Punch Profiles: People to Know / 10 Questions with Stacey Severe, Founder of Harper Event Management
Pamela’s Punch LLC’s business was originally founded on promoting, attending and covering events and, as this is the nation’s capital so it happens to be the same case and around about for thousands of other firms and companies. There is n’er a dull moment when it comes to affairs and happenings around this large village, whether it be for charity for love for politics for fun or for whatever it may be. Functions happen every morning, every day, every afternoon, every night, every late night, you may just not know about them. They are small, intimate private and they are large, oversized, momentous, open to the public and every type in between.
So who puts these events together so we, as guests, believe it happened by magic? Who takes on the multi-page task lists and executes the most mundane to the most off the wall necessities and client requests? Who ensures that the guest list is filled and happy and that the food is up past par and that all goes well? Who in the world would take this on? (By the way, the list of details that go into marketing and producing an event is quite lengthy with sublists and enough to make your head spin.)
Well, people like Stacey Severe, whom I the pleasure of meeting while she was at the Washington Humane Society producing Fashion for Paws, the now flagship fundraising vehicle for the charity. We had the chance to grab her after she launched her own firm Harper Event Management.
Pamela’s Punch: Tell us a bit about your background. Did you grow up in the area?
Stacey Severe: I caught the “Event Bug” at a young age! Growing up in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, in a family, where my mother has always served a leadership role at a not-for-profit organization; my brother and I were often tasked with helping at different charity events. We have stuffed invitations for the fundraising gala, worked registration table on event day, set up the event itself, flipped pancakes, helped with décor, and so many other tasks.
In addition to assisting with the fundraising event, my mother loved to throw a great party, from a surprise wedding adventure to a themed birthday party for me, or my brother. Our family is all about “the experience”, and this helped me get where I am today helping to create an event that highlights the unique tastes and individuality of the organization/person.
PP: What was your area of study in school? How do you think you’ve been able to utilize it in your career?
SS: I have my B.A. from Miami of Ohio in Political Science. This degree led me to Washington in 2003, for a job with the Koby Mandell Foundation, but since I always “loved planning events” it was my second job at Courtesy Associates, a meeting planning firm that shaped and guided me on my current career path.
PP: How did you get into event management?
SS: When I decided to explore new job opportunities after moving to Washington, a job listing on Monster.com for an event planning assistant at Courtesy Associates made to take the leap! I always loved planning a party so I took a chance and applied. They took a chance on me, and taught me the needed skills to organize an event whether it is for 10 or 2,000 ppl. This job lead me to move up the ladder in my event management career, becoming an event associate at the National Breast Cancer Coalition, an event manager at the Washington Humane Society, and ultimately allowing me to venture out on my own and start Harper Event Management.
PP: This town holds multiple events every night of the year. What have you found to be your favorite type to produce?
SS: I love producing charity galas; I get to help create a wonderful party and raise money for a worthy cause. I also get a thrill out of producing Corporate Events/Product Launches. Their goal is always to give an amazing guest experience; I get to use my creativity to help them achieve this goal.
PP: You started Harper Event Management last year, tell us about the firm.
SS: Harper Event Management is named after my daughter, one of my other passions in life. We are a premier full-service event firm focused on planning, design, and management based just outside Washington, DC. We specialize in life cycle and corporate events and are devoted to providing our clients with full-time support, always giving 100% of our expertise, knowledge, skills and resources. Our goal is to become an extension of your family and/or staff by creating a cohesive partnership and an event that highlights your unique tastes and individuality.
PP: What have you found during your long career to be some of the challenges in your industry?
SS: Originality, meaning most of my career work has been planning fundraising galas. A charity gala in this city are a dime a dozen. It is my goal as the event planner to create a unique experience that makes the particular charity stand out and guests want to come back year after year.
PP: Can you share with us some of your favorite events you’ve produced and attended (not working)?
SS:• Washington Humane Society’s Fashion for Paws• Habitat for Humanity International Build Hope Gala• National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund’s Les Girls Cabaret
PP: How have you seen the event management, marketing and production scene change over the course of time?
SS: Like any industry, event management has evolved over time. From event websites for information and ticket purchasing to the ability to host a silent auction/pledge drive in real time. In addition, 10 years ago an e-invitation would never be acceptable or be able to reach the majority of your guests and now it is the “green” way to do things.
PP: What type of thoughts do you have about your industry and charities in the coming years? What can we expect?
SS: With the current economy our industry needs to focus on helping to create a one of a kind experience while not looking like there was a huge budget for the event. Guests want the experience, but want to know that the money they donated was used for the cause and not for caviar at dinner!
PP: Finally, where are some of your haunts in the D/M/V? Any beloved restaurants, parks, or other?
SS: My favorite beloved restaurants, parks, and other hangouts…I would say for an adult evening out, Bourbon Steak at the Four Season (Love there French fry sampler) and then going to listen to our friend’s band Redline Addiction, wherever they are playing! On a more typical day, Brooklyn Deli near Park Potomac or New Tokyo Japanese Cuisine for amazing sushi (a hidden treasure) in Gaithersburg and then Hadley’s Park with the family. Owning my own business allows me to play my other important role as mom to my daughter Ivy, my pups Diesel and Kensington, and wife/partner to Ari.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.