Greg Jenkins has never lost the sense of wonder he felt as a child for anything related to parades, parties and promotions. "I remember being more interested in the halftime show at the football game than the game itself," laughs the 41-year-old Detroit native, who partners with Thom Neighbors in Long Beach, Calif.-based Bravo! Productions, a full-service special event planning and production company.
While volunteering for the Detroit Convention & Visitors Bureau in the 1980s, he crossed paths with Neighbors, who invited him to relocate to the West Coast. Bravo! Productions was born. "Taking risks-like moving 3,000 miles to a place where I didn't know anybody-has been pretty indicative of my career in this industry," Jenkins says.
"The best challenges are when there are no road maps," he contends. He got his wish when Bravo contracted to produce the back-to-back dedication and inaugural gala for the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific last summer.
"We were flying blind because the facility was still under construction. It was a very intense situation of working round the clock until it was over," he recalls. However, a 1999 Gala Award nomination from Special Events Magazine made the hours of hard work all the sweeter.
Even after a dozen years with Bravo, Jenkins says it's a combination of the creative process as well as problem-solving that keeps him passionate about the special event business. "But I'm definitely smarter about and more appreciative of the importance of the lighting, logistics and technological support that's necessary to produce an event than I was when we first started in the business."
In recent years, "we're seeing a lot more start-up companies in special events than ever before," he says. "That's a double-edged sword. There's certainly enough work out there for everybody. But it's a danger when somebody who's planned only a PTA luncheon might represent themselves as a qualified party planner."
"I've been invited the past two years to lecture at UCLA," he says, "and it's gratifying as an African American to reach inner city kids who listen to what I'm doing in my work and say, 'Wow, maybe I can do that, too.'"