Welcome to another episode of Explode Your Expert Biz Show, brought to you by http://gtex.org.uk/,
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Today I have the pleasure to Interview Jennifer Chaibet
Jennifer is the founder of Etincelle Bespoke Events which is a bespoke event management service that creates magical experiences which represent the unique personalities of every client they work with.
In this episode, we talk about:
- What things can go wrong during an event
- How to turn difficult situations around quickly
- How to WOW your guests at your events
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– Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to another episode of Explode Your Expert Biz Show. Today, I’m here with the one and only Jennifer Toure. How are you doing, Jennifer?
– I’m very well, thanks. Hi, Simone.
– I’m super excited to have you here. We both have one thing, which is a big thing in common. We both come from a background of hospitality, and the work that you do it organising incredible, incredible luxury events, and I’ve been in the field of events for, oh my god, since I was 14 years old. So, we have a lot to talk about today, in particular on how to create an incredible experience, but before we go there, I would love to know a bit more about your background. How did you end up doing what you’re doing right now? What’s you’re story?
– It goes back when I was young. I grew up in hospitality. My parents had a couple of restaurants, so I was helping out since 14, and when I came to London I wanted to improve my English, and I just said, I will never ever work in hospitality because having the same background, you know what it’s like, working seven days a week. It’s not an easy job, but I always told myself I will never do that. When I arrived in London, like everybody else, I needed a job, but my main focus was to improve my English. So, I ended up working in restaurants and I applied for a waitress job for one of this company called Corbin and King, and the interview went super well and she asked me, “why don’t you work “as assistant maitre d?” and at the time, I wasn’t sure what it was. Particularly, it’s receptionist, and I said to her, I did try, but it was, let’s go back. It was 17 years ago. So, I wasn’t given the opportunity because I wasn’t British. At the time, you had to be native English speaker to get this kind of job.
– Oh, wow. Okay. So, it was one of the requirements for this kind of job. You need to be native English speaker.
– Yes. With my experience, every time I applied for the job, whenever I failed to get a job in private members club, high end restaurants, you needed to be a native English speaker. So, this great woman who is a top CEO now gave me this chance and I started working as assistant maitre d for the Wolseley restaurant on the Piccadilly. So, the companies, Corbin and King, and as assistant maitre d all the way up to reception manager. I worked there for 13 years and I had no idea about this type of restaurants. The dedication to get to know the clientele was incredible. Jeremy King and Chris Corbin are the best mentor you can ever get in this industry, and they really, really taught me to love that industry, which I didn’t hate before, but coming back from a background where you didn’t see your parents so much because they’re working so hard, seven days a week, and I just didn’t think I would fall in love for that industry, but when people asked me at the time, “what do you do?” and I would just say, “I’m a maitre d, “or a receptionist,” people think you’re standing there looking pretty and just greeting people and sitting them down, but it goes beyond that and what they don’t know is the whole work we do behind it, and that’s why I loved and was really passionate to work for these people because the restaurant become a theatre, the maitre d becomes a conductor, and you are running the show. You’re coming on your duty, you’re doing your shift, and it’s a whole party there.
– What did you love the most about that role?
– The whole organisation, and making people feel special when they pass the door. So, as they walk in, you just give them a great welcome, but the whole guest experience that you can give to your guest, and what I loved about this role was the fact that you had to do your little– I always call it my little investigator’s job where you need to get to know your client before they pass the door. We just need to get to know what they like, their preferences, and you might ask me, but if you’ve never met them before in that first time–
– How do you do that?
– This is where I love my job because even though that’s the first time, you should know that’s their first time with you. So, you need to get to engage the conversation, make them feel special despite the fact that they’re not loyal customer yet. So, I would try to build that relationship throughout their experience through dinner and yes, and it goes on.
– Do you have a particular moment that you remember where something happened that was really memorable for you in the experience you had working in that restaurant?
– Absolutely. The first time Patrick Swayze came through the door.
