Nurdan Johnsingh

Hilal Ozkaya and Nurdan Johnsingh are sister entrepreneurs who own Plan Ahead Events Central Tampa. Living an adventurous life is celebrating life, and who better to share their thoughts on living large and with glamour and gusto than two prominent party and event planners. Hilal and Nurdan share their thoughts on adventure, planning a great a event, and why you should consider hiring your own event planner. Nurdan earned her MBA in Finance at Pace University. She is a member of business clubs, such as, Women in Cable & Telecom and The Greater Tampa Chamberís Women of Influence Committee which continuously help in networking locally.

1.What has been your greatest adventure?

So many adventures it’s hard to pick one but my top 3 are:

A- moving to Turkey when I was 15 to go to high school (new language, new country, new school system – all while going through the rebellious teenage years!) It was indeed an adventure but I learned a great deal about culture, living in a different country and not having all the luxuries we are used to here in the US and how lucky we are here in the US because we as women (young and old) have rights! I made some of my best friends for life in Turkey and learned many life lessons – that is where I learned to stick up for myself and defend my rights but also where I learned the true meaning of friendship and hospitality.

B– having kids – who knew what a crazy and wild adventure having two little girls can be – everyday is a new challenge and they have definitely changed and challenged me in many ways  These little munchkins teach me the meaning of patience every day but also teach me to enjoy life by seeing the world through the eyes of a 3 year old! I can’t image life without them !

C– being an entrepreneur – working in corporate is so easy compared to owning your own business – as an entrepreneur you have to constantly be used to rejection and always have your pulse on the next lead all while making sure you do your actual job, pay the bills, fix the laptop, etc – you are working 24/7 on every aspect of your business. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done but so rewarding – I wouldn’t change a thing!

2. What scares you?

a. Horror movies – I don’t watch them 

3.What prompted you to go into the Event Planning business?
a. It’s something that my sister and I would do anyway – even before we planned on going into business together. We were always the ones that planned all the family events, outings with friends, baby showers, weddings, trips, etc. I had always planned LOTS of events at my old jobs – trainings, seminars, luncheons, team outings, etc. We truly LOVE bringing people together and believe that power of face to face!

4. What are the pros and cons of working with your sister?

a. Pros are that we know each other well – we already know what each others strengths and weaknesses and that makes it a lot easier.

b. Cons well we ARE sisters so we are also constantly bickering like sisters too – I am the oldest so I have to try to not be the bossy older sister all the time 

5. What makes a great event?

a. There are so many details to events BUT the one thing that really sets apart a great event is the emotion of the event. How did the attendees feel – both during and after. All the aspects of an actual event come together to create an atmosphere that makes it conducive for attendees to bond, connect and really feel good. Whether it’s a holiday party, wedding or corporate retreat – it really comes down to the emotional aspect of the event. That’s what we try to create – a memorable, engaging event that attendees will remember and will want to come back to.

6. Why would someone want to hire an event planner?

a. Great question – one we get asked ALL the time – WHY do we need to hire you guys. We spend a lot of time talking to our clients about the benefits of outsourcing the “planning portion” of their events.  We all underestimate how long it really takes to do those mundane tasks – we think it will take us an hour to send out contracts and follow-up with vendors and then be available to answer questions, etc – and we when we actually put down all those tasks on paper and assign times to them we begin to realize that WOW – I spent a few hours on that task when I initially thought I would have spent 45 minutes.  We get bogged down with all those details (almost buried) and lose sight of the bigger goal of the event – i.e. team building, training, increased sales, customer appreaciation, etc.  Those little easy to manage tasks all add up to being busy 24/7 and we ultimately sacrifice our goals and dreams – why we started to even have the events in the first place!  The tyranny of the urgent takes over not profit   When you hire a professional to plan your events they are in charge of the entire event and should have the event goal as a top priority – something that an admin or marketing person working for the company does not always have the luxury of doing because they already have a full time job – they cannot give the event their entire focus. We hear all the time – Ugh the sales seminar was horrible, it took 3 days and the sales team was not any more motivated and the training was boring. Our main goal is to create an exciting, memorable and engaging event that meets our clients goals and stays within their budget.

7. Are event planners only for major corporate events or are they for smaller functions as well?

We plan events small and large – everything from corporate expo’s and trade shows to customer appreciation events, small trainings, seminars, holiday parties and even the occasional wedding and bridal/baby shower.

8. For women planning their own events, from birthdays to holiday parties, what are your top three recommendations for achieving a great party?

WHY? Start with WHY? Why am I having this party? Is it for pleasure: An intimate gathering of friends or is it for work: a more formal gathering of coworkers? This 1st basic step will help guide they way! Then create a PLAN – menu, shopping list, guest list – this will help keep you organized AND on budget!
HOW MANY? How many guests will you invite? How much space do you have and what is your budget?
WHO? Having the right mix of people will ensure sparking great conversations and relationship building for a party your guests will be talking about for months!

9. What is the best advice you’ve ever received on living life?
Stop worrying about tomorrow and live today

10. If you could take one book with you on a desert island what would it be and why?

Oh my – so many to choose from. My favorite pastime is cooking so I would have to bring a few of my Saveur magazines and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People so I can find a way off the island (and remain positive)!