This week I talked with Ashley, a 24 year-old event planner from Valparaiso, Ind. Ashley recently moved 2300 miles away from home to the Bay Area in California and started her own company, Elizabeth Ashley events. Check out her Facebook page (and like it) here.
Her favorite thing about the area is the endless activities she can choose from.
“As a tourism major, I’m so thrilled to be able to go out and explore where I’m living and see something new everyday,” Ashley said. “The views are gorgeous and endless.”
Ashley majored in tourism management: event planning and resort management and minored in ecotourism and park and recreation administration. She said she didn’t start as an event planner in college. She first began in elementary education.
“I’m really creative and educators run in my family so like any indecisive teenager, I settled with education,” she said. “I always knew deep down I wasn’t happy with it. I justified that I could be creative in the classroom, but it wasn’t my type of creative.”
She knew she wanted to get in to event planning when she dropped off a bride’s wedding invitations she had created.
“She just started crying. I was so shocked and touched,” she said. “I know this might sound cheesy, but I knew at that moment this is why I’m an event planner. I want to be part of these memories people will live with for the rest of their lives.”
Ashley is also working for her grandfather’s company. They train people to be bankers in casinos. She said California has a different law for casinos, where people can’t play against the house, so they need the third-party (Ashley and others) to come in and ‘bank’ the different tables. ‘So basically we’re professional gamblers,’ Ashley said laughing.
“It gets pretty crazy and we’ll be in charge of $20,000 + per shift,” she said.
Ashley said she is not nervous to be in charge of that much money because the training is thorough.
“I love that because they used to just throw people out there,” Ashley said. “We have to know the ins and outs of every game; the strategies, house way and all that.”
Ashley said the hardest part is getting used to distractions. They’ve been training in an office so when they actually get on the floor people are constantly going to try to distract them so they can have an advantage.
“I mean I’m in a casino right?” Ashley said. “Bright lights and loud music everywhere, but oh wait, I have about $35,000 in front of me right now. I need to pay attention.”
The best part has been networking. She has been able to meet a lot of people.
“There’s just a ton of opportunity for someone in my position who is trying to start a career out here on my own,” she said.
Since moving to California, Ashley recently started event planning for a non-profit organization, http://lifegoesonproject.org.
Her roommate’s son, who is a local rapper, was shot and paralyzed in 2007. He was standing outside a night club in San Francisco.
“It could happen to anyone,” she said. “He wasn’t in a bad area or anything.”
Ashley said they’re trying to reach out and make it known that gun violence isn’t just gang/street issue anymore, guns are affecting the suburbs too.
“It’s no longer a race issue, but an education problem and that’s what they want to get out there,” she said.
In the fall they want to do a back to school tour and educate youth. At the end of it, they’re going to throw a concert.
“I’m really excited to be in charge of a project like this and it’s really great because we have the support of local pro-athletes that these kids already look up to,” she said.
In event planning, she doesn’t have a specific market but would love to do everything.
“Why limit your talents to only weddings or specialty parties?” she said. “Everyone should be able to use your talents if they want, no matter the occasion.”
Advice she would have to for other twenty somethings is to go for it.
“The unknown is scary and we’re from an area where most of our parents grew up and the aunts and uncles and grandparents are all still there; not many people move away,” she said. “I knew for a while I was never going to settle down there. I’ve been to enough places and learned enough in the classroom to know there’s so much more out there.”
Ashley plans to stay in California for a while.
“Unless something amazing comes along, and I mean amazing; I’m here for the long haul,” she said.
A look at some of the questions:
Were you scared to move?
I’ve always seen myself living out here, and have said I would one day; I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. I was a little freaked out at first, but my grandma said it right, you can always come home. Which is so true. Most people would never try something like this. you have no friends here, your family is 2300 miles away. It’s scary, really scary. but a plane ride is only 4.5 hours away so I know if I really needed something family is still close
Have you met/seen anyone famous since moving?
Visiting LA, I’ve met Nick Swardson twice. He’s hilarious and seemed annoyed with us, but here’s my official apology to him, Nick we’re so sorry but you’re funny and IU had just won; so can you forgive us?
Also, Frank Ocean skated past us and Gerard Butler came into Dope right after we left. Which sucks, but the fact I was even in the same place as him rocks
and he supported Dope Couture.
When did you decide to move?
The move idea kinda just happened over night. I was talking to my friend the night before about any possible jobs in LA. there weren’t any and I was bummed. Well, the next day I was talking to my grandma, and she was like why don’t you go out and work for GFG? Next thing I knew I had a job. They stress to us in college it’s all about who you know, right? biggest over-sight of my life.
Had you visited California before you moved?
I’ve been flying out here since I was 5 to visit my grandpa. I was absolutely devastated when I found out he was moving back to San Francisco, but now I know why he did it. The opportunities out here are endless
What is your dream job?
Dream job? easily would be to work for David Tutera or become the David Tutera of the west coast. He’s creative and brilliant and I love his style he brings to each of his weddings. He is personable and you can tell he cares. We’re in the business where it’s all about the customer, and they need to know that you care. this is the most important day of their lives and they’re relying on you to make it special.
Read other conversations from the series here.