– Remember, I was in my early 20s.
– So, that was your crush. That was your crush.
– I was like, “I’m taking him to the table. “No one’s going to take him.” I greet him and I take him straight to the table. Yes. So, the first couple of years were amazing because the amount of celebrities coming through that door was amazing, incredible, and when you’re young and just all these people on TV, and you just realise they are just people like you and I, but what I love the most about it is we treated them like everybody else. So, every single person coming through that door would have the red carpet treatment, and this is why I truly think, as I mentioned, these two people were the best mentor ever because I grew through that passion. They were really passionate about the restaurant scenery and I grew up in that mentality, and making people feel special, getting to know them, building up relationship, and assuring from when they pass the door, you need to make sure they get the best experience in the whole– It’s not only dinner, it’s not only the atmosphere, it’s not only a restaurant, it’s more than that. It goes beyond.
– I can totally relate because I used to manage Michelin-starred restaurants before. That was my previous career, and I explored every single possible catering experience I could because I was so passionate about. I was really passionate about the industry. I really loved it, and what I loved the most was getting someone to see someone leaving the restaurant with a big grin on their face and say, “thank you. “I had an incredible experience.” That’s, for me, what I was working towards. It was less about– For me, it was about how can I get someone to come in and have an incredible experience that they want to come back?
– [Jennifer] Exactly.
– Because when you’re running a restaurant, there are so many things that are happening at the same time, there are so many mistakes that can happen, and the food is not good here or the veal is not cooked well, and so on. So, when you are there being the face in front of the people, then you’re the one that a lot of time, they just need to act on their feet and react to whatever is presented there. So, I can totally relate on what you’re saying. So, why did you decide to make that transition from being maitre d there at the restaurant, at the Wolseley or the other restaurants you worked with to now run your company where you’re organising luxury event? Why did you decide to do that?
– I just wanted to go– I’m very, very keen on organising, I’m very passionate about planning and building a relationship very closely with the client, and I really wanted to see it on the bigger scale, and the transition was the most natural. It just came naturally. I was given the opportunity by my business partner right now who owns Bespoke Concierge Service, and I’m the managing director of AMS. So, we were running events through that, through AMS, and I just realised that we were getting so much demand for it, and I thought we should separate the both services where I created Etincelle Bespoke events. He wanted a little touch of French in the name. That’s where Etincelle come from. It means spark, and that’s it. So, at the beginning of the year we had amazing events, including one which was for me one of the most memorable in 2019, only because that was a new venue to me, so that was a wedding for 650 people at the National History Museum.
– What? Wow. What a location.
– And, why I’m saying that was the most experience for 2019, even though there were others, because the setting of the venue from the museum to changing to a wedding venue, and anyone who worked in that venue will know is 60 minutes. So, we had access to it at six p.m. and my guests were arriving at seven p.m.
– [Simone] Wow.
– And, the whole venue had to be turned into a wedding venue. To put that vision to life, we had an amazing brigade of production, entertainment, the catering, everyone was fantastic, and it was amazing to see. It was really, really beautiful.
– Wow. And, you were organising, making sure that everything will run smoothly.
– Exactly. Everyone knew what they were to do, but I had to walk around and–
– Checking and make sure that everything was working to plan.
– That’s definitely an experience to remember. I remember, it was actually a completely different event, but I understand that pressure of creating and turning around a venue in such a short space of time, ’cause when we did the event with Gary Vaynerchuk, we actually had one hour to prepare a venue of it was about 500 people in a boxing ring, and literally that’s all the time we had. And for us, that was very simple because what we had to do is to put down chairs and put goodie bags on chairs, prepare, organise the registration, that’s it. So, I cannot even imagine the amount of things that were happening at the same time to turn an entire venue around. So, I know the stress that I felt just to do that simple one so you guys–
– It is stressful, but it’s worth it.
