Each month we profile one inspiring individual who is raising the bar in the meetings & events industry. Read on to learn why Jason, Owner & Director of Celebrations at Rheefined Company, is our April 2020 #Eventprof of the month.
Now before we begin this interview with Jason, let me tell you quickly the story of how we met! This time last year I was heavy into planning my wedding, which was quite a different endeavor from planning a conference (like we do here at Dynamo). So, I knew I needed to enlist the help of an expert.
Fun fact: My then-fiance-now-husband, Hunter, had already found our wedding venue before proposing! Once he figured out that I thought we should have our wedding in Los Angeles (where we live) – he is from Memphis, while I’m from New Jersey, so it wasn’t a given – he whipped out his phone and showed me South Park Center in Downtown LA, a location he had secretly been dreaming of. It was the easiest venue scout ever – there’s nothing else like it in LA, and since we knew we wanted a city wedding with views, it was perfect.
We asked our contact at South Park Center, Adriana, for any recommendations of planners who had done great weddings in the space previously, and she gave us but one name: Jason Rhee.
Jason helped us create our dream moody, romantic city view wedding in June 2019 and became a close friend of ours in the process. It was an absolute blast to collaborate with him as a fellow planner, and I’m so excited to feature him this month not only for his wedding work (though, we did include photos from my wedding just to make it more personal!), but all the great social and corporate work he does as well.
He’s also just one of those great “industry” people – a great connector and educator who really cares about contributing to the events industry in a meaningful way. His humor and all-around good ju ju are just the cherry on top. You’ll definitely get a taste reading his interview here!
P.S. Make sure to read to the end to see a behind the scenes shot of Jason and me at my wedding 🙂
Here are 10 questions with our April feature, Jason Rhee
1. What initially drew you into the events industry?
As early as I can remember, I loved making people laugh and smile. So naturally, I got into theatre arts in middle school, and that was my first experience working with a group of people to create something for an audience. As I continued that path in High School, my passion only grew, and I began volunteering with community service organizations and clubs, where I was able to take leadership roles and plan small meetings, after school activities, etc. My first job was working at Party City, so you can say it was destiny hah!
2. What’s a day in the life of Jason like?
Well currently, due to Covid-19/Quarantine, it’s been Zoom calls and Taco Bell. Like a lot of Taco Bell. #PartyofOne
However, pre-pandemic, an average day would start at about 9 am. A grande cold brew with 2 shots of espresso, driving, conference calls, driving, meetings, an industry event or planner dinner in the evening, and finding ways to fit a workout somewhere (cuz I mean, Taco Bell, c’mon). Weekends mostly dedicated to events/weddings, and Sundays reserved for that post-event hangover. Sprinkle in some industry education with speaking and moderating and sitting on panels.
3. What is your favorite venue you’ve worked in, and why?
This is a tough question to answer since I have a list of faves, however, South Park Center is one of my tops. Although it’s a very tough venue to work, I love its blank canvas and incredible 360 views of LA.
4. What was your biggest event fail, and how did you overcome it?
I had a challenging wedding client who was adamant about handling the food on his own and at the time (this was years ago), to keep the peace, I let him. Come the day of the wedding, I was finally able to connect with the chef, and found out the client had only contracted half the guest count.
To make matters worse, it was a buffet. Within the first 20 mins, we were completely out of food. Guests were screaming. I made the decision to call every local restaurant, begging for large take-out orders (on a Saturday night, I got laughed at!). The only thing I could get was pizza.
I still consider this a fail, even though the clients did not care, I still cringe when I smell pizza ha! I did not overcome the issue that day, but it changed the way I approached every event afterward. The key takeaway is to never compromise yourself or what you do. Not every client is the right client, and when you begin to identify the wrong clients or red flags, do not ignore them. You have every right to decide if you want to pursue an opportunity or continue working with a client. Protect your business at all costs.
5. What is your absolute favorite part of your job?
I really love the relationship-building part of this business. Not only with my clients but also with the event industry as a whole. I do believe we are one of the hardest working industries out there. Our objective is to make people happy, and that’s a great feeling when accomplished.
6. Where do you see the events industry going in the future? Any trends?
There is a lot of concern about the future of events because of Covid-19, however, I know at the end of this quarantine, there will be a lot of people wanting to celebrate. With companies moving into teleconference meetings and digital events via Zoom and streaming, I think the trend will become quality over quantity. It will be about the experience more so than the excessive.
7. What’s a tool that’s saving you time in your job?
Online based software tools like AislePlanner and HoneyBook have changed the way we plan/operate.
8. Do you have a favorite book or podcast you would recommend to fellow event professionals?
- You are a Badass by Jen Sincero
- Crushing It – Gary Vaynerchuk
- Shameless self-promotion! My YouTube/Podcast is launching this month: www.TheRheeality.com
9. Who would be your dream guest at an event?
I want to say Oprah, but I definitely would not want to work that event, and rather attend as her +1. I would say, a dream guest is honestly anyone who follows signage and is polite to the team and staff, ha!
10. Any advice for #Eventprofs just getting started?
Go out and just do it. Say yes to volunteering and helping friends plan. The more you do, the more you learn, so say yes to every opportunity you can, until you gain the skills and learn your value. You will learn valuable lessons from the mistakes you make, and trust me, you will make mistakes because we are in the business of problem-solving.
Visit The Rheefined’s website here.
And be sure not to miss the debut of Jason’s new YouTube/Podcast this month here.
PS – Here’s two fellow #eventprofs in true behind-the-scenes make-it-happen form – delivering the late bride to the ceremony via freight elevator to avoid any guests’ eyes!