ISES Los Angeles Chapter Board Installation and Chapter Awards


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ISES LA proudly invites you to our Chapter Board Installation and Los Angeles Special Event Awards (LASEA) Celebration on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 at The Ebell of Los Angeles. Executive Chef, Louis Pechan kicks off the night with a networking reception, offering a *signature cocktail and delicious hors d’oeuvres followed by a sit down dinner. The evening will begin with Cara Kleinhaut, of Caravents presenting our keynote address followed by our Chapter’s Annual Board Installation and Los Angeles Special Event Awards (LASEA).

Eleven years ago, in 2001, Cara Kleinhaut launched Event Production & Design Firm, Caravents, most recently voted one of BizBash’s Most Innovative Event Pros in 2011 and winner of two 2010 BizBash Awards for Best Overall Event Concept and Best Entertainment Program for Target’s “Party For Good,” a groundbreaking 4,000-person service project and party in NYC. With the Musicians Assistant Program’s (MAP) as her first and longest-standing client, Cara’s client list also includes: Essence magazine’s annual Oscar gala, the Black Women in Hollywood Awards, Elle magazine’s signature event, Women In Hollywood Awards, and their Independent Spirit Awards Lounge, as well as lifestyle and entertainment events for iconic brands such as Target, HBO, InStyle, Takashi Murakami, Conde Nast Media Group, and Samsung. The team at Caravents completed their most ambitious project yet this March, with the Caesar’s Entertainment Group, Total Rewards Launch. It took place in four cities with 8 A List Musical artists, 3 hosts, and hundreds of crew, simultaneously, with Cara at the tip of it all. Cara Kleinhaut offers her rich experience in planning and design artistry from beginning to end with personal management and precise execution.

The historic Ebell of Los Angeles is an architectural masterpiece that brings glamour, elegance and legacy to special events. With two exquisitely detailed ballrooms, an intimate art salon and a breathtaking courtyard garden, the Ebell presents a variety of sophisticated settings. With an executive chef offering full service catering and on-site event management for preplanning and event day execution, The Ebell’s professional special events team is dedicated to the success of your event. Site tours will be available.

*A specialty cocktail will be offered during the reception; a no host bar will be available.
Complimentary parking.

Congratulations to the following Los Angeles event professionals on their nomination as a finalist in ISES LA’s Los Angeles Special Event Awards (LASEAs).

AOO Events
Caravents
Catalina Island Conservancy
Mumtaz Marketing & Events
Special Occasions Event Planning

Your 2012/2013 Board of Directors:

Gerry Rothschild – President
Kelly Wynn – President Elect
Carol Roleder – Immediate Past President
Jennifer Minzey – V.P. of Education and Programs
Rhonda Boyer – V.P. of Membership
Kristin Wilson – V.P. of Marketing and Communications
Stacy Ober – Director at Large, Education
Melissa Navarro – Director at Large, Programs
Laura Lopez – Director at Large, Membership/Student Programs
Veronica Puleo – Director at Large, Membership
Natalie Spiro – Director at Large, Communications
Alice Goetschel – Director At Large, Marketing/Advertising and Allied Associations

Special thanks to our show casers:
The Ebell of Los Angeles
Caravents Inc. Event Production & Design
Dash Entertainment
SMG Photography
On Cue Audio Visual
Jeremy Weinglass
Lawry’s The Prime Rib

Where
The Ebell of Los Angeles
743 South Lucerne Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90065

VIEW EVENT FEES

VIEW EVENT SUMMARY

VIEW EVENT AGENDA

RSVP TODAY!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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ISES LA Presents: The 2011 Los Angeles Special Event Awards (LASEAs) Finalists

ISES Los Angeles is proud to announce the finalists for our 2011 LASEAs (Los Angeles Special Event Awards). These finalists, listed below in alphabetical order, represent the wide variety of talent and professionalism that is embodied in the ISES LA Chapter. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at the ISES LA Installation and Awards Celebration at Pandora on Green in Pasadena. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.ises-la.com. Click here for more information or to register. Congratulations to all of our finalists!