– Yeah, it’s worth, because then you see just the magic happening there in a short piece of time. Change. Wow. So, there are some people that are organising their own events and they want to organise something, maybe their companies, maybe they are VIPs, maybe they are famous people, but they organise parties to impress their guests. They want to create parties that are memorable, they’re a bit out of the ordinary. What are some of the mistakes that people make, the most common that you found when they decide to say, “I’m organising this?” And, they don’t have a clue about what they’re doing.
– The biggest mistake people make, the most common one, is to get your mom making the cake or whatever, the cousin organising the whole decoration. So, you try to save money actually by having your own people around you to try putting an event together, and you end up spending more, and I think that’s the most common mistake is when you are getting amateurs or amateurs who think they’re good enough to deliver. You know what I mean? I think that’s the biggest mistake that people make. There is always something that will go wrong on the day and you will end up fixing things on the day and you’re gonna be very stressful. So, whoever is your host, if it’s a business, corporate event, or if it’s a birthday or a wedding, you will end up being very stressed on your big day of the event. I strongly recommend to hire a professional to get the best result you want, but also never think you’re gonna save money by using your friends.
– Yeah. There are so many times when you end up just redoing the work.
– That’s it. Exactly.
– But now, you have to arrange it last minute.
– It can be a disaster, actually, because if you are successful in or you’re from, I don’t know, you’re gonna ruin your image, your reputation. It can go further than just having a very bad event.
– Yeah. Have you ever been in that situation when you had to turn around a situation that maybe someone to cut costs decided not to hire a good team, and then you found yourself there in the situation fire fighting and–
– Actually, I’ve been in that situation where I was asked to run the day, but the catering, so one of the vendor, was more in charge of putting everything together, but because my client was really insisting on me being there to control the whole day, at some point, I didn’t want to because it wasn’t already going to plan. It was two weeks before the event, the venue wanted to cancel it because it was a little bit messy, disorganised. It was quite chaotic. It was chaotic. But at the end, it all went well. That’s another thing that are among my non-negotiable rule, which I’ve learned from experience is if you want me to run your event, I will take it from scratch. I wouldn’t like you go come and say, “okay, Jennifer. “I want you to do my event, “but I’ve got my own caterer, “or I’ve got my own decorator coming on board,” and the only reason is because I work with the best people. I’ve tried lot of suppliers who are now partners or vendors, I like to call them my partners because we work close together. I have the best suppliers. And, I’ve built up relationship and we know how to work together. We share the same vision. For us, attention to detail is everything, and I selected every single one partner to work with me based on high standards and caring for actually what you’re doing. So, that’s why for me, that’s non-negotiable.
– If I want to organise an event, let’s say I want to organise an event because I see you’re all about planning, the small details, the experience, the seamless flow of the event. How long in advance should I start taking care or start thinking about planning this event and putting things together? Because there are a lot of people, if you’re anything like myself, that someone is listening, I am last minute dot com. So, everything I do is like, “oh, “I want to organise a party next week. “Let’s do that.” And, everybody around me is like, “what?” And so, how actually long in advance you need to give yourself enough time to do a really good job when you’re planning an event, really to impress, to make a difference, to do an event that can be remembered?
– I want to say it’s all down to your budget because I can tell you, we can just set up a fantastic event within 48 hours, but it will be down to your budget. So, last summer we had to organise a birthday party for Prince and I was given the whole planning. We had less than two weeks to do it for 150 people. We did it. So, that’s what I’m trying to say. It’s really dependent on your budget. The lower your budget is and yes, it will take more time, it will be more challenging, but if you have a good budget you come and you say, “Jennifer, “I’ve got this budget. “I need to organise my party next Saturday.” We’d work together, I’ll have a first conversation with you to find out your vision, if you have a them or anything special you really want to do, and my team and myself will make it happen, and it will be a wow event.
– Wow. So, it really is down to the competency, like how good is the team and less about the time.
– That’s right because we do work with the most amazing people.
