women will feel discouraged because they think ‘I can’t do this on my own.’ If you really want to do it, don’t quit your day job until you feel comfortable enough. It can be a very scary place to be.”
- STOP WORRYING. “My husband helped me to stop worrying. When I became settled with that, my heart opened up. Everything was word of mouth. I invested in marketing and that changed. My reviews on sites like wedding wire now generate clients from all over my area and beyond. My initial business plan has now completely evolved. I want to also be a speaker educating couples on the wedding process. It’s not about the party, it’s about the 40-50 years after the party.”
- SAY YES! (most of the time!).“I became a YES woman. Anything that came my way I said yes to. It’s not the best idea, but sometimes you need to expose yourself to the worst of the worst and the best of the best! You never know who you are going to meet!”
Hear more of Diane’s story and experience her savvy event planning skills at our Sound Change Career event on Monday October 20th, 2014 at 7pm at GRIND 1412 Broadway at 39th Street. This event is designed for people considering or in the midst of professional changes. You’ll get coaching, support, and hear stories of people who have and are finding ways to do what they love for a living. You’ll also get sound financial advice from Amanda Steinberg, found of Daily Worth. Tickets are $119 and include and interactive seminar, materials, food, networking and more! For 10% off the early bird rate use the code “DEEKAY.” Click here More information and to purchase tickets.