GWBC Radio Interview Transcript
GWBC Radio interview – Jan Levie helps you save time and money producing your next event, while positioning your event to earn more, get more traction, or really leave people with an understanding of what you are supporting, celebrating, and sharing.
Check out SOJOURN GSD, a non-profit mentioned in the podcast that supports LGBTQIA+ youth, their families, and communities with outreach programs, counseling, and many other resources.
There are so many ways to make an event speak to your guests about your values, goals, and honorees. Show them some grace by entertaining them in a way that is uplifting, original, fun, and meaningful. Speeches? Sure, but Speed Speeches please! If you want to do what everybody else is doing, call them. If you want to celebrate what is unique about you, contact us! Let us help you create your next celebration!
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business, and this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show, we have Jan Levie and she is with Handy Entertainment. Welcome, Jan.
Jan Levie: [00:00:28] Well, hey, Lee. How are you?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:30] I am doing well. Tell us a little bit about Handy Entertainment. How are you serving folks?
Jan Levie: [00:00:36] We produce event entertainment. We create event entertainment for companies, for businesses, and for individuals.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:44] Now, what’s the backstory? How did you get into this line of work?
Jan Levie: [00:00:47] Oh, do you want to hear the real story?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:50] The real story. Let’s start with the real story, and then we can do the fake story a little later.
Jan Levie: [00:00:54] Real story, and I didn’t have permission to share this story until last month. The real story is, I started my business in 2009, and if you fast forward to last month, December 2021, I asked my favorite son if he knew why I started my business. And he said something like, “Well, you needed to find something to do.” And I said, “No. I already had plenty to do.”
Jan Levie: [00:01:22] And just to go back in 2009, he was nine years old and he was struggling everywhere. He was struggling in school. He was struggling socially at home. And we were trying everything. But I just decided when I started this business that I was going to create something that, no matter what it turned out that he had or is, that he would have work and that it would be meaningful. Go ahead.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:51] But what drew you to this event production?
Jan Levie: [00:01:55] Well, I started doing event entertainment when our kids were in grade school and it morphed. And my background is theater and journalism, so that was kind of a shoo in. The more I did with events and I’d always done events because, in order to support a theater habit, you have to have fundraisers. And somebody ends up working them, and so I’d done quite a bit of production work beforehand.
Jan Levie: [00:02:24] I just realized that the greatest part about having an event production and event entertainment company is you get to really create things that are unique, and individual, and that serve a specific purpose. It’s kind of amazing. It’s not just entertainment. You can get people to come in and to leave with something that’s about them, or about the business, or about the event, something that is maybe electronic. Maybe it’s written, maybe it’s art, maybe it’s something they get later. It’s just fascinating to me how multi-pronged it can be and how far it can go.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:10] I think it’s one of those places that really leave an impact. It leaves a mark. It’s visceral. It’s emotional. And it elevates relationships. It elevates kind of the content. It elevates everything around it if it’s done well. I think in today’s world, a lot of people are kind of superficially going through the world. But when you have an event, it forces you to be in the moment.
Jan Levie: [00:03:37] Totally. And I couldn’t agree with you more about the tendency/tendencies towards superficiality. And I really hope and I truly believe that we create things that touch people, that move them, that show them something in a way that they haven’t seen before.
Jan Levie: [00:03:59] And full disclaimer, no, it’s not a casino table. I mean, we can get those if you want them. It’s not about something that’s just pretty. It’s something that really resonates with the goal of the event, or the hope of the host or hostess, or something that people want to try out, or something that they want to leave as their mark in the world.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:29] And I think that’s what separates your firm from others that it isn’t just about, like you said, executing casino night. You’re trying to leave a mark for these people. And you’re really getting at the heart of the outcome they desire. Not just the “Oh, that’s the event we desire.” Sure. But what is kind of the emotional resonance you want to leave with each of the people.
Jan Levie: [00:04:52] Well, what do you want people to do? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to know? I mean, really, literally, what do you want them to feel, know, and do after the event? Is it just about having a good time? Do you want people to know who your sponsors are? Do you want them to know what it is you accomplished without being boring, without just giving announcements? Do you want them to have a reason to find out more? Do you want them to see things in a different way?