Best Event Design

AOO Events – “Dream Foundation Fashion Show – Ferragamo”
AOO Events – “Hillman Cancer Center Gala ’10”
AOO Events – “IMPACT ’10 – Closing Night”

Best Event Entertainment Concept/Execution

Eventworks – “You Are A Star”

Simply Mumtaz Events, Inc. – “Dominguez Centennial Aviation Day”

Best Event Produced for a Non-Profit Organization

Catalina Island Conservancy – “Catalina ROCKS!”

Pitzer College – “An Extraordinary Evening at the Chicago Botanic Garden”

Simply Mumtaz Events, Inc. – “Dominguez Centennial Aviation Day”

Best Wedding Produced

J. Soiree Events – “An Ocean Blue Wedding”

Best Event Produced for a Corporation

AOO Events – “IMPACT ’10 – Closing Night”
SJL Events – “Art Gallery/ Public Mall Turns Private Art Gallery”

Best Green Event

J. Soiree Events – “Get Pampered”

Best Allied Team

AOO Events – “IMPACT ’10 – Closing Night”

Classic Touch Allied Team – “Sixth Annual ABC-IE Gala”

Simply Mumtaz Events, Inc. – “Treasures of Los Angeles”

Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell – Part V

David Merrell founded AOO Events in 1989. As one  the nation’s most respected and sought-after award-winning design and production firms, AOO provides innovative event design, cutting-edge stage and logistics production. The company designs and produces movie premieres, corporate events, private parties and various milestone celebrations throughout the nation and internationally. As a former ISES LA President, Merrell continues his involvement as an industry adviser, expert and advocate. His leadership, achievement and dedication make him a true Mastermind. Continue reading for the details on Merrell’s journey to become an award-winning event designer and producer.

An Interview with David Merrell (Part V)
Founder, AOO Events

By Paula Estes

Q: What do you wish you would have told you then that you know now? I’m sure you have had many

David Merrell

ah-has!

A: I have and I’m trying to think of anything I wish they would have told me and I guess maybe it’s just that there’s no such thing as an overnight success if you want longevity. There is no such thing as an overnight success unless you have the longevity to back it up with a solid business plan and product. If you don’t have that, even if you are a brilliant designer, you aren’t going to last very long.  That was the school of hard knocks for me but I think I should have been a little more patient because I’ve been impatient wondering when am I going to get this success– when am I going to get it? I believe it really took me about 16-17 years to become an overnight success.

Q: What is going on in your industry that you think would make a good article for the ISES Newsletter or blog?

A: I think more people need to have conversations about how to run a business; not just administratively, but from an employee and a price standpoint.

Q: So staffing, revenue forecasting, projected overhead…

A: Like owners conversations–about all the things that you know running the business, from having to be audited to what’s the big deal about insurance. I mean those kinds of things we’re going through and asking on a daily basis. It would be great to have an ongoing conversation on that.

Q: How do you account for staffing? Do you have interns or hire as needed?

A: Well with the economic downturn, we’ve had to drop half our staff and when times were good and business was flowing in if we got busy we’d just say hire another person. We’re definitely looking at that now because when times were flowing it was real easy and you didn’t even worry about it…when the money gets choked off you go “Holy crap look how much overhead I have?”  So we’re trying to be smart. We’re actually becoming more efficient ourselves through the use of software program for production. It’s called Access and because of it, we’re becoming more efficient. We actually brought in a business coach for a retreat to actually talk about issues, like communication, to make us more efficient. At the same time we are looking at the possibility of more freelancers and there is a ton of them out there, but it’s a matter of us learning how to work with them.  It means changing our model a little bit and I believe it can be done. But until we see the economy booming, it’s safer not to.

