Business Lunch: A Conversation Between Entrepreneurs

business lunch

business lunch

Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with three successful creative entrepreneurs at a joint association lunch meeting between the International Live Events Association (ILEA) and the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza. From business challenges to game changers, the discussion between these women, all at the top of their game, was lively and fresh. Meet my lunch companions in this episode of Business Lunch …

Trish Peng, owner of Trish Peng Couture, a high-end designer of bridal and evening gowns and based in both Auckland, New Zealand and Los Angeles

Pauline Parry, owner of Good Gracious! Events, an award-winning catering and event design business in Los Angeles

Julie Novack, CEO and co-founder of Party Slate, an online digital marketing platform for event professionals

On starting up

Julie: “I had been dreaming out loud for so long, telling people I was going to do something like Houzz, a site I love [dedicated to home design, decor and remodeling]. My husband finally asked, ‘If not now, then when?’ I quit my job in tech two weeks later.  It’s not an easy decision … there are so many issues to consider, including that you might not earn money for years. But after you’ve talked about something for so long, there comes a time to just do it. I’m older than most people are when they do a startup, but I have been through two recessions now and have a lot more business acumen than someone younger might have. Bottom line — it’s never a bad time not to go after your dreams.”

It’s never a bad time not to go after your dreams! @julierothnovack Click To Tweet
A signature of Good Gracious — Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Pauline: “I started my company in the eighties, so I’m not a start up by any means. But the passion needed to start something up, and then to maintain it, is what is important. We work so hard in this industry. You have to love it and look for support everywhere. I honestly can say I wouldn’t be who I am today without the support of the associations I’ve joined such as ILEA and NACE —  the friends, partnership and learning, it all supported me.”

On business growth …


Two evening gowns from Trish Peng Couture. Photo: Brian Topiano

Trish: “One of my advisors in Los Angeles introduced me to the book the E Myth by Michael Gerber. It’s basically about why businesses fail because they are started by people who have passion for what they do but not the systems in place to run that as a business. He talks about the three types of people and skill sets – the technician, manager and entrepreneur. You have to know a little about each one, but it’s hard to excel at each. You need to bring balance to your team. I just read the book at the end of last year and my goal this year is to implements more systems.”

Pauline: “Infrastructure is so important. We’ve been looking at ours, and putting new leadership in place to keep growing.  If I were to start over again, I would have put more leaders into place earlier and not have been so emotionally attached to it all. Going forward, I’m bringing my daughter, Joanne Purnell, into a key leadership role. The younger generation will take us forward to be greater than what we are now.”

On learning from challenges …

Julie: “I recommend experimenting a lot and not being afraid to fail. Testing, learning, we did a lot very quickly and learned a lot about what to do and what not to do. For instance, we thought we’d be able to sort by number of photos people put up on the site, and that would encourage them to put up more. But that actually didn’t work. So now we are rolling out our own algorithm on how we sort popular photos, more in the model of Houzz.”

Trish: “In the beginning, I began a ready-to-wear line in addition to everything else, thinking I could do it all. That was wrong! It was too much and the price points were too great. I had to sell so much more ready-to-wear at a lower price point than the couture pieces. It was my mother that asked me what I was doing. I looked at it and narrowed it down to just the couture.”

On teams …

Julie: “Surround yourself with people you love. If you don’t want to get stuck at an airport with that person for three hours, they shouldn’t be on your team. Of course they can be different from you, different viewpoints and skill sets, but you have to be able to work together. If problem come up, I do what I call ‘a walk around the block.’ Step away and assess the situation. Then if it’s still a problem, deal with it. The longer it goes on, the worse it gets.”

On what sets them apart …

A sample from Party Slate’s “The Scene.”

Julie: “Party Slate is all about design inspiration of the event itself. There are so many wedding sites focused on the dress and the makeup, and then there are event sites focused on the décor. We are about design and inspiration across all event types and about everything that takes place within that event – the food, the lighting, the experience and atmosphere.”

Trish: “Yes, there are a lot of bridal fashion designers. What sets Trish Peng Couture apart is or tagline – Designed with You, Just for You. We customize the experience. In Los Angeles, the client is picked up in a limo and taken to our special venue, a house with a 360-degree view of the city, for a high tea.  Right then and there, I begin to sketch out a dress. It’s all about the personalized experience.”

Pauline: “We work on our relationships. Our business is 80 percent repeat business so I’ve taken great steps never to lose these clients even if they change companies. We make sure we are in touch with them all the time, and then we invite them in for a taste of what we do … food and booze!”

Certainly that is a time-tested way to woo and keep clients. And I think it will have to be a part of this new blog series, Business Lunch, from now on!

Business Lunch: 3 #creativeentrepreneurs. How they got to where they are + how they intend to stay. #eventprofs Click To Tweet

business lunch

This photo and top photo: Brian Kramer

business lunch

The Omni Hotel did a great job with the love theme!

Thank you NACE LA president Jose Ramirez of AFR Furniture Rental and ILEA LA president, Jamie Snively of Innovative Entertainment! Photo: Brian Kramer


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