Today’s interview is all about the event planning business in Israel, with Adena Mark from A to Z Events.
Hi Adena, Please tell us a bit about yourself
Adena Mark, from Long Island, NY, moved to Israel 10 years ago with 5 children and a husband. Today I have 6 children, and we divorced 4 years ago.
Please tell us a bit about your business?
A to Z Events Israel takes care of everything related to planning an event, especially for clients from overseas, who are planning an event in Israel. Usually, they need help putting the event together along with logistics and travel arrangements during their stay, such as hotels, touring, and personal services.
For the event, we assist with selecting a venue, menu, photography, design, theme, music, guest gifts, entertainment, birconim, kippot, invitations, hair/makeup, and transportation. We really take care of all the small details that can make or break an event.
We also arrange for touring and activities for the family and guests during their stay, especially with “out of the box” ideas for day trips and activities for families who have been to Israel previously and are looking for that something special and different they have never done before. For example, we customized themed day trips based around family members’ hobbies, such as sports, cooking, archeology, or art.
Sounds like you have everything covered. Where did the idea for this service come from?
After I made aliya, I received many requests from friends and family, and then from friends of friends and family of friends for assistance, ideas and recommendations. I realized there was a need for this type of service.
So what was the next step? How did you turn the idea into reality?
Once I realized there was a market for event planning and that people were willing to pay for it, I built a website and opened a Facebook page detailing the services I offer. In the beginning, I “winged” it a lot – putting all my past professional and personal experience to work. As a service-oriented business, I understood that interpersonal skills and high level of customer service were important to clients. Once I provided that, I felt confident in my ability to learn anything and do it well.
What kind of clients does your business attract?
Families who live abroad and are planning their special event in Israel or Anglos living in Israel looking for an event planning service that provides the level of quality, knowledge, and customer service they are accustomed.
We also have clients that I call “half-sies”, meaning that perhaps the bride and groom live in Israel, but the parents live abroad, or that one side lives in Israel and the other side lives abroad. We provide the integration of understanding their needs and cultural traditions together with local Israeli experience, so that we can provide them with the highest quality and service for their budget.
That’s a really interesting concept. What’s the biggest challenge for your clients? How do you solve it?
Perhaps the biggest challenges for my clients are to feel “safe” and “protected” and also to feel that they are involved and on top of every detail - despite being so far away!
Most of the occasions we plan are momentous, if not life-altering, so they understandably need to feel that they know all the details and that they are getting what they want. I make great efforts to make my clients feel connected as much and as often as possible. I schedule frequent phone meetings, send regular email updates, including status of all orders, photos of items or designs we selected, links to various attractions or locations as needed.
How is your business different from other similar businesses in Israel?
I lived in LI, NY in an affluent community. I personally was a discerning customer with high expectations of customer service and integrity. That experience gives me the ability to understand and anticipate my clients’ expectations. After living here for 10 years, I am familiar with the business and culture of this country. The combination of these two experiences enables me to provide my clients with the best service and the best products.
Also, I came to Israel to build a life for my family based on love of Israel, and so part of my goal is to make my clients see the positive side of Israel, to feel that they are at home, that they have someone looking out for their best interests. I love making meaningful, memorable and long-term connections between my clients and the Land and the people of Israel.
That’s beautiful! But what happens when it “doesn’t happen?” Can you share a story or two from your business “escapades”?
I worked for a family from Belgium planning their daughter’s wedding in Caesarea for 500 people. It was a big budget event with a lot of logistics and details. The chuppah was very intricate and unique – a gazebo-like structure made of seashells – and it required a lot of care as it was being built. The engineer misjudged the amount of time it would take, and along with some other bloopers, the construction took much longer than we had planned.
The last bolts were screwed and the ladder was swooped away just as the groom was walking down to the chuppah with his parents. It was close!
Sounds like a close call on someone’s life-altering event! Have you faced any “life-changing” moment in your business?
