It’s about time for another peek at what I do! It is only appropriate that I share with you the biggest undertaking of my career since its around the corner, and its also the most exciting as well—The Hispanic Choice Awards. This event was one of C-Luxe’s first official clients in 2010, and it has been quite an eye-opening road!
The Hispanic Choice Awards (HCA) is a high-level Red Carpet event that celebrates the contributions of Latino professionals, businesses and organizations across all sectors in the Delaware Valley. The Hispanic Choice Awards started in 2004 when Javier Suarez, then owner of the Hispanic Yellow Pages, decided to honor the businesses that were a part of the publication. The initial event drew only about 23 guests and took place at the Zellerbach Theatre at the Annenberg Center. Despite low numbers, Javier was convinced that he was on to something so he decided to try the event for a 2nd time. In 2005, the attendance increased to 300 and the show took off from there. Attendance doubled two years later, and by 2007 over 1,000 people were walking down the Red Carpet at the Hispanic Choice Awards- a historic feat for any Philadelphia event, let alone a Latino one.
Today, HCA is held at the largest performing venue in Philadelphia, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. The Hispanic Choice Awards show is now the largest Latino event in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and the only Red Carpet function of its kind. It features a VIP Pre-Show Reception, a Red Carpet Entrance and a really awesome Awards Show that has a nice balance of local and national performances, and award presentations.
Landing an Awards Show Client
Many of you ask me what the process of obtaining new clients is like. Getting to the Hispanic Choice Awards was one of the first times I directly sought out a client. I had actually attended the show three times before speaking with the Executive Producer, Javier Suarez. The third time took place in the fall after launching C-Luxe so this time I went to the show with entrepreneur goggles on. I observed, took notes and thought about what I would do if I were running it. I was with a few friends and I remember them giggling at me as they watched me furiously jotting down reactions to different portions of the show on the back of my program book.
At the end of the show, I looked over to one of my close friends, who knew the Executive Producer, and I said, “Can you connect me to the guy who runs this? I am planning this event next year” She smiled and replied, “Sure. But you know he has an event planner already, right?” I smiled back and told her not to worry. Just connect me to the guy and I’d do the rest. I hate to sound smug but in that moment, for some reason, I had all the confidence in the world that I’d be running that production the following year. It felt damn good.
A week or two later, she connected us. I sent Javier an email with some of my ideas about the show. A few weeks later he agreed to meet over lunch. We did and we ended up speaking for about three hours that day! He explained the history of the show to me, shared his passion for its importance and explained his vision for the future. I was immediately inspired and I knew that I had to plan this event. I was a little nervous, I went to use the restroom to gather myself and then I went out to take the plunge. As soon as I got back to our table I asked if there was any way I could be a part of the planning of next year’s production. He stopped, looked at me and shared some information that would change my life: he had just let go of his former event planner. Game. Set. Match.
This is now my second year serving as the Senior Producer of the Hispanic Choice Awards; it has been incredible. Together, Javier (who is now my business partner) and I pretty much run it all. We procure sponsors, generate press releases, secure performers, monitor the nominations campaign, select the review committee, strategize marketing initiatives, manage social media, pick a menu, map out the floor layout, write the script, order the awards, and so much more! Here and there, whenever the budget allows, we contract third parties to handle specific elements, such as graphic design and video production, but all in all, it’s a two-(wo)man show.
This could easily be a stress-filled nightmare, (I’ve planned weddings a quarter of the size of this show that have been close to giving me nervous breakdowns) but because our passion is intense, we are always receptive, we are organized, and our skills compliment each other, it is truly the best event I have ever planned.
Award Shows ain’t Easy
I’ve planned hundreds of events- conferences, weddings, and speaker events galore. Without a doubt, this Awards Show has been the biggest challenge and greatest learning experience. Taking on this show was the first time I would direct an event of such magnitude. Since it consists of three parts: a VIP Reception, a Red Carpet Entrance and the Award Show, it feels like running three giant consecutive events that happen on the exact same day. Before HCA, I had never written a show script, produced videos with a major television network, mapped out a red carpet flow strategy, created celebrity request proposals, or hundreds of other award show-related planning elements. While much of this has been new and definitely a challenge, I have been amazed at how well my skills and past experience with events, strategic planning and consulting prepared me for this job.
Finding Mr./Mrs. Right for Biz
I am beginning to see that the tremendous success we have seen with the Hispanic Choice Awards in two short years has everything to do with the having an outstanding business partner. The most important advice I can give to anyone thinking about or currently running any business is find your Mr. or Mrs. Right for Biz! As a new entrepreneur, I am now experiencing many people’s working styles. The more I see how other people operate in the world, the more fortunate I feel to be working alongside someone who is so great.
LtoR: Javier Suarez (Exec. Prod./Biz Partner), Tony Dandrades, Me, Ilia Garcia
My Mr. Right for Biz, Javier Suarez, is detail-oriented, respectful, passionate, organized, and has more integrity than I have ever experienced in another person. Our personalities and work ethic compliment each other, we challenge each other often, we appreciate each other, and we acknowledge each other’s areas of expertise while being aware of areas of weakness. Beyond the show, Javier has helped shape me into a real businessperson. He empowers me, teaches me, listens to me and inspires me. Together, we make magic happen.
In two years we have transformed this show into an unprecedented event that has increased sales, attendance, corporate partnerships, outreach and it will now even be televised! This didn’t just happen. I know that we are experiencing all of this success with our event because we have found the right formula for a business relationship- and that makes this show experience even more meaningful.