I have a God-given destiny to be all that He wants me to be, therefore, I am living life on purpose! Many people have been fascinated by my story and suggested I share that others may be encouraged. I should warn you on the front end, this is going to be a little long…so hang on!
Let’s start with an introduction, I am the president and chief executive officer of Exceptional Occasions, a full-service event planning firm based in League City, Texas. Established in 2013, the company provides event concept development, financial management, site selection, venue and vendor contract negotiation and marketing support for meetings and events that vary in size and scope. Exceptional Occasions also offers educational sessions to help community leaders and aspiring planners gain event management skills.
I am a 2005 graduate of the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton College at the University of Houston earning a B.S. degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management with an emphasis on event planning. While a student I received four scholarships to aid me in my passion for event planning and management. While a student I discovered event planning had a broad reach – so on purpose, I interned and worked in various industries to better understand them. I gained an appreciation working with meeting/event planning companies; Christian organizations; historical; independent living; mediation/counseling; industrial retail sales and retail gift giving sales. My goal initially was to dedicate my skills to one industry but couldn’t find the right fit.
A defining moment for me was when I worked as the logistics manager for TechTrans, a NASA contractor. I managing business travel logistics in both the U.S. and Russia, garnering the company’s International President’s Award for the support provided to the NASA International Space Station and its executive management team. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of space exploration and the fast pace work but it still was not the right fit.
Soul searching my chosen profession and Bay Area Houston, Texas, my home, convinced me I wanted to be a corporate meeting planner more than anything! I learned there weren’t a lot of independent corporate meeting planners in my area. In working in the various industries I observed many meetings and events could be done better, especially in the area of customer service, event logistics, genuine rapport and cost effectiveness. Additionally, there are small businesses missing opportunities for the human connection and branding on a deeper level because they lack a skilled planner. Many companies feel they can’t afford a meeting planner on staff, so they give the extra logistics and planning duties to an employee and hope for the best. This just isn’t right…many are not aware they can affordably outsource. Furthermore, Bay Area Houston is growing commercially which adds to traffic – it is no longer cost effective to go to Houston Metro for small meetings and there are very few venues designed exclusively for corporate meetings/events. This was my “aaha” moment! I would open an executive style conference center as well as offer meeting planning services. This was the start of my entrepreneurial education. It took about a year to realize drawing investors wouldn’t be easy. No problem…I regrouped and began marketing my meeting and event planning services to build the clientele so to find investors and/or save money for the conference center. This has been an exciting and crazy journey thus far becoming a business owner, I didn’t realize how hard it would be nor did I appreciate the sacrifices needed to be made. On the other hand, I have met some fascinating people and am on the crux of solidifying my brand. So, I’m a University of Houston, Conrad Hilton College Alum and was asked to be the Keynote Speaker at the Learning Skills for Life’s first graduating class. I’m serving as the University of Houston Black Alumni Association’s Event Chair. I am Tourism Chair and Ambassador for the League City Chamber of Commerce.
What really put me on this journey? I served with honor in the United States Marine Corps for 20 years, and during my career received five Navy Achievement Medals for job performance over and above. The position that ignited my desire to pursue this field was a 3-year assignment as logistics chief for a unit in California. In that role, I managed 4 employees and supervised the movement of over 300 personnel for training to several undisclosed locations throughout California and Hawaii. My job was to recon the area for a certification site, lodging, transportation, food, etc., acquire the contracts and be the onsite troubleshooter. I discovered, though stressful, it was the most exciting thing I had ever done and knew I had to pursue on purpose!.
Why the Marine Corps? Well, I was born the daughter of a sharecropper…just kidding! 😀 Really, I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, the oldest of three and the only girl. Needless to say – it was challenging, especially high school. I did well academically, on the drill team and NJROTC and joined the Marine Corps soon after graduating. The funny memory there was it was career day and all the other recruiters were trying to get students to their table except the Marine. He stood in front of his table calmly watching the kids go by. I asked him why he wasn’t trying to get students to his table and he said one of the Marine Corps’ mottoes is the few and the proud and when he saw a good candidate he would talk to them. I asked if he thought I would be a good Marine and he said most women that joined the Marines could handle it, but they don’t stay for more than one contract. They usually find a husband, get pregnant and get out. Fascinated and challenged I signed up (he played me like a fiddle). When I saw my recruiter again, almost 3 years later we met at the airport, he and his family were going overseas and my husband and I were coming back to the States – oh yea ~ I was pregnant. I asked if he remembered me he said he did, he recruited very few women from Houston. He commented, with a smile, that it looked like I was going the way of most women Marines, known as former. I smiled and said I reenlisted. He was happy for me and wished me the best of luck. The Marine Corps has and continues to be a valuable part of my life. I am a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
My advice? Never give up on your dreams, where you start doesn’t dictate where you’ll end up. Find yourself a mentor and build that rapport – I have received wise counsel as well as been challenged and I am thankful! Seek and use all resources available to you. Lastly, be confident, know that you have value and live your life on purpose!