Q: Are these people you have existing relationships with, you’ve worked with them, would you hire the same people back?

A: Some of my producers I had to let go because of the economy.  I’d bring them back because they already know us and there are some other producers out there who know us pretty well, I mean personally that I can probably hand a book with a little bit of instruction and know I’m going to get a certain process. I’m always looking for new producers but typically they are people who were recommended to me or pursued the hell out of me. This one girl I probably will hire because she been persistent with me for a long time and persistence and consistency always makes your eyes perk up. Well maybe this girl is someone worth it.  Sometimes you have to carve a position out for yourself in a company or carve a position for yourself out with a new client and you gotta make it happen…without being a pest.

Q: What is a typical day like at AOO Events?

A: We’re all working on multiple projects. I work on every project because I’m always looking at everything from a design standpoint but any one project can have any combination of people on it so every morning what we do is we have an office meeting usually about 15 -20 minutes to say ok what are the priorities, what are we doing today so everyone knows what everyone else’s priority is. Right now Nick has a ton on his plate that has to be done by the end of the day so we are actually moving resources around. Through this Access system I mentioned, anyone can pick it up right where Nick left off, if Nick got hit by a bus tomorrow, we would know exactly where he left off and move on so it doesn’t stop. It’s all in the computer system. It’s a very efficient system.

ISES LA would like to extend sentiments of sincerest gratitude to David Merrell  for kicking off the Masterminds Series. An extra special thanks and appreciation to the efforts of Tom Budas, Director or Marketing,  AOO Events.

Mastermind: An Interview with Dave Merrell – Part IV

David Merrell founded AOO Events in 1989. As one  the nation’s most respected and sought-after award-winning design and production firms, AOO provides innovative event design, cutting-edge stage and logistics production. The company designs and produces movie premieres, corporate events, private parties and various milestone celebrations throughout the nation and internationally. As a former ISES LA President, Merrell continues his involvement as an industry adviser, expert and advocate. His leadership, achievement and dedication make him a true Mastermind. Continue reading for the details on Merrell’s journey to become an award-winning event designer and producer.

An Interview with David Merrell (Part IV)
Founder, AOO Events

By Paula Estes

Q: What are some tips for planners to use in developing meaningful partnerships with vendors?

A: Communication is the most important thing. When I choose a vendor, it’s basically because I need to work with

David Merrell

them. If I like their work then I develop a relationship with them. You can’t work with people just because you like them; you want to work with them because they have a good product and because their price is right. You have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find the right combination of a good price and a good product. We are event planners, it is our job to use different vendors every time and stretch our own boundaries and comfort levels and use whatever is right for the client and the event and the geographic area and the budget. So it’s all about communication. If you don’t communicate and if you are too dismissive in getting information out to vendors then you are going to pay for it on site and you are going to pay for it in the product.

Q: And tips to vendors especially looking at networking in the context of ISES… What tips can you give to vendors looking to expand their client base and connect with planners and get repeat business?

A: I don’t think that ISES is necessarily a place you should look for additional business. ISES is a place you look for camaraderie. There will be business that comes from it, but you’re never going to find business if you’re just handing out a card at an ISES meeting. You have to develop relationships with them, you have to be on the boards with ISES members because if you are on the board you are going to work with people side by side and you’re going to find out “God this person is flaky” or “Wow, this persons amazing” and you’ll decide which ones you’re going to want to work with. That’s how someone goes, “you know what, I’ve watched this person work, they’re good,” and I want to refer you to them. You’ll get more business from referrals and from people who like you than from just handing out cards.

