In her own words: Events producer Karen Nichols
Name/title: Karen Nichols, owner, Red Carpet Events and Design
Number of years in this job: I’ve been in this job just since the first of the year, but I have been a co-owner for the past five-and-a-half years.
Years in this profession: 14
Education: I went to the University of Oregon but left after two years.
Last book read: “You’re Not the Person I Hired!: A CEO’s Survival Guide to Hiring Top Talent,” by Janet Boydell, Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard
Favorite flick: “Gladiator” I love that movie; it is so inspiring. I brought my daughter to Rome a few years ago when she graduated from ASU, and when we came out of the subway the Coliseum was right in front of us. It was one of the most amazing things ever.
What’s on your iPod: “The Mavericks.” They are country, but with more of a Tex-Mex feel.
Spouse, kids or pets: I am engaged to Louie, my fiancée. I have two children from my first marriage: Brad, 27, and Brynna, 25. I also have four step-children.
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Red Carpet Events and Design and your responsibilities.
Nichols: We are a full-service event production company. We have a 20,000-square-foot warehouse full of props, everything from a statue of Venus de Milo to enough drapery to cover the entire Reno Ballroom. When people come to us, we can do something as small as rent a bubble machine or linens and centerpieces, or we can do a full-scale production. We do huge parties for 800-plus people or just rent draperies or something like that for the day. It encompasses everything to do with events; we are a one-stop shop. I design events, help with fund-raising ideas, and we do a lot of weddings. We look at the full service and full scope of an event and determine how we can make it the best. I am in charge of all the operations of the company, as well as being the main sales person — but that will change soon as we hire for that role.
NNBW: How did you get into this profession?
Nichols: I was hired by Rick Murdock at the Eldorado and consider him one of my mentors. After I had been in the sales department a few years he moved me into the catering department, and I started handling all the catering operations. There were a lot of events at the Eldorado, and they have a huge presence in the community. We started to decorate those events, and as we built up our own inventory we eventually built our own decorating department. Later I moved over to Circus Circus and opened their convention center, so I was able to start from the ground up with a property. Lastly, I moved to the special events department at the Silver Legacy. Those three things combined really helped me have the background to start this business. I started it with a partner in 2008.
NNBW: How did your career path really help you get this business off the ground?
Nichols: It gave me a lot of background financially. There are a lot of reporting systems in regards to profit and loss within a casino for each department. I learned really quickly how profitable we were and how to make changes in an area to create profitability. The other side of it was creativity and knowing how to talk to people to get their vision of an event. It was huge for me to try and find out what people love and also offer other ideas and move the sales process along.
NNBW: How do you help clients narrow in on what type of event will work for their business and for the type of people that work there?
Nichols: We have some pretty intensive meetings with clients where we try to find out what their goals are and what they want to accomplish. Maybe it’s a party, or a team-building event or an event where they want customers to know about a new product. We narrow that down and find out how food and beverage, décor and all those things play into that to achieve their goals.
NNBW: What do you like most about event planning?
Nichols: Almost every event, when I am there, I am watching everyone come in and see the décor and the entertainment for the first time, and I have an incredible amount of fun doing that; it’s just so cool.
NNBW: What are the three key elements event planners need to zero in on when planning a business function?
Nichols: Budget is one of the first things, and having a goal for the event. The third would be to know your audience, know how they are going to have fun, and find unique ways for them to have fun.
NNBW: During the recession businesses really scaled back on their entertainment budgets — how did that impact your firm?
Nichols: We started this business in 2008, right at the beginning of the recession. There was a different attitude from corporations: They did not want to look irresponsible, or they wanted to look like they were being good stewards of their company’s money. Planning events was not a part of that. We have always been value-conscious of client’s budgets. Starting in the worst time made us so fiscally responsible, and we didn’t have the latitude to make a lot of mistakes.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Nichols: I picked strawberries outside of Portland, Ore. It was kind of a rite of passage when you were a kid in Oregon to go out and pick. We would be bussed from our school, and it was a really social thing. You picked in the morning when they are a little bit cooler and more firm. It was so much fun.
NNBW: How do you spend your time away from work?
Nichols: I love to go to sporting events. I love the Oregon Ducks and I love UNR football games. I read a lot and spend a lot of time with my family.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a little girl?
Nichols: I wanted to be a nurse. I like to help people.
NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?
Nichols: A Comets softball game out at Golden Eagle last Sunday.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Nichols: I moved here because of my ex-husband’s job. I stayed because I developed so many friendships with people that I just love in this community. There is a lot of opportunity here in business and in the outdoors. That’s what’s kept me here. There’s always something new and fun, and that’s a great way to live.
To suggest a candidate for NNBW’s weekly question and answer column, look at our editorial calendar (http://apps.nnbw.com/utils/pdfs/9683736R.pdf) and contact reporter Rob Sabo at email@example.com or call 775-850-2146.
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