Base your pricing on your value and what you bring to the table, not someone else’s budget.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Lawrence. Beth is an Award-Winning Meeting & Event Planner, and the President & CEO of Beth Lawrence Meetings & Events. She made her name for herself in the hospitality industry, holding positions in sales, event logistics and marketing for national brands such as Dave & Buster’s and the Palm Restaurant, high-end Philadelphia caterer Brûlée Catering, and Austin-based Startup Snap Kitchen. Since starting her business after being laid off in November of 2017, Beth has produced events and experiences for brands in the tech, blockchain, and cannabis industries and launched several Philadelphia-area hospitality concepts, providing PR and Marketing services. In the summer of 2019, Beth pivoted her business to focus solely on event project management and experiential marketing, while rebranding and overhauling her website. You can follow Beth on Instagram @bethlawrence.co
Thank you so much for doing this with us Beth! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
was raised in South Jersey, near the Pine Barrens, with my younger sister, Sarah. My family were farmers, and my parents met in forestry school. Since I learned to talk, I woke up (at 6:48 a.m. on the dot) speaking. Planning. Asking what we were doing that day, and the days to follow. Though my interests were very different from my parents, they never discouraged me from being who I am and exploring those interests. I credit them with allowing me to explore my love of the city, of concerts and events, and of embracing my independence.
If it were not for this type of upbringing, I likely wouldn’t have discovered and pursued my passion for events.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
It’s funny, because I was actually “pushed out of the nest,” so to speak. After spending half of my life in the hospitality industry, I pivoted to work for a healthy-food startup in late 2015. While there, I was able to exercise my entrepreneurial muscles, having been blessed with a team that pushed for innovation and going full speed ahead on ideas. I loved that job, and although I knew that taking on a role with a startup didn’t guarantee long-term career growth within the company, I treated the brand as if it were my own.
Meanwhile, to family and friends, I always said “No matter what happens with this job, next I’m going to start my own business.”
It was at an events industry conference in October of 2017 that I first made the mental ‘leap’ into venturing out on my own. I remember listening to a keynote speaker, and feeling so inspired that I wrote in my small notebook, “My name is Beth Lawrence and I own my own events and experiential marketing company.” Ironically, (or serendipitously), I was laid off three weeks later. My husband came home and said “They gave you a gift…why not try and start your company?” And so it was.
The weirdest part? I was laid off on November 8, 2017, and the page in the notebook where I had written my manifestation was a (blank) November 2017 calendar. Now, I always say I manifested my layoff!
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
Honestly, I have always loved events, and I knew I couldn’t do something I wasn’t in love with. Additionally, I didn’t really have time to think about it! I went full-speed ahead with the idea and the founding of my company three days after I lost my job. I had to have faith in myself and my idea in order for it to work. After all, I named the company after myself!
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
If the world has a problem that you will solve, or a void you will fill, push forward with the idea. You already have your target customers! Similarly, if you are passionate about something, enough to work on it every single day and learn the ins and outs of all the processes to make it happen, you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit. Let it guide you!
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
I’m fortunate that, with events, no two days are the same and no two clients are the same. This has always helped me to fall in love with my career over and over again. In general, as my business grew, I’ve outsourced some of the things that don’t give me joy, like Quickbooks. That has helped me to focus on the parts of my business that I love!
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
What I enjoy the most is being responsible for my own earnings, and being able to work with clients from all over the world, remotely. I love that I can be in a coffee shop in Toronto, working on projects for clients in Philadelphia, LA and Florida. The biggest downside is also the biggest upside: Being responsible for my own earnings. It can be tough to predict slow periods, or determine when is a good time to do business development when I’m in the thick of busy season!
To overcome the drawbacks, I focus on working on my business instead of in my business during the slow season(s), and I always save money. My husband and I changed our lifestyles when I started my own business, to include making sure that we always have money set aside for emergencies.
I’m also a classic “self-starter,” and have that ambition to work on my business, all on my own. That helps on days when I’m less-than-motivated, and force myself to put one or two things on the to-do list.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The most striking difference is how people perceive event planners and event producers, vs the level of experience it takes to produce large-scale conventions and activations. Many times, I see event planning roles described as virtual assistance or administrator roles. A Certified Meeting Professional has, typically, a wealth of real-world experiences, knowledge, and contacts and is a more complex and senior role than that of an administrator. Certainly, some smaller dinners and meetings can be planned by an experienced assistant, however distinguishing that role and the event project manager role is something that I’ve discussed with clients and potential clients more times than I thought I would.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
To be honest, this happens all the time. It’s hard to overcome the periods where it feels like nothing is going right, especially in the beginning when you are every department! For me, working for a dollar for myself is far more rewarding than working for a dollar for anyone else. I have to remember how far I’ve come, and the goals I’ve set for the future, and take a little time away from work to decompress. I always come back the next day feeling ready to take on the challenge.
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?
Sure! It actually happened a few days after I got laid off. I was focusing on networking at the time, scheduling meetings with prominent people in my network and looking for free networking events online. I had read about the app Bumble and their Bumble Bizz feature, which allowed users to connect with other professional women in their area. I went online, made a profile — and realized that it automatically generated a Bumble dating profile, too! When I realized it, I deleted the app immediately, but I forgot to delete my profile.
Well, a few hours later, my husband’s colleague sent him a screenshot of my profile, wedding ring clearly visible in my photo. I was mortified. My husband thought it was hysterical, and helped me delete my actual account for good.
The lesson I learned was to slow down and read the fine print! Don’t jump into something just because you think it’s a solution for you. Do your research!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I have a few close friends and mentors that I’m lucky enough to talk with on a daily basis. I just finished my tenure as Board President of the local women’s networking group Professional Women’s Roundtable, and the 2017–2019 Board and I all have a text chain that we use to check in, ask for advice, and motivate one another. They all inspired me to be a great leader, and their strengths offset my weaknesses. It helped me to hone in on what I’m really good at and what I should ask for help with, in my business and in life.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Each year, I take on volunteer or pro-bono opportunities, and have done so my entire career. From planning a fundraiser for my Senior Thesis; to volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign Gala Dinner Committee in Philadelphia; to forming a legacy team and raising over $120,000 for the Eastern PA Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in the past 5 years; Philanthropy has always been a huge part of what I do. I continue to find ways to connect people and organizations and raise money for causes that are important to me.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Base your pricing on your value and what you bring to the table, not someone else’s budget.
- Do your best to separate your home space or personal space, and your work space.
- It’s OK to put yourself out there and discuss your accomplishments.
- Do It Yourself only gets you so far.
- Not everyone is going to support you, and that’s ok.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I love the idea of ‘paying it forward.’ A small example is when the people in line at Starbucks buy the drink for the person after them. Typically, it inspires that person to do the same, and starts a chain reaction of giving throughout the day. During the holidays, I always read about people anonymously paying off people’s layaway. Giving a stranger a metro card with money on it that they can’t use. I wish that it was easier for people to do good deeds like that, anonymously, to help others that may be struggling or finding it hard to get by. Even a small gesture like paying for someone’s coffee makes them smile.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My friends and I always say “I’m not going to take that on.” It really helps in situations that you can’t control, or things that don’t directly involve you, or situations where you have to “let it go.” (That’s not easy at all for event planners to do!)
It helped me as I started to hire people and contract things out; if I literally say “I’m not going to take that on,” it helps me to realize that there is someone that I hired with that specific skill set who could likely do it better than I can!
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.
I would love to have lunch with PR Maven Kelly Cutrone! I’ve read her books and just admire her tenacity and perseverance.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.