If I want to talk to a client and if I’m selling to a client, I want them to consider me, and all I can look for is hopefully an introduction from someone they know so they will consider me with an open mind. If they are speaking to you it is because they have to be open to change. So when you are in front of their face you have to convince them somehow that you are going to help them in this transition and actually help their position. It’s a matter of a lot of numbers games knocking on a lot of doors to find that one person that you want to work with.  But once you get them, then you are golden. You’ve got really great vendors and clients. I can honestly say in this point of my life that when 90% of this stuff comes in I don’t feel like I ever have to take it. There are few pieces and obligations that I have to take but those are from clients who gave me the bigger picture, but there is a lot where I can go, you know what? This job isn’t worth it for us, I don’t feel right about this client, I don’t feel right about the budget, and I think it’s an uphill battle. We should all strive to put ourselves in that position.

Q: And you would refer that person to someone else?

A: I was talking broadly between clients and clients coming to me and making a decision but if a client came to me and I wanted to turn them down I would very graciously offer help if they needed it with a referral or happy to  give them some advice. You never know when that person is going to come back to you with a bigger job or something that does fit. There are quite a number of people in this industry purchasing events that don’t understand the business and don’t know how to ask the right questions. So it’s our job to kind of steer them into what they want even though they might not know it.

Q: What do you wish someone would have told you about becoming an event professional?

A:  First thing that comes to mind is I wish that I had people to talk to because when I started in the business back in the 80’s early 90’s this kind of open dialogue and having people talk to you was a lot more closed back then. In the event business in LA no one talked to anybody. ISES was tough because no one wanted to communicate or share. Now it’s changed and you have a lot of resources available to you.

Q: Including the internet?

A: Including the internet, but there is always more information available, and it is advice. Getting advice from people is important and that’s what ISES   brings…this camaraderie with people in the same shoes as me. You know…what do I do in this situation…a second opinion from someone who’s been there is invaluable. You asked a question though and I didn’t answer it…What would I say is the one thing event planners should do?

Visit the ISES LA Blog Tomorrow for Part V, the final installment of, Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell.

Mastermind: An Interview with Dave Merrell – Part III

David Merrell founded AOO Events in 1989. As one  the nation’s most respected and sought-after award-winning design and production firms, AOO provides innovative event design, cutting-edge stage and logistics production. The company designs and produces movie premieres, corporate events, private parties and various milestone celebrations throughout the nation and internationally. As a former ISES LA President, Merrell continues his involvement as an industry adviser, expert and advocate. His leadership, achievement and dedication make him a true Mastermind. Continue reading for the details on Merrell’s journey to become an award-winning event designer and producer.

An Interview with David Merrell (Part III)
Founder, AOO Events

By Paula Estes

Q: Are the educational seminars something you do for exposure?

A: Two things that are really my intention was to give back to the industry and because I am kind of a natural teacher

David Merrell

anyhow. I thrive here at AOO because these guys learn from me and I’m constantly teaching and paying it forward if you will. But the end result was that I realized was that this was helping my reputation.

It’s formally been put into the marketing plan. We have three brands in our company. There is AOO events, Design Dawgs which is a blog that has its own personality and is really taking off actually kind of separate from AOO events and there is David Merrell which a lot of people follow me personally. There are three different brands…the strategy of the David Merrell brand is to keep speaking and eventually put out a book of some kind about design. I’m still looking for my angle for that book but there will be a book, that’s part of the plan. With the blog and everything else it’s like the three brands are feeding each other and we’ll see what the future brings.

Q: What type of marketing and public relations do you do recommend to build a client base?

A: Well it depends on the industry you are in. If you are in social you have to do the weddings and be there and you are only as good as the last wedding because you are going to get 4 or 5 new leads from every one you do. And you have to do every bar and bat mitzvah whether you like it or not because someone is going to be there who is going to have money and you gain a  reputation in the industry as you continue to perpetuate that with social communities.

That one way of marketing is completely different from corporate marketing. The corporate philosophy and the way I present myself, has more to do with understanding the corporate philosophy and mindset. Branding, as well as the reason behind each event has its own subtleties and nuances. It’s always different.

Q: Well I mean you specifically… so you have those two target markets…

A: No, I was speaking more in general terms. We really haven’t been selling social until recently. Nick in my company has a passion and actually wants to start a social division. It’s a whole different marketing scheme. I actually don’t mind creating separate marketing pieces, creating a separate genre….

