She got her start planning elaborately themed parties for family members when she was barely old enough to drive. She honed her skills by aligning herself with big-name event pros including Colin Cowie and Mindy Weiss, observing every move her mentors made. She launched her own Los Angeles-based company — Gilded Events — in 2002 and has seen 10 percent to 30 percent growth every year since.
There's no question that event designer and producer Paula Gild has both the vision and drive required to thrive as an entrepreneur in Southern California's high-end, highly competitive social market. But what really sets Gild apart is her deep love of serving people, especially at their milestone moments. “I'm naturally a very caring person, and I really want to do good for other people,” she says. Combine that with her passion for the minute decor details — she'll comb downtown L.A.'s fashion district for hours searching for the perfect linen for a 13-year-old's ESPN-themed bar mitzvah, for instance — and Gild is a natural for her line of work.
On L.A.'s elite bar and bat mitzvah party scene, from which the planner draws about 50 percent of her social business, Gild is a godsend to parents looking to ensure that the $40,000 to $70,000 they're budgeting for their bashes is money well, and accountably, spent.
Gild says the key to serving mitzvah clients is making sure both kids' and adults' expectations are met. Sometimes that means turning out two totally separate soirees — a growing trend in today's market, she notes. “We'll do an adult luncheon and then a kids' party at night, or maybe two separate rooms at the same time,” she explains. “The kids want to feel that they can really be themselves. But the parents also want to acknowledge that this is not just a kids' thing; it's a coming-of-age, a meaningful time in their lives.”
As for keeping kids-only parties in control — a major parental priority, she says — savvy planning goes a long way toward averting mischief. “Kids get in trouble when they're bored,” she notes. That's why having a killer DJ — “one who gets you going but is not in your face” — and plentiful activities is a must. Of course, “You have to have good security,” she adds. “Kids can't go to the bathroom in a group of 20. You just know they're up to no good.”
The most important factor in pleasing her young clients is “staying on top of what's new and current, talking to them, getting their feedback,” Gild says. “They're very fickle, very impressionable, and everything around them is constantly changing.”
Gilded Events 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 150-9108, Los Angeles, CA 90024; 310/475-6662; www.gildedevents.com
“It's hard to stay on budget when people always want something more, something cooler, but there's a line item associated with everything you do. The key is managing client expectations within their budget. A good event planner can always guide a client in the right direction, constantly keep them in check. If you're advising them on where to spend money and where it might be superfluous or unnecessary, then you're doing your job.”
“Networking is really important. When you're with peers in your industry you can compare notes and ask, ‘What makes you successful? What are bumps in the road you encounter?’ When you hear that people have the same troubles or experiences as you, it helps you to know that you're doing the right thing. Most people are not threatened by it. There's no reason to be — there's enough business for everybody in this business.”