It's been 24 hours since the speaker line up for Engage 17 has been announced, and I just really wanted to enjoy the moment before sharing this! Anything one word that I could use to describe how momentous this is for me would pale in comparison to how I truly feel, so instead I want to share a story about my first Engage experience in 2012.
I was less than 1 year into owning my business when it was announced that Engage was coming to Las Vegas. I struggled with the idea of attending on so many levels. First of all, despite having worked in the industry for years, I was a one woman show operating my business out of the side corner of a home office. Was this really a good place for me? Secondly, after doing a quick look at the calendar, I realized that I would be about 7 months pregnant during the conference, which was, at the very least, set to be awkward and uncomfortable. Lastly and probably the most daunting was the registration fee. It was on par with what I was charging at the time, and I struggled to wrap my head around it. As always, it was my husband who said, "No, you have to go. Do it once, and see if you get anything out of it."
Hands down, one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given. And just one more reason as to why I love that man.
I came home from the first day of general sessions, my head spinning. Forget about the heady hangover that comes with spending the day surrounded by the rock stars of the industry; it was more than that. For the first time I was able to see the potential of what I was doing, not just as a wedding planner, but as a business owner and entrepreneur. Up until that point, many people that I knew and respected had referred to my company as "cute" or "a great hobby" or "so fun". But Engage transformed the way that I looked at business. Being in a room with these people legitimized not only my dream, but my actions.
By the end of the three days my head was spinning, my feet were swollen, and my back ached, but I was on this indelible high. Reading and rereading my notes, I marveled at the things I saw and heard. My husband leaned over my shoulder, kissed me on the neck, and said, "Five years from now you'll be speaking at Engage." What??? I don't know exactly what it means to "guffaw" but I gasped at the absurdity of it. What in the world would I ever know that could deemed worthy to share with these people? I did not see a way in which my business could rise to this level, but he did.
And the truth is, Engage gave me the tools to take my dreams and turn them into something more. I worked my way up through the ranks of the casino world. I worked restaurants. I graduated, with honors, from one of the most prestigious hospitality colleges in the world (go Running Rebels and UNLV!) but nothing prepared me to do this. No one walked me through the running of a business, how to tell if I was making any money, where and how to market myself. But Engage did. Engage changed more than my business, it changed my life.
My desire to start speaking came from my time at Engage. I saw education as a way to give back to the industry what Engage had given to me. I saw the transformative power and change that comes with learning, partnerships, and community. I wanted to be the light.
This June, exactly 5 years from my first Engage, I will proudly be a part of the speaker line up at Engage Grand Cayman. It is an extraordinary honor, deeply humbling, and it makes me tingle with a giddy excitement I should not feel at 40 years old!
I have to send a big thank you and so much love to Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce, the creators of Engage, for willing this community into life and for welcoming me into he family with open arms. If I tried to list the wondrous and amazing friends I have made through my time with Engage I would be typing for days!
Cindy Novotny, you are the Radical Mentor. Matthew Myrhum, you are the friendship I never saw coming. There are people who rock my world like Marcy Blum, Ed Libby, Bob Conti, Preston Bailey, Sylvia Weinstock, Colin Cowie, Brian Worley...Susie di Harce and my family at The Knot...The pre-opening brunch crew that meets in my room every year...Kaleigh Wiese...Simon T Bailey...
To my snowflake! Ashley Schnippel...The only girl I want to travel the world with! Every person who has ever gone to an Engage, danced on the tables, bared your souls, taken a chance....To Carla Ten Eyck, Joel Callaway, Dennis Kwan, Rebecca Marie, Phil Van Nostrand, Brian Leahy, Brooke Palmer, Tommy Murphy, Ceci Johnson, Victoria Angel...Oh my God....I can't! I can't name you all - It's impossible to try. If I didn't get you in here just know it is because in my gushing I have lost my mind and I love you hard!
Mostly and always to my husband. My partner in business and in life. I married a man who supports me in ways I didn't know I needed, and sometimes don't deserve. But he does it anyway.
Thank you for this opportunity isn't enough, but it's all I have so...Thank you!
Las Vegas Wedding Planner Andrea Eppolito is often published, with works featured by the likes of BRIDES, Style Me Pretty, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, The NY Times, LA Times, Junebug Weddings, and more. With an eye catching style that shares not only the story, but the soul, of a wedding, Andrea's clients praise her for being their wedding planner, event designer, advocate, and friend.
An internationally acclaimed speaker, Andrea appears and speaks at events for the Engage! Luxury Wedding Summit, NACE, The Knot, the Wedding MBA, and more. Named the Best Wedding Planner in Las Vegas (2013, 2015, 2016), Wedding Professional of the Year (2011) and ranked as one of the top 50 wedding planners world-wide, Andrea works with celebrities, athletes, executives, and all people in love!
Based in Las Vegas, and working as a destination wedding planner world wide, you can learn more at www.AndreaEppolitoEvents.com.