As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Grech. Lauren is the Co-Founder and CEO of LLG Events, an international event management and design firm specializing in luxury destination weddings and experiential events in New York City and worldwide. In just three years, LLG Events became a Forbes 30Under30 nominee for taking a $300 billion industry and generating philanthropic revenue; after being the youngest-ever company invited to the Destination Wedding Planners Congress, where 70+ countries are represented. Lauren is an adjunct professor for New York University’s upcoming Masters of Science in Event Management program, the first of its kind in the country. They have solidified partnerships with resorts and tourism boards across the globe, worth over $1 million in corporate-sponsored travel for 2019. Learn more at LLGevents.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
LLG Events was born unconventionally. Thinking I would pursue a career in Biology/Pre-Med, I went to undergrad at Binghamton University and then went on to earn my Masters of Science in Forensic Science at Pace University. Post-graduation, I became a Research and Development Scientist where I determined cause of death, ran toxicology reports and researched new drug testing technology for pain management clinics. Turns out, I hated it! I thrive in social settings, with dynamic people, and although working at the medical examiner’s office was extremely rewarding, it did not feel like I was making a direct impact and I typically worked alone.
I was working at the medical examiner’s office in New York City when my now husband, Paul, proposed! I began planning my own wedding and learning about the world of events. There was such a flair, it reminded me of putting on a show, and I loved it. It felt like going to the circus for the first time — when you see all these different acts, and everyone’s talent and coordination to pull it off, how could you not get enamored by that? It was a lifestyle that celebrated the happiest day of people’s lives and I wanted to be a part of it. So, I began planning my exit strategy from research and development, and started LLG Events, one month after I married my husband Paul. I told him about my plan and he wanted to be part of it, so we agreed to be business partners. We sat at my mom’s kitchen table thinking of a name and creating a business strategy. We agreed that our first step was to go back to the place where we got married and ask to shadow the Maitre D.
And so we went, working 40 hours a week at our “normal” jobs, and volunteering every Thursday and Friday evening when they had corporate or social events, and every Saturday and Sunday when they had weddings. Paul and I would be there for 32 hours most weekends, and learned everything we could. We worked every job — from barback to waiting tables to bridal attending to valet to bathroom attending, we did it all. We shadowed anyone and everyone we could, to learn every aspect of the industry. I knew that if we were going to be successful and respected, we needed to have exposure to every position.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
Accepting an Adjunct Professor position at New York University for the inaugural graduate degree in Event Management. This honor still has me amazed, even to this day!
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?
When we started in the wedding industry, there were not many creative ways to incorporate philanthropy into events. Once we were in a position to be able to volunteer our time and services, we pioneered the following initiatives that were creative, inventive and completely new to our industry. We used social media to raise awareness on each of our initiatives and discussed our involvement.
● LLG Pro-Bono Wedding — Each year we plan and execute one pro-bono wedding for a couple that puts a cause or their community above themselves. We work with other vendors looking to incorporate philanthropy into their business and who are willing to sponsor or donate their time and services to this couple.
● VOW Advisory Board Members — Our newest philanthropic initiative, VOW is a collection of products and services that directly raise funds and awareness for the Girls First Fund, which fights to end child marriage. Started by Dutch Princess Mabel van Oranje, we are spearheading this movement in our industry.
● Floral Repurposing — We use a company called Repeat Roses to repurpose florals post-event. This was not our company idea, but we promoted it! We met with the CEO of Repeat Roses to discuss ways of encouraging other vendors throughout the industry to use Repeat Roses and to promote their services to their clients.
Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?
Lauren and Marty Bruckner, our inaugural pro-bono wedding couple. This couple put off their wedding to dedicate their time to the St. John recovery efforts post Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria. When we told them we were helping them to afford their dream wedding by working with vendors that wish to sponsor their cause, it was one of the best days of their lives. On the actual wedding day, 100 of their family and friends came from all over the world to witness and be part of their celebration of love. It was also the last time Marty got to dance with his mother, as she passed away from breast cancer two months later. We then hosted a pro-bono brunch for the Breasties organization, raising money and awareness for this inspiring organization of young women looking to create a youthful community of survivors, thrivers, pre-vivors and care-vivers. It was at this brunch where we found our next pro-bono couple, Jillian and Max.
It’s safe to say that one miracle led to another, which keeps us inspired and continuing this tradition for couples for years to come!
Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?
We knew how much this wedding meant to Lauren and Marty’s family. I’m not sure if this is too personal, but the day after the wedding, I went up to Marty’s mom to say goodbye. We both knew it was a final goodbye at that moment, and we just smiled, cried and hugged. She thanked me for giving her the best day of her life. When she passed, I received a beautiful thank you letter from Marty’s sister, one that brought the whole team to tears. They thanked us for providing them with their last amazing memories with their Mom. I knew then, that I had to continue my mission of helping other families celebrate love and life. Organizing one pro-bono wedding per year is extremely rewarding and a team project where everyone gets involved. It’s an event we all look forward to and this year we will be executing Jillian and Max’s dream wedding in October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
In regards to our involvement as VOW Advisory Board Council Members — we believe the best way to help end child marriage is to raise awareness and funding within the wedding community. VOW recently has created partnerships with Crate and Barrel, and The Knot, where the company gives back a percentage from a couple’s wedding registry. Additionally, we’re in the process of creating partnerships with bridal designers, hotels and more companies, discussing how they can raise awareness by having a VOW symbol or a ‘Donate Now’ button or using their social media platform in order to raise awareness. LLG has several ideas on how to incorporate VOW into the next bridal fashion week season, as well as their 2020 weddings.
Thank you for these great insights!