– So, what’s your criteria? Because I would love to get a bit more into your mind and how do you make decisions, and you’ve tested hundreds of suppliers to find out who are really the best. You have a great relationship, they are your partners. So, what is your criteria when you select those partner? What are you looking for?
– I’m looking for quality, and the one who are very good listener. I’ve noticed that, for me, you don’t have to be a huge company. You can be just small one. I would work mostly with those little boutique, you know those little boutique supplier, how you call it, rather than a huge corporate one because they care actually about the quality. I don’t wanna say that the big company don’t care about it because everyone does to a certain extent, but I think for me, in my opinion, a little, small boutique, for example decorator or any supplier will put more heart into what they’re doing, rather than one who is doing 150 events a month, where for them it just becomes more like a factory, a routine. Yeah, if you know what I mean.
– Absolutely. I find it’s the same when you’re working with a small business. Every client is special, every client means something. They will put more heart, they will put more time, they will put more effort because also, small businesses, they need that client and they need the client to be happy. So, their life, a lot of time is on the line. On I need this to work because it’s not that I have 200 gigs every month that I can just say, even if one doesn’t work well it doesn’t make a difference. So, that’s really interesting. So, you mentioned quality. What does quality mean to you? Because quality has different means for different people, and you mentioned quality a few times. What does real quality mean for you?
– For me, quality, you’re right, it can be from an object to a service. It could be anything like that. Quality, I will see it straight away from the way your vendor is greeting you, the way they’re presenting themself, through whatever they’re offering. So, in term of their service, can they get me something special that other suppliers don’t get? I tend to ask, well, the one thing that I want is is there anything special you can just deliver for us, rather than for everybody else because we’re Bespoke, and I like to have that one really small thing that I can give to my clients. Quality also is, for me, something that I can feel. It’s passion through the people I would work with, caring for little details. You might think that’s fine, the guests won’t notice. As soon as you drop that sentence, that’s over. It’s no deal. It’s broken with me. That’s not gonna work.
– Because the guests will notice.
– Absolutely. The reason why I’m saying this is just a very simple example. Turning up to one of the biggest venues, another 650 people event, where I almost had a heart attack when I saw that the tablecloth were just halfway up. They were not all the way down to the floor. Coming from a supposed top caterer, that’s my client’s caterer. He chose that caterer. That’s the reason why it’s a no-no from me anymore to approve that the client is bringing their own supplier. If you have a notice that we can see the leg of the table as you’re walking it, it’s horrible. I had to call every single five star hotel to borrow some tablecloth on a Saturday afternoon.
– [Simone] Wow.
– This is hard. I would just go–
– Yeah, the extra mile.
– On the day, that’s it. I’ll go the extra mile to fix whatever I’m spotting and then, we’ll discuss later on. These are very small details. It’s the same as setting up, and there’s a decorator who set up the centrepieces. Centrepieces is very expensive and you can’t just think that a client won’t see the fingerprints or the flowers not being displayed properly, or the candelabra– everything has to be perfect even though I know perfection doesn’t exist, but excellence–
– Excellence. Excellence. Excellence. That’s what we are looking for. I want to ask you one more question before we’re apart, which is about if you think about all the events that you did, the one where you created something really special. I know every events create something special, but if you have one that really stand out, like an experience where every guest when they saw it it was like, “oh, my god. “Wow.”
– So, I could tell you a helicopter landing or– or a fountain with fireworks or what else? I could tell you anything like that, but for me, the most amazing experience and it’s gonna get me emotional all again. I had this meeting with a couple of clients, and during the second meeting the bride mentioned that her mom wouldn’t come. I don’t know whatever happened between them. That wasn’t my business at the time, and it’s none of my business, but she wouldn’t come to the wedding, and she dropped it, and in the conversation we’re discussing the whole planning and everything, and it caught my attention, so I just decided to make it my mission to make her come to the wedding.
– [Simone] Wow.
