…work hard to personally do the work and to think outside your ego. It is also important to understand if things aren’t thriving that you probably are not communicating your vision. Another tip is to always listen to your gut and make sure you have the right people in place. To really let your team thrive, you need to give everyone the tools to do their best job and deeply trust that they will step up to do their work.
As a part of our series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Barrie Schwartz. Detroit native, Barrie Schwartz, is My House Events’ founder and creative force. Schwartz is an accomplished entrepreneur with an infectious passion for hospitality and inept knack for curating memorable experiences. Schwartz moved to New Orleans in 2011 and discovered that the private events industry was dominated by standard, unoriginal menus and and the same chefs were being utilized for events time after time. She felt compelled and impassioned to change the private events landscape and shine a light on unique events and overlooked culinary talent. Since founding My House Events, Schwartz along with her partner Danielle Lee, has been driven by her mission to disrupt and enhance the traditional special and private event landscape. My House Events differentiates itself in the industry by carefully curating an ecosystem of chefs and event planners nationwide to craft personalized events for clients large and small while creating a new revenue stream for up and coming and notable chef talent. This hyper-collaborative approach ensures unparalleled and refreshingly unique food and beverage experiences for each event. My House Events has executed distinctive events large and small, from weddings for celebrities such as Darrin Criss to larger brand events with Essence Festival, The New York Time’s Cities for Tomorrow, Beachbody, NBA All Stars, and beyond. Barrie has been awarded a number of honors including PCMA’s 20 in their Twenties, Connect Corporate’s 40 Under 40 and Gambit’s 30 Under 30. Barrie also serves on the New Orleans Food Policy Advisory Committee and the Food and Beverage Committee for French Quarter Festival Inc.Outside of My House Events, Schawrtz can be found in her back patio hosting a dinner party.
Barrie it’s a great pleasure to talk with you, thank you so much for doing this with us! What is it about the position of CEO the most attracted you to it?
Great question, I have always been attracted to drawing my own map and finding an alternative path. The job of CEO encompasses the freedom of being able to steer the ship, make your own lifestyle, and influence others.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO does, but in just a few words can you explain what a CEO does that is different from the responsibilities of the other executives?
Yes, a CEO choreographs resources constantly to ensure every person working on and with the brand have what they need to be successful. It is a massive puzzle that continually needs love and care to have all the pieces fit in place.
What were your biggest struggles throughout your professional life and how did you overcome them?
I wanted a “real” job and salary. I left my old company to be a part of the first food hall in the South. As the vendor curator,working with all the original vendors to sign their leases and managing the market, I was caught in between the world of the chefs and the owners of the food hall. I realized I didn’t align with the voices of the owners and was stuck in a very hard place. It was a huge struggle to speak up and gain confidence to leave. I eventually was able to ask for what I wanted out of the job, work with the chefs to make their situation better, and get the confidence I needed to grow my own company.
What are the biggest challenges faced by women CEOs that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I would say the biggest challenge is not being taken as seriously and people thinking you aren’t working fast enough. Like most things in life the biggest challenges are also the things that make you the most successful.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being a CEO?
I enjoy influencing people and connecting resources together to bring success and growth to all involved.
What are the downsides of being a CEO?
The downside is a majority of your time is spent dealing with the hard conversations and preemptively searching for red flags before they become issues.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing that has happened was when we were working on one of our first big weddings and the groom’s brother was on American Idol. The brother really wanted to sing his show-winning song and kept interrupting the family during speeches to make sure I gave him the mic. The wedding had unique family dynamics we had to navigate and it was a very interesting night for me. I had to make sure all the couple, family and all were equally happy. I learned a lot about managing emotions and big days for people. The skills I learned that night have now helped me on countless events.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made was when our first client, Microsoft, hired us and I felt bad charging them since I was taking a cut on the back from the vendors involved. I asked them for only $100 for coordinating. They laughed and added another zero. It was a big lesson in learning to value my time, knowing my worth and to not feel bad asking the uncomfortable questions.
Specifically, what is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
This is a hard question because the job has changed so many times as we’ve grown and scaled. I really feel it just naturally morphed and I didn’t ever have that much on an idea on what my actual job would be.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be a CEO, what specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful CEO and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be a CEO?
The traits I attribute most to a CEO are being able to evolve and delegate, being able to set aside one’s ego and know when to let someone else step up and implement their strategy.
Someone who is super detail oriented and doesn’t like change would not be the right fit as a CEO.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I would say to work hard to personally do the work and to think outside your ego. It is also important to understand if things aren’t thriving that you probably are not communicating your vision. Another tip is to always listen to your gut and make sure you have the right people in place. To really let your team thrive, you need to give everyone the tools to do their best job and deeply trust that they will step up to do their work.
Who inspired/inspires you and why?
I am very inspired by Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Ice Cream. She is such an amazing business woman who has worked so hard to create a community driven brand. I also love that she ended up hiring a CEO and focuses on what she wanted to focus on which is insanely good ice cream.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am particularly grateful to Dawn Sweeney, CEO of the National Restaurant Association. She has been an amazing mentor to me who really listens to my vision and helps me hone in on how to make things bigger and better. I had a chance to be a part of the Women’s Food service Forum as a Millennial Adviser and Dawn was moderating a panel. We took a liking to each other and have stayed in touch. Her wisdom has been invaluable.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
By breaking the mold and disrupting the events industry to pave the way for more inclusivity and create an economic impact for local chefs through catering.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Things will change: This all started out from hosting dinner parties at my house and wow has that morphed. We now connect chefs to the special events industry to collaborate and create custom menus. I still remember one of our first pop-ups was on a third floor apartment and had me carrying every dish up and down the stairs along with tables and chairs. It was quite the lesson and I wish someone would have told me how much things were going to morph and change. At the time I thought things would never change and I couldn’t imagine how much my systems, processes, and ideas would morph.
- As you grow, things do not get easier and the conversations get harder. Yes, now I am not doing as much manual labor and working late nights at events as in the past, but the conversations are getting a lot harder and you have to come in when things aren’t going well. An example of this was when we did our first super high profile event. We had a seated dinner for over 300 people and to be honest it was a fake it til you make it kind of thing. I remember thinking -man, our team has this and it will be perfect. Turns out the catering company hired a really dysfunctional staffing company. It was a huge lesson in being more involved in the staffing process and vetting the companies we curate hire more. While I was not on the ground doing logistics running around, I did have to come in and talk to the high profile client who was upset and find creative solutions to make things right. It was stressful and made me realize a lot of my job was not only mitigating risk and celebrating the wins but also dealing with the failures. My partner and I did a lot of strategizing after taking ownership of the issue to ensure the rest of the event was perfect . Thankfully, things smoothed out and we further understood that everyone messes up but it is about how you handle that mess up that matters.
- Not everyone will like you. I remember being at a party and someone told me that they heard John (fake name) disliked me and working with our company. It really hurt me but I realized you cannot grow without having some haters along the way.
- You are not your brand: still learning this one!
- You will need help and the help you need will keep changing. I met my now business partner Danielle Lee on an airplane and it was absolutely the right time for me to bring someone on. She started helping me organize my finances and is now the COO.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
For women to be more comfortable asking and talking about money.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Things will evolve, let them. Everything that has happened has been a shift from what it was originally and it’s been a big lesson to let that be okay and exciting.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Beyonce, number one empire builder
Michelle Obama, do I need to even say why?
About the author:
Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 350 works in print. He is the author of two books, I Know My Shoes Are Untied Mind Your Own Business, and Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke