published Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Person to Watch: Wedding planner brings energy to her job

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    Morgan Holland, owner and operator of event-planning companies Soirees, plans and designs events like weddings and birthday parties, but would like to expand into corporate events as well.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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MORGAN HOLLAND

Age: 28.

Profession: Owner of Soirees of Chattanooga.

Family: Husband Michael Holland and 2-year-old daughter Mary McKenna Holland.

Hobbies: Shopping, lunch dates with girlfriends, Bible study groups, Facebook, Pinterest.

Favorite movie: "The Little Mermaid."

Books: "Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette."

Education: 2001 graduate of Hixson High School and 2005 graduate of University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Hollywood portrays wedding and event planners as people with an overabundance of energy, incredible organizational skills, focus and drive. Morgan Holland fits the bill.

The 28-year-old, owner of Soirees of Chattanooga, an event-planning business, heads out to work every morning with a goal: to be cheerful, adaptable and to keep a positive attitude.

"It benefits me at work and at home," Holland said.

Holland's positive attitude benefits those around her, said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Paul Finkelman, Holland's assistant at Soirees.

"I've learned an incredible amount working for her," said Finkelman, 22. "Some of it is so essential to furthering my career, like dealing with an emotional client or how to direct a long meeting. Some of it, like knowing what color periwinkle is, probably won't help me too much. Regardless, I would be lost without her and am incredibly thankful that she's in my life."

Holland has owned Soirees, based on Broad Street, since 2008.

Q: How did you get involved in the event-planning business?

A: I lived in Los Angeles my last semester of college, and there was a lot of excitement there. I did an internship with casting directors and worked at a five-star hotel. I stayed for a year and loved it there, but I didn't think it was where I'd one day want to raise a family. I have such a huge support system that I knew I wanted to move back home.

When I moved back to Chattanooga, I started looking for things to do. I knew that I wanted to be involved in the community, and I was interested in getting involved in events. I could not, though, see myself sitting behind a desk. I started calling around to see if there were any openings in the wedding-planning business. I called Soirees of Chattanooga at just the right time. The owner hired me right away, and six months later, she went into a new business and sold Soirees to me.

Q: Are weddings the biggest part of your business?

A: Weddings are our bread and butter. It's 85 percent of what we do. The rest includes parties for nonprofit organizations, birthday parties and private parties. Private parties are my favorite because it allows us to step outside the box and show off our creative skills.

One of my favorite events was a 75th birthday surprise party. We pulled out all the stops. The honoree loved to play pool, so we hired a professional pool player to play trick shots during the party. We had a 20-piece band play music from the big-band era; we had cupcakes that looked like cue balls. The person who hired us put us totally in charge of everything from decorations to favors to entertainment. It was a huge success.

Q: When you're not working, do you take a break from planning things?

A: No. I am obsessed. All my girlfriends like to make fun of me because I'm always talking about planning this and that. They do, however, want me to plan their children's birthday parties. And that's OK. I like doing it.

Q: Is social media an important facet of your business?

A: Absolutely, particularly Facebook and Pinterest. I started using Pinterest in my business about eight months ago. It was fairly new, and many people had never even heard of it. Today, most of my friends are on Pinterest. I have different boards that my clients use. It's very helpful when planning events, especially weddings. My clients, for example, will pin wedding dresses they like, and I can go online and look at everything they're considering.

Q: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

A: Definitely still working, but hopefully I'll have a much larger company. I still want to be involved in more business-related events and destination weddings. I'd love for my clients to take me to tropical locations for events. It would be fun. The wedding and event-planning business is fairly new in the South. It's has been around for a long time and is much bigger on the West Coast and in New York. I'm ready for it to take off here.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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