Life will go on, no matter what is thrown at us.
Look for the positive in a negative situation. Spending more time with your family is not a bad thing, so take the time to get to know and learn about each other.
We will be stronger when this over. This time is allowing us to refocus our priorities.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing JoAnn Gregoli.
JoAnn Gregoli is the owner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli, an event production and planning company with offices in New York, New Jersey, Rome and Marrakesh. She is a speaker, author, mother and wedding producer. She Is a mother to 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. She co-authored the Knots Guide to Destination Weddings and has appeared on numerous shows such as Good Morning America, Today Show and the CBS Morning Show. She has worked with many celebrities, athletes and political figures. She is a world renowned speaker that has spoken at conferences and seminars around the world.
She describes her life as controlled chaos and knows a thing or two about balancing life and work.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
My love for events started at a young age when I was in grade school. I was the person who planned all the fall fashion shows and events for my school. My passion for events was very clear, even back then. My first job was working for a public relations department for a major furniture chain where I would run all the in-store events, and my love of the event industry was driven by providing people with experiences to enjoy themselves at every event that I planned.
My passion continued when I traveled on family vacations. I would look for all the weddings on property and attend every one, every few hours. My family truly thought I was a little insane. Truth be told, I was in love with love — I loved to see the couples and witness their exchange of vows as they began their new life together. For me, creating events was the feeling of accomplishment to see the completion of a project and see the look of joy on my clients’ faces. Making people happy is what I truly live for.
I come from a lineage of working female entrepreneurs. My grandmother was a single mom who raised her 2 daughters while running 3 successful bakeries in Jersey City, in a time when women did not own businesses. My mom was a working mother with 4 children while owning a travel agency, which afforded us the opportunity to see the world. She was truly one of the early jet-setters and conceptualized Italian wine tours for Ruffino Winery. She helped nurture my passion for travel, thus allowing me to introduce destination weddings to the wedding industry, thereby changing the way people viewed weddings.
I learned from two very strong women and mothers to follow your dreams and create your own destiny.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
The most interesting story was when I was retained by Rupert Murdoch, who currently owns Fox News, to produce his daughter’s wedding in Beverly Hills. It was one of the most memorable events of my life, since it was my first celebrity wedding. In attendance, we had many heads of state, plus two former Presidents of the United States. Meeting President Reagan was the highlight of my career — he was extremely friendly and approachable. This event was a logistical challenge due to the sheer complexities of multiple layers of security needed for 2 Presidents and many dignitaries. This event took me from the local market to producing events on a national level. No matter what challenges you face during an event, my motto is to never let them see you sweat!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on launching a global partnership with planners in Ireland and Morocco to offer a variety of personalized travel experiences. We want people to travel safely but offering unique and custom experiences for smaller groups. We are going to offer a global travel concierge to help with events around the world. We want people to immerse themselves in the destination they are visiting.
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 beyond grateful for one person who truly helped mentor me at the start of my career and guided me with her advice and counseling — Cele Lalli, the former Editor-in-Chief of Modern Bride was my mentor and my guardian angel who took me under her wing and helped to guide my path. I was able to ask her advice on anything business related and she helped me avoid some costly mistakes and navigate the crazy wedding world. She was a friend, confidant and mentor. We all need someone to help guide our paths; Cele was that person to me. Sadly, we lost her in a car accident only a few years after she retired. It was a huge loss to the wedding industry, but a personal loss to me. I do know that my angel sits on my shoulder every day.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
The biggest challenge facing working mothers is the ability to balance your clients and family all at the same time. The secret is to create a daily schedule of how the day will go. We have to schedule Zoom calls around helping our children with their homework and making meals and running errands while maintaining client contact. We do not have any breaks at all during the day — our only quiet time is the evening when all the Zoom calls are over and the children are fast asleep, but every day is a new challenge.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
In order to handle these challenges, you have to be very organized and set up an hourly timeline of the day. I have to setup Zoom calls in between school schedules. As a mom, you have to make yourself accessible to your child and to your client, but you have to set client boundaries. You should also be upfront to the client about the fact you are working mom, in this Covid world, clients are more understanding when they know that you are juggling a life and career.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
Being an event planner during this pandemic has been the most challenging time that I have ever endured. Sadly, the event industry is one of the industries that social distancing rules are the most stringent. Thus, not allowing for us to create dream celebrations that have been planned a year out. We have to redesign, recreate and reschedule almost every event we had on the books. This is creating double the amount of work for us, plus having to lay off most of our staff does not help matters.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
We have to set the same boundaries for our clients and make time for them when we have finished or completed what we have to do for our children. Communication is key here; you must let your clients know that you are a mother and that some days may be more challenging than others. Keep in mind that some clients will understand and some others will not.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Set aside separate work areas for home schooling. Everyone at home needs their own work space, and you must keep everyone separate in order to make this work. Set up work stations for the children and make sure you ALL have headsets. Zoom calls can be distracting and you need to keep everyone focused.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Wow, sane — I’m not sure that is possible! Maybe insane with some crazy mixed in! Holding it together is tough, but you have to take time for yourself. Meditation and yoga has helped me a lot. Find the time every night or every few days to meditate, and some CBD helps a lot!
We created activities to keep everyone busy. We have game nights, cooking lessons and baking bread to keep everyone occupied and happy. Sitting in front of a television was not an option. I wanted to be sure to have things to keep everyone occupied and, at the same time, learn some life skill sets.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
First and foremost, turn off the news outlets — they will only create anxiety and fear.
Keep in mind that we will survive this, and you are stronger than you think!
- Life will go on, no matter what is thrown at us.
- Look for the positive in a negative situation. Spending more time with your family is not a bad thing, so take the time to get to know and learn about each other.
- We will be stronger when this over. This time is allowing us to refocus our priorities.
- Slowing down is not a bad thing, this allows us to take the time to enjoy what is important in life.
- ‘This, too, shall pass’ is how you should live your life. It truly is a short period of time in the scope of your life overall.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Find your passion and you will never fail at anything in life.” Once you find a career path that you are passionate about, it will never feel like work, and you will enjoy going to work. If you find that passion is becoming a chore, move onto another career choice. Life is too short to be unhappy!
How can our readers follow you online? They can follow me on Instagram www.instagram.com/joanngregoli
Email: [email protected]
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!