Q: What does Nick do?

A: Nick is a producer. He has aspirations to do more social but it’s a whole marketing thing that we have to address. That probably didn’t answer your question.

What do we do to perpetuate our own brand, yes, speaking is extremely important, we don’t advertise anymore because any client that we want is not going to be someone looking through the yellow pages or an ad in a magazine. They are going to hear of us through our reputation and so any marketing we do at this point is targeted. We go after them, the people that we know who fit a certain profile of a client that will definitely benefit from our service and that are typically a corporate event planner. The website has to be top-notch. The website is a place where clients can go and check out your vibe and if it’s cool enough and meets their criteria, then it moves forward. The blog is also important to us. It’s allowing us to reach out, not only our targeted corporate planners, but also a different group maybe outside the industry norm. This is why we have been really careful to position our blog. Yes there are a lot of entries in there and yes, pretty much every event I do goes in there with some sort of how to, as to how I did it. But I’m trying not to make it about “this is what we did here”  I’m trying to make it about this is how you do it, and this is an idea you can use, or this is what I like right now, or this is what’s in season. And now I have at least two guest bloggers a month because I want it to be an industry conversation. We didn’t even know how this was going to really affect us. In fact in the beginning we went into it blindly; now we have a much clearer picture. It has taken on its own personality. There are people who may not know AOO Events or David Merrell but know Design Dawgs, so it allows Design Dawgs to actually create a separate brand and do something that would allow us to go to another avenue, that’s kind of why it’s there. Actually, we don’t know Design Dawgs’ complete purpose yet, but we are working on it.

Visit the ISES LA Blog Tomorrow for Part IV of Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell.

Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell – Part II

David Merrell founded AOO Events in 1989. As one  the nation’s most respected and sought-after award-winning design and production firms, AOO provides innovative event design, cutting-edge stage and logistics production. The company designs and produces movie premieres, corporate events, private parties and various milestone celebrations throughout the nation and internationally. As a former ISES LA President, Merrell continues his involvement as an industry adviser, expert and advocate. His leadership, achievement and dedication make him a true Mastermind. Continue reading for the details on Merrell’s journey to become an award-winning event designer and producer.

An Interview with David Merrell (Part II)
Founder, AOO Events

By Paula Estes

Q: What about the diversification of what you were doing? You were growing into different areas…was that profitable versus specializing in one thing?

A: I was doing the whole thing when I was catering. We went in as a full package when we decided to make the change. I had to redefine myself strictly as an event décor and production company. There was a transitional period of time where I didn’t even say I was a production company even though I did it because I knew it was going to take longer for me to establish myself as a producer. This was the time when I had just started working with Cindy Wiedenheft, who’s a past president of ISES as well. We met when I was president and she was on my board. We became friends through that and then a year or two later, just before 9/11, we started the decor division because that was actually gaining a lot of speed and there was a lot of money there in addition to catering. When 9/11 happened catering went (whew) and so did everything else. So I thought…you know the decor seems like an easier way to make money in a longer scale so I stayed with Cindy and grew the event décor business. Cindy did all the design at first and I was just basically managing the entire process. Didn’t take long before I realized that I actually had a flair for design and I quickly learned the Corel computer program. I do all of my drawings on Corel Draw and that’s how we sell to the clients and how our design process begins. But I learned the decor side of it and Cindy and I decided to part ways. And I became the designer I am today.

Q: So, when you first started, you didn’t feel your inner artist? Would you say it….was something that blossomed in the course of time?

A: Yeah, I didn’t really realize that I had it. I mean I went to school, University of Dayton, Ohio and I was an accounting major…I was definitely a left brain person. I was schooled as a left brain person not as a right brain creative person. (God I hope that’s right…but you get the idea.) I developed the business side of my mind in college, and marketing out of college through the school of hard knocks, trial and error.  And then the creative…I just kind of discovered it later. I was always creative in other ways, I was a singer, you know. There were other things that I was doing and other artistic genres for years.

