Talking Out Loud: Felicia Evans Long

Felicia Evans Long is a woman that oozes warmth and personality.  When you first meet Felicia, she envelopes you with a hug and instantly you are her best friend.  It is no surprise after having known Felicia for over a decade that she launched her own event planning business in Washington, DC called Sweet Events & Planning.  While not formally trained as an event planner, her natural knack for planning and throwing events is legendary (and so is her fried chicken!).  Personally, I think opening up her own business was always part of Felicia’s destiny as it combines her three passions in life; food, friends & family and fun. 

She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina and earned her Masters of Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix in Arizona. Felicia is socially involved with public service work and a former board member for Suited for Change non-profit organization.

Felicia’s brings a modern and elegant touch to events but what strikes me most about her work is that she strives to create affordable, personalized environments for every client.  Felicia is passionate about her craft and dedicated to providing quality service to all her clients.  This is why I am excited and thankful to have her participate in my Talking Out Loud series.

Felicia Evans Long

Owner & CEO, Sweet Events & Planning

Where did the inspiration for your business come from? How did a woman with an MBA and a budding career in the government go from planning NIH funding to planning weddings?

While working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I earned my MBA degree but never planned events during my 3.5 year tenure there.  I have been a freelance event planner for over 13 years.  The inspiration to launch my business was a combination of planning my wedding in 2006 and completing business management studies during graduate school in 2008.  I founded the business in October 2008 and celebrated my launch party in March 2009.  Since then, I have been featured in local newspapers, named one the top-planners in Washington, DC in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of The Knot DC Wedding Magazine, Named the Sweet Booth by the Washington Bridal Showcase, have worked with non-profits, brides and more.

What is the biggest assumption or misconception that people have about what you do?

The biggest misconception people have is the amount of lead time needed to plan an event.  Granted, I am experienced and can plan day-of event services.  However, if you’re cost savvy and want to save funds, then advanced planning is key.

You must deal with a lot of “champagne dreams on a beer budget” scenarios. What do you recommend people focus on when planning a party to have the biggest bang for their buck?

Advanced Planning is Key.  It allows clients to shop around for the best rates.  I also recommend clients look to professional students for different elements of their wedding or event.  For example, hire a freelance pastry chef student from the Art Institutes.  Someone who is looking to gain additional experience while making a fabulous cake in the process.

My readers love creating beautiful tablescapes — candles, china, flowers, silverware — all of it goes into setting the perfect table. Do you and your team have any tricks of the trade that you can share for setting a dynamite table?

Linens really set the tone for any table.  Sometimes, rental of linens can be expensive.  So, I always find out at the beginning of the year from my linen vendors what month linens are going on sale.  This way, if March is the sale month and the client needs the linens for an April event, you can purchase the rental of the linens in March at the sale price and pick them up in April.  This will save the client 40 to 50 percent off linen cost.  Also, charger plates bring elegance and color to a table.  As I often tell my clients, don’t be afraid to be creative; oversized flat bed sheets can sometimes make the best table linen (especially for tall café tables).  Your event should mirror your personality and who you are.  I have used fresh fruit as centerpieces, I have created my own framed table numbers, and I have used rack cards as personalized menus.  But more importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment.

Early on, your company became known for its fantastic candy bars that you created for your clients. What was the impetus behind the bars and what other types of things have you noticed are popular with clients?

Our Signature Candy Parlor display is one of our fantastic showcase pieces and can be used for party favors, centerpieces, and sure to bring fun and nostalgia to any event.  Regardless of the any of our ideas, our clients like the notion of being able to save in the process of planning an event.  The ability to throw stellar events at reasonable prices is at the heart of the business.   At Sweet Events and Planning we believe that “Every Event Should be Sweet.”  I can’t say that any one thing is “popular” with our clientel but I will say that overwhelmingly, my clients appreciate knowing that I’m always available and will shop around until I have found them the best venues and best deals.  A happy client means repeat business. Our customer-centric perspective is the most “popular” feature of the business.

People throw parties for fun. What do people who plan parties do for fun? What do you and your husband Tim do on those rare nights that you aren’t working an event?

It’s always important and our greatest gift to each other to have “date night.”  We enjoy taking in a movie or preparing fun food (i.e. turkey tacos). And for a Southern girl, what would be a fun night without sweet tea! We have even had a fun cupcake contest cook-off and invited a family friend over to judge our final creations.  It was amazing, but the best part was getting ourselves all messy with flour.  Although Tim, my husband, works at both George Washington University and Georgetown University Hospitals, he is Co-founder of Sweet Events and Planning, LLC and such a big support system of building my business.  

I end all my interviews with a variation of this question. Parties are about celebrating life. In throwing parties, what have you learned about living life out loud to the fullest?

Most importantly, it’s about the fellowship of friends and family.   Living in the metro Washington, DC area it is essential to take an adult time-out to spend, reconnect and share time with those we love the most.  While we enjoy staying home, one of our favorite vacations places is Playa Azul, Costa Rica at a resort called The Sanctuary.  This place is amazing and the best kept secret for a romantic get-a-way. Taking that time to recharge is living life out loud.

My thanks to Felicia for being part of the Talking Out Loud series.  You can read the profiles of other ordinary people doing extraordinary things and living their lives to the fullest by clicking here.

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