Known affectionally as “The Event Coach,” Anika Kai was a party planner in the making long before she even realized that it was an actual paid profession. While in high school, Kai would unbeknownst to her, discover her niche while throwing house parties when her mom went out of town.
The Clark Atlanta University graduate credits her “find a way or make one” attitude to the same slogan of her alma mater. Beckoned by her first love, in 2004, Kai once again started planning parties and events for her friends and family. Completely smitten, she decided it was time to commit and invest in expanding her knowledge of the industry. So in 2007, she went to work with Amy Vaught of Vaught Events and shortly thereafter, Anika Kai Events was created.
Since starting her company, Kai’s work has been showcased on Essence.com, Stylemepretty.com and Jetmagazine.com among others.
Anika recently sat down with rolling out to talk about her career beginnings, the biggest misconceptions about the event planning industry, and her upcoming blog and book project.
How did you get your start in event planning?
That answer is actually twofold. My mother used to plan all of the events for family and friends. From weddings to corporate meetings, she did it because she loved it, not for a business. I saw that and saw how beautifully she made everything come together and unbeknownst to me she was leaving me her legacy. Now on the flip side, I actually used to have parties in high school at my house when my mother was out of town. I feel so bad about it now, but it came so easy to me. I did invitations, staging, and food planning all by the age of 14. My family is going to kill me when they read this!
Was there an “aha” moment when you knew for sure that this is what you wanted to do?
My aha moment was in 2006. My best friend’s younger sister was getting married and she asked a girlfriend and me (she’s the ying to my yang in planning) to help with her wedding. It was like love at first sight. I knew from then that there was something special there. My mind immediately went into creative mode and I was hooked.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about event planning?
That everyone can do it! Everyone is an event-wedding planner now. People who do promotions are doing weddings. Even florists are wedding planners now. A very wise friend told me to master the craft you have, and that you don’t want to be known for 800 different things because it confuses people. Find your niche and make it work for you. It is the same thing with event planning. There has to truly be a love for it in order to effectively manage it.
Do you have a signature touch where people know it’s an Anika Kai event?
Our relationship with our clients is our signature touch. When they hire us, it’s like they are hiring their best friend to plan their event. My team and I work very hard to dig into the lives of the client and find out who they are and what they love. Then we personalize their event and pattern it after them. We always look to bring their dreams from the canvas of their mind to life.
What can you tell us about your upcoming book and blog?
It’s so funny how that came about. My friend (who actually came up with my moniker “The Event Coach”) and I were discussing different event ideas and how I would go about doing them. The next thing I knew, she’d grabbed her computer and when we finished talking she leaned over and said “Here’s your first book!” It was amazing. You don’t know what you know until you’re challenged to share it. I get questions all of the time like “What do you think I should do for my daughter’s 10th birthday?” or “How can I cut back on expenses for my wedding and it still be great?” I promise I used to think that everyone thought like me and just had a million party planning ideas in their heads. Once I realized that was not the case, I decided to begin writing my blog The Event Coach. I wanted it to be full of great DIY advice and where people can actually write me about their event dilemmas and receive actual help. Kind of like the Dear Abby of events. We have an anticipated launch date of Sept. 3, 2014. I am so excited and am looking forward to having guest bloggers that I love and admire share their thoughts and ideas.
Aside from event planning, you have a passion for helping and mentoring young girls. What can you tell us about that?
I went through a lot emotionally growing up and I vowed that my nieces and any other young girls that I came in contact with wouldn’t experience the same things or make the same mistakes that I did. A lot of them are looking for someone to listen to and understand them. Change can come just by sharing your story. I love when I see 16 to 20 year olds who could have had a different outcome begin to love themselves, know who they are, and make decisions based upon their future instead of the right now.
How do you use social media to your advantage?
I must admit, I do social media in doses. Sometimes I am 100 percent in and then I can go a few weeks without it. But it’s amazing for the business; Facebook especially, because you can show all of your work and connect with other vendors in your industry and it becomes a second reference point for your clients and potential clients. Instagram is my second favorite. I absolutely love pictures. Remember earlier when I said people should stick to their craft? Well my photography friends remind me of that often because I think I’m a photographer in my mind (just without the camera). I know what makes a great shot and that is why Instagram is amazing not just personally, but for business too. That one shot can tell the entire story of your event better than a written post ever could.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
I’m most proud that I am actually living my dream. I have been at a job that I hated to get up in the morning to go to and I know that is the story of so many people. I am so grateful that I am able to get up every day and make events come to life. I sometimes sit back and marvel at where God has allowed me to be. I may not have selected this path to get here but I’m so happy He did not allow it to go any other way.
Who inspires you?
On the personal side, I have such a great circle of family, surrogate family and friends. I honestly wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t for them allowing me to be who I am and then loving me accurately. They inspire me to never give up and to be true to who I was created to be. I think everyone should have that. Professionally, I am sort of obsessed with Diann Valentine, Mindy Weiss and Preston Bailey. There are days that I can sit for hours and just study and marvel at their work. Their creative minds blow me away and I cannot wait to work with them one day.
Any favorite affirmations?
“Never Ever Ring The Bell.” My Pastor did a teaching on the training of a Navy Seal and the things they go through and how it relates to our lives, and the one thing that stood out the most was from a speech of one of the commanders of the Navy Seals at UT’s graduation. He stated that the training is so intense to become a Seal that often times people can’t take the pressure and the sacrifice and look for a way out. They have that option; all they have to do is walk over to the bell, ring it and leave. However, they would be giving up everything they worked so very hard for, going back to the life they once lived. That story stuck with me and I always have to remind myself no matter what it is and how hard it gets to never ever ring the bell. There is nothing in the past life for me.
What do you do to unwind?
Unwind, what’s that? Seriously, my two favorite things are getting lost in a great book and enjoying really, really, really (did I say really?) good food. Any time I can combine those two, it is a great day for me.
What’s the last great book you read?
The last great novel I read was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I literally read it in a day. I loved it (until the end). It was filled with so many twists and turns. Books always have a way of allowing me to escape my hectic life for the life of the characters.
Any advice or words of wisdom for aspiring event planners?
My spiritual Dad always tells me to “remember my why.” Starting out in the business can be intimidating and daunting at times. The industry is so vast and there are TV shows and magazines showcasing mega events and platinum million dollar weddings and it can cause you to be discouraged when you are only getting a few events at a time and the budgets are nowhere near those portrayed on the shows. But that’s not what you got into it for, you got into it because you love it and you want to help people celebrate the best moments of their lives. That is your why and that is why you keep pushing.
What’s next for Anika Kai?
The Blog www.theeventcoach.com will be launching in September and the book will soon follow. We are beginning a series of classes the first quarter of 2015 for event planners, photographers, and florists who are just coming into the industry. I remember when I started and information was so hard to come by and people were not always open to giving out information and help. I want to make sure those who are just starting or considering becoming a planner have resources to help them. There are enough events in this city for everyone to have a piece of the business, so there is no harm in helping those who are coming behind us to make the way smoother for them.
Any final thoughts?
People always ask me “How do you do it? How do you deal with different personalities and levels of events?” I must admit there are times when I think the same thing and then those who love me remind me that I was born for this, it is what wakes me up in the morning and keeps me up at night. I plan events in my mind before they ever become a reality. I love it and more than anything I love the feeling that my events evoke from my clients. They may not even say anything but if I look over and can see that they are having a great time, I know my job is done. If you are doing what you love it is never work for you. We would love to connect with you, stop by and like our page on Facebook or tag us on Instagram @anikakaievents with one of your favorite event or wedding pictures. We love to see them. You can also visit us at www.anikakaievents.com