I planned a bar mitzvah for a family who had an 80-something great-grandmother. They were not sure if she would be well enough to travel for the event, but they really wanted and hoped for it to happen. In the end, she was able to make it and arrived in Israel for the first time in her life to celebrate her great-grandson’s bar mitzvah in Jerusalem.
She was so inspired and touched by the event and the location that she decided to make aliya and come live the remainder of her days with her family in Israel.
I realized then that what I do is create important life events and memories for people and the emotions can be overwhelming.
Yes. An event like that can shine a completely new light on your entire business. What are some of your favorite resources in developing your business?
The Social Media “trend” has completely changed the way I market and sell my business – FB, Instagram, and Twitter are all invaluable tools. While it’s obvious that it’s not really a trend, because it’s here to stay, as an entrepreneur it has changed the way I use these tools, how I approach them and what I expect from them in return!
I spend a lot of time researching the latest trends in business in general, and in the event planning business in particular. This knowledge is helpful and gives me great ideas to present to my clients. However, mostly I find that being in the field with my vendors, being at various events at different locations gives me the most inspiring ideas for future events.
Looking on the flip side, what have been some of the challenges your business faced? How did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is juggling family life with running my own business. As a single mother with 6 children, I know that I am doing the right thing by building my business for our survival and future, despite the fact that I sometimes feel torn wanting to have more time for my family.
I overcome this by including my family in what I do as much as possible. I talk to my children about the families that I work with. I show them photos of design ideas and ask for their opinions. I explain to them the time-sensitive issues of phone meetings or deadlines. This gives them a better understanding of what I do, and when I have to do it. I feel it strengthens our family bond and gives me more power to work hard without feeling guilty about the time I am not with my family.
Has competition been an issue for you? How did you address it?
In my field, I find the issue of “competition” to be of little importance. Just as there are so many types of people and personalities, there are enough event planners to go around that fit each one. One of the most important factors in event planning – and especially for clients from abroad – is for the planner and the client to have good chemistry, a good understanding of each other, and the ability to work well together. There is someone out there for everyone!
Being an entrepreneur is challenging. What self-care approaches have helped you keep it all together?
I emphatically believe in self-care as a basis for success in everything I do. I make sure to find the time to exercise, clear my mind, and take a mental break no matter how pressured or stressed I feel, even if only for a short while.
I also put limitations on work hours, despite the fact that as a business owner/entrepreneur there are no set works hours or days. I carefully and thoughtfully schedule days and hours for work and for personal time. This includes emails, phone calls, FB posts and anything else.
How is running a business in Israel different than in the old country?
In general, Israelis are more casual and laid back than most cultures, everyone quickly and easily makes friends or establishes some sort of social connection and immediately feels comfortable with each other. Israelis are quick to say “you have my word,” whereas in the “old country” people rely on written contracts and confirmations for every transaction. Sometimes, I have to convince the Israeli vendors with whom I work, that it’s nothing personal against them when I request something in writing!
Requiring things in writing is a very smart strategy that can save a lot of grief down the line. It also requires a lot of assertiveness. Has managing a business changed your personally?
It has most certainly changed me personally! I see every experience as an opportunity for networking, I see every meeting as a potential new client. I know that no matter what the situation, I am packaging and selling myself and marketing my business.
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur? What are your least favorite parts?
My least favorite part of being a business owner is that it takes a lot of work with the burden and responsibility solely on me, a lot of patience – with myself, clients, vendors, my family, and also a lot of self-sacrifice.
However, those are also the things that I love the most about it. I feel that practicing and perfecting those qualities is helping me build my personal character, my reputation, and my business. I love that all end results are reflective of my input – the successes and the less-than successes alike. I get what I put into it, and for better or for worse that is a reflection of me. I can use those results to improve, perfect, or change as needed.
Adena, thank you so much for your candidness. Managing a double load of business and family alone is a big job. May you have lots of luck in managing it with grace and success.
Want to contact Adena? Visit her site at www.atozeventsisrael.com