After graduating from college, Adrianne Mellen moved from Tallahassee, Fla. to New York City, where she knew few people and had next to no professional contacts. She dreamed of becoming an event planner at a company only the Big Apple could offer, such as a major television network or a national magazine.
Her parents agreed to help pay her first two months rent, but if she didn’t secure a job within that timeframe, she would have to wait tables, get a less “glamorous” job, or go home.
“The day before my two months expired, I received the job offer from Teen People,” she says.
Two years later, Mellen joined an elite team within Time Inc. to plan a special event for Real Simple magazine. The team, co-chaired by Sarah Jessica Parker and Caroline Kennedy, built a retail location in Central Park where attendees shopped gently-used designer clothing and housewares.
After her stint at Real Simple, Mellen landed her dream job at InStyle magazine. From that point on, her resume brims with high-profile events: the Golden Globes After-Party, an exclusive sample sale with Milly designer Michelle Smith, the Signature Sports Luncheon honoring Andre Agassi, Danica Patrick, and Cal Ripken Jr.
So how did she end up here in Columbus?
“Well, while living in NYC, I met and married an amazing man who has worked for Abercrombie & Fitch for years,” she says. “Home office is here and he finally was made an offer he couldn’t refuse, and here we are!”
The couple moved here in late 2008 and it was then that Mellen Ramstack decided to start her own event planning company, Adrianne Elizabeth LLC.
“I have always wanted to be my own boss and owning a business is something that was a long-term dream for me,” she says.
Read on to learn which part of her business has “taken on a life of its own,” why she’s still tackling her biggest challenge, and what she’d like to accomplish by 2013.
The Metropreneur: What were some of the first steps you took when starting Adrianne Elizabeth?
Adrianne Mellen Ramstack: My very first step was establishing a strong visual brand. Coming from a background in publishing with huge brands like Real Simple and InStyle, branding was heavily indoctrinated into my thinking. A beautiful, visually appealing and hopefully memorable logo was very important to me. That was step 1.
Step 2 was business cards, Step 3 was to start pounding the pavement. I sought out my first jobs here and made sure I did above and beyond so that those clients would recommend me. So far, that plan has worked out pretty well!
[M]: What made you decide to start the Adrianne Elizabeth blog and how does it complement your business?
AMR: Actually, my web designer, Kate Armstrong with Bella Mi Design boutique, suggested it and I was a little unsure if I liked the idea and kind of thought, “Who is ever going to read this thing?” So, initially, I started doing it as just a way for me to update my site and have fresh content for any new clients and also have a place where current clients could see their events that I posted, etc. But, it has taken on a life of its own since then!
People −mostly friends and family at first and now strangers!− started asking me wedding questions and suggesting features they would like to see, and then my marketing background kicked in and I created the “Wedding Wednesday” series, “Happy Hour” series, and “Friends of AE” once I had a game plan. Planners love plans!
I really started enjoying writing it! And people actually do read it! Which is so incredibly flattering. In fact, I just had a woman from Colorado send in a question to me, which has spawned the latest series: “Ask Ady!” Sort of a “Dear Abby” for brides or anyone, really, with a party question.
[M]: What has been the biggest business challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
AMR: I think I am still working on my biggest challenge and I probably always will. There is one of me and there is a lot of work out there. I have to be very careful about taking on pro bono jobs because, unfortunately, working for free means that I am not working on something that I am being paid for. I have a difficult time saying no and learning to do that has been challenging for me.
I have to also be careful about taking jobs that will be right for not only me in terms of work and vision, but for my brand. I have had to learn to be selective. It’s counterproductive for me as the expert, and the client who needs a service performed, if we are not on the same page fundamentally.
[M]: What would you like to accomplish professionally in the near future?
AMR: I want to keep growing! By the time my fabulous intern, Brittany [Sitz], graduates from Ohio State University in 2013, I would like to be in a position with my business to hire her full time!
[M]: In your opinion, what is the most challenging aspect of being a business owner?
AMR: Saying no. Trusting someone else with my precious business. As a planner, I am very often the middle man on many transactions and negotiations. When either a client or a vendor doesn’t meet an expectation, it reflects upon Adrianne Elizabeth and my relationships with either. That can be very difficult and, quite frankly, infuriating to navigate. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too terribly often.
[M]: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?
AMR: The relationships with my clients and fellow vendors! I get to work with some extremely talented and amazing people, and they are inspiring! And my clients are just so special to me. To provide a service that makes their lives easier and happier is extremely rewarding.
[M]: You plan corporate, philanthropic and social events, as well as local and destination weddings. What’s one of the most memorable events you’ve planned here in Central Ohio?
AMR: I plan the German Village Haus und Garten Tour annually. The first year I was hired for this job, I had to bid against nine other interested parties and was chosen. This was very early in the start of my business, so it felt like the validation that starting AE was the right career move for me.
Personally, the event is one I love because I live and work in German Village, so I got to learn so much about my community and meet so many people. It’s also a big undertaking that requires a lot of participation for it to be successful. The way villagers come together on tour weekend and the pride they take in it is very powerful. I feel lucky to facilitate that.
To learn more about Adrianne Elizabeth, visit AdrianneElizabeth.com.