– And, it wasn’t easy. The bride didn’t know at the time, but I made it my mission, top number one mission, I said this is something, she has to come. So, I emailed her, I called her. She wouldn’t have it. A very stubborn French lady. And, I had to fly to France. So, I found myself, and when I called to have a face to face. I do feel, and I strongly believe, that for me, even though we have all those FaceTime nowadays and we can communicate via 100 different devices, but I do feel that a face to face you can feel the emotion, and it works best. Having said that, when I turned up there, she thought I was stubborn, I thought she was stubborn, and I left France thinking there’s no chance she will come because after the whole conversation that it went okay, but not as I thought it would go. I thought it would have been better, but just to make it short, she turned up on the big day.
– [Simone] Wow.
– And, that was the most wow factor that I could get in every events I had.
– What was the reaction of the bride?
– She cried. It was full of emotion. It was very, very emotional.
– But, did she know until last minute or not at all?
– No. Even myself.
– No one knew?
– I thought it was– I told my business board. I said that’s a dead end, that she doesn’t wanna come. I tried everything I could, but she turned up.
– That’s a real care means here. To set a goal, not only above and beyond, but even further than that, when you care so much about someone that you take care of what they are doing as it was your own and it’s your name on it.
– I had a very similar experience, and that’s why I think the work that you do is so important, ’cause we had our wedding in the south of Italy, and the person that did our wedding, she saw us as her son and daughter and everything she would do she would just do this with this mama attitude, and we really felt we were part of something. We went to every other venue, and every other venue was like, “oh, yeah. “This is how much it is, “this is the menu.” She really make us feel that she cared about our wedding, even more than we cared about our wedding, and that’s why we decided to go with her, and it was the best decision ever, and that’s why the work that you do is so important because when you’re creating something memorable, there are some occasions that is a once in a lifetime occasion. That’s it. You have one chance.
– Exactly. Yeah.
– And, if we put it metaphysically, we just have one chance ’cause every time it’s different, every moment is different. So, a lot about your philosophy is making every moment count. It doesn’t matter what moment it is, it’s just to make it count.
– [Jennifer] Absolutely.
– And, I can only do work that you do.
– [Jennifer] It’s all about memories.
– It’s crucial. So, I would recommend everyone who’s listening right now, you’re connected with Jennifer, and you might want to organise an event or something about really with the wow factor, something that will make everyone feel special, something perfect under every single detail, you understood how militant she is. So, don’t get on the wrong side please.
– That’s another conversation.
– [Simone] That’s another conversation.
– You don’t wanna get on the wrong side.
– No, you don’t wanna get on the wrong side, but if you want someone that can make really your event stand out, then make sure you connect with Jennifer. So, if someone wants to get in touch with you, reach out to you, know about how can you work with them, what are the best ways to contact you?
– You contact me by email. Jennifer dot Toure, so T-O-U-R-E, at AMS dot International, or today, because I’m in a good mood, I will give you my private line, which is oh seven seven one four seven six six four seven nine. We also have a website. So, www.EtincelleBespokeEvents.com.
– Can you please say it again, the email address and as well the phone number and the website, and then as well, we will put all the links anyway. They’re gonna be in the show notes. So, whether you’re watching, you’re listening, just look at the comments below and you will find her name, email address, and phone number, but if you can say them again, that would be great.
– Yes, absolutely. So, my number is oh double seven one four seven six six four seven nine. The email address is Jennifer, J-E double N-I-F-E-R dot Toure, T-O-U-R-E at AMS, A for apple, M for mother, S for sugar dot International, and the website is www.EtincelleBespokeEvents.com.
– Brilliant. Jennifer, thank you very much. It’s been brilliant having you here on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, if you have been listening or watching, thank you very much for joining us today for another episode of Explode Your Expert Business Show. Let us know what you thought about this episode, and make sure you shout out to Jennifer, give us a review on the show and I’m looking forward to seeing you next time because together we grow exponentially.
– Absolutely. Thanks, Simone.