Q: So, how else did ISES relate to your growth and development?

A: When I was looking to make a transition from Orange County to LA, (and I was a caterer) I was really making a presence or trying to make a statement within Southern California at that time. Because. I thought that ISES would be a good way for me to get some exposure and learn a little bit more about the business. So I started going to the meetings and it wasn’t very long before I was recruited to be on the board. I think I was on a fast track, I only did one year as a vice president and then I was immediately president, so I didn’t even do a four year stint, I was right at the top. And that was before I knew it, I was like, “OMG what, I’m president?” I sought ISES for one reason and that was to get exposure and to get leads and clients and what I got from ISES was something very different.

I learned a lot in my years of the presidency and the past presidency because you are still involved. Leadership and  inclusiveness and all these things that are extremely valuable in my business,  things that I probably would have learned over time in my business but, working with different people, different mentalities and different industry expertise taught me a lot about inclusiveness and patience, and all of these things that you need to be a good leader. What ISES changed for me was when I decided that I wanted a bigger picture in my career. I wanted a national or international presence so I decided to get more involved in ISES on a national level. And I didn’t get too involved because I didn’t want to go through four years of being national vice president, I was involved in a lot of boards like Search, and I got on advisory boards for Special Events magazine and BizBash but the big thing was speaking because I had national and international aspirations, speaking was a ticket for me to be known to a wider audience. So the first time I spoke, I spoke with a couple of people at TSE which made it a lot easier to swallow because I was nervous as hell. And now I’ve developed myself as a speaker and now I speak probably once a month in some city around the country. I’ve been all over the U.S., to South Africa and all over Canada. And every time I speak at one of those and I speak directly from an education standpoint. In fact the events I typically show on my seminars are my lesser ones because they are the ones that have to be clever, so I’m showing I’m showing off my bag of tricks! Usually someone sitting in my class becomes a client almost every single time. And that’s what’s taken me from local recognition, which ISES helped me in, to national recognition through involvement in ISES, staying involved in the industry and becoming a speaker. That’s how I became known around the country and around the world.

 

Q: What about topics? Do you deliver the same topic or is it….

A: Yeah, it’s generally based around design. The one we are doing now is called Top 10 Things You Need to Know About Event Design…which you saw… that’s a really popular one, so I’ve been doing that one for a while and I am planning to do a top ten things about event production. The one before that was called Secret Shmecret….let me tell you some stuff that the big guys do and it was about event decor and design, things like that. We’ve had one called Walking the Tight Rope between Creativity and Profitability; how do you balance giving enough to have an amazing product yet still make money on it? So I probably have over ten seminars I’ve done that I can pull out and do for anybody, at any location now.

 

Visit the ISES LA Blog Tomorrow for Part III of Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell.

Visit the ISES LA Blog Tomorrow for Part II of Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell.

Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell – Part I

David Merrell founded AOO Events in 1989. As one of the nation’s most respected and sought-after award-winning design and production firms, AOO provides innovative event design, cutting-edge stage and logistics production. The company designs and produces movie premieres, corporate events, private parties and various milestone celebrations throughout the nation and internationally. As a former ISES LA President, Merrell continues his involvement as an industry adviser, expert and advocate. His leadership, achievement and dedication make him a true Mastermind. Continue reading for the details on Merrell’s journey to become an award-winning event designer and producer.

An Interview with David Merrell
Founder, AOO Events

By Paula Estes

Q: Ok, so what steps did you take to get your business started from the beginning?

David Merrell

David Merrell

A: Well, I had only had one event under my belt when I knew that I wanted to actually be on my own. It was about an eight month process from that moment when I was first employed by someone in the same industry as me that I actually made the leap myself.

Since I had been in the business, I’d been in the area marketing for a number of years, so I knew a lot of corporate decision makers, especially in Orange County. That was helpful at least in having a base to go to, to say, “Hey, I’m in business for myself” even though it was a different product.

I also took the opportunity to basically learn as many jobs as I could on the side from my regular job. I did everything from waiting the tables to loading the trucks to make extra money not only learn the business, but to start of my own company. At the same time, I also studied Special Event and Event Solutions magazines to learn everything I could about the business.

When I decided to go out on my own, I had actually saved about $10,000 and started out in an 800 square foot apartment which was my apartment, my office and my warehouse. I started as a caterer and I resold other catering company’s food. So I would buy things wholesale, buy things by the piece, take it out, repackage it, reheat it, put it on my own platters, use my own people and so I didn’t have to deal with the manufacturing part of catering, I was purchasing from others and I had four or five great caterers and small little companies that I worked with and I’d purchase food from them and soon developed a reputation that way. And through those parties and the contacts I made, it began to grow. Soon these clients began asking for flowers then about valet and soon I’m doing tenting and full bands and lighting. I grew into a full event production and this continued for about a year and a half. I was moving relatively fast, to the point where I could actually open my own kitchen. I had enough business, so I partnered with a chef, took the money I saved, even up to that point, and invested in my own kitchen. It took incremental steps. Once I had my own kitchen things really began to take off. I went through a number of places and locations and I eventually moved to LA making the decision to leave Orange County, because LA is where the real money is.

Q: Who were your clients?

A: At that time it was mixed corporate with a number of real estate companies that own large buildings who wanted to do tenant appreciations for 2000 people in their high-rises. It would be hot dogs and hamburgers, but it paid well, even though they were not glamorous events.It went well and I started to develop a social reputation. By the time I was done, I was doing food in high-end homes for a number of Bel Air and Beverly Hills’ socialites and some A-list celebrities. I thought I was on my way.

Then 9/11 hit in 2001 and business seemed to collapse overnight. We all had to make some hard decisions. Looking at everything I had accomplished, I realized that I really didn’t like the food side of the business, but loved the overall coordination and design. So in 2002, I shut down food and just went into decor and design and that’s when it really took off. It was a six month transition and then there was a lot of soul-searching, reinventing myself, repackaging myself, and remarketing myself to where I am today.

Q: And that soul searching….was that triggered by the 9/11 event, or the fact that you knew you were transitioning—making it part of the assessment?

A: Soul searching is part of the assessment of the economic situation we were in similar to 2009. Everyone’s had to look at the last year and a half and go holy crap what am I going to do here? What’s really a priority and what can I cut out?  How can I streamline? What happened after 9/11 happened more on the corporate side than the social side because everyone was still getting married and having bar and bat mitzvahs. Corporate America decided that they were not interested in celebrating and it wasn’t appropriate, and everyone was scared. The industry was hurt for a while and we were forced into making difficult decisions. That’s when I realized, after speaking with a really good friend of mine, Ginger Kramer, who owned a catering company up in northern California, that she was going through the same thing and decided I don’t want to be in the food side. She was the one who put me over the top and said, “You just have got to make the decision. Once I made it I said, ‘God why didn’t I do this earlier?’”  People who I was competing with…Wolfgang Puck, Along Came Mary, now became my clients. It just opened up many new doors for me within the city.

Q: and since you reallydidn’t enjoy that aspect of the business, it must have been liberating.

A: Actually I really enjoy the overall view. I’ll always be a foodie and I enjoy designing the menu and actually working through the logistics of service and all that stuff. What I don’t enjoy is the production of it. It’s arduous and tedious and it’s, you know health department and all kinds of stuff that I’d rather hire someone to do and just take a fee for managing it than actually dealing with it myself. I just removed myself from the manufacturing process.

Visit the ISES LA Blog Tomorrow for Part II of Mastermind: An Interview with David Merrell.