Lee Kantor: [00:05:24] Now, I’m sure that most other event production companies aren’t asking those questions, they’re more about the nuts and bolts of, you know, kind of chairs, tables, and kind of the logistics of it. But when you get to the heart of it, I think that that’s what elevates you and it elevates a company. If you can really get to the heart of what your client really wants, not what they say they want, but what kind of impact they want to leave, then you’re becoming a true partner.
Jan Levie: [00:05:56] Thank you. Yeah. It takes more time. It’s not like creating widgets. It takes more energy. It takes more money. It takes more engagement. But if a client tells us, for example, that for them, the most important thing is to reach as many people individually as possible, then we know that’s what they want. If they say that budgets are a big concern, we know that we can work within the parameters or not. If they say that they really want glam and glitz, then these are your options, these are things that you could do with that.
Jan Levie: [00:06:37] Sometimes people want to be part of what we create, and then we have to ask them to show us their proof of concept for the part they want to contribute beforehand, and this has happened. You show up expecting the client to have provided that thing that they wanted to provide and then they don’t.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:01] Now, when a person is considering an event, can you share maybe some stories about how you’ve helped a person kind of think holistically and maybe get more than they even expected, but it can help them really make a difference in their business and to the folks who are all involved with every aspect of this.
Jan Levie: [00:07:25] Sure. I don’t know if you’ve heard of SOJOURN, the Southern Jewish Resource Network. It is a nonprofit that creates counseling and outreach programs for LGBTQIA, youth and their families and their communities and institutions. And what we did for them at one point was, we created Zoltar cards that were distributed by Zoltar that listed their mission in the past year. And everything that was listed was listed as a question.
Jan Levie: [00:08:05] And then, as the answer to the question, there was what they had accomplished, the amount of seminars that they had led, the amount of counseling sessions that they had referred, the amount of money they had raised to combat homelessness in these communities. It was all listed. And they were separate cards, there were eight of them. There were eight statements.
Jan Levie: [00:08:32] And the thing that meant the most to me is when their chair of their board called me the next day to thank me because she said it was the very first time that their sponsors and donors knew really what they were doing.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:50] And that’s something that some businesses take for granted. “Of course, they know what I’m doing. Why would they be here to support me if they didn’t know?” But it’s one thing of kind of intellectually knowing and then another thing to emotionally know and connect dots where you can see the thing in action. You can really feel the emotion of what’s going on. That’s a different level of intimacy and relationship.
Jan Levie: [00:09:17] Those are really, really great words to describe, I believe, what we’re trying to create.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:26] Now, what is it like for you when you hear someone who has maybe worked with other entertainment or event production companies who aren’t kind of caring at the depth that you are and they’re kind of superficially thinking, “Oh, I just tell you these kind of basic superficial things.” And then, you’ve got to kind of dig in a little deeper to get the why behind the why to really understand what outcome they truly, truly desire, what it could be, not just what they think it can be.
Jan Levie: [00:10:00] Why behind the why, that’s so good. The why behind the why—so a lot of companies or institutions or people we deal with, when you ask them things like, “Could you give us a budget range?” They will hesitate or obfuscate and say, “Oh, we don’t know.” And that happens because people have had experiences, I believe, I feel, in the past, where companies have used that to peg what they’re going to offer to hit or go over that budget.
Jan Levie: [00:10:33] And like I explain to them, when someone says to me, “I’m going to Paris, where should I stay?” And I say, “What’s your budget?” And someone says, “I don’t know.” And I say, “Do you want to stay under the bridge or do you want to stay in the hotel?” You know, it makes a difference. And before I create something as an offer for you, let me know what it is that is most important, what it is you’re trying to achieve. And if you don’t know yet what you’re trying to achieve, let’s try to figure it out.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:04] As Stephen Covey says, focus on the end in mind, what is the end result you’d like? And let’s work backwards from there, right? Like, let’s get to what feeling do you want your people to leave with? And then, let’s figure out ways to do that instead of just thinking, “Well, I want Casino Night.” I think it’s better to look at that from the end in mind rather than what you think is the best path to get there. And then, give the floor to the experts like you and help them create that event that they want that leaves their people with that feeling they want them to have.
Jan Levie: [00:11:47] Thank you for that. I really don’t know that I’m an expert. I feel that I always am learning. And I always try to learn from people who are better than me. And there are loads of people out there who are my teachers, who are my mentors.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:02] Right. We’re all learning, but you’re humble enough to know that you’re still learning. You don’t have to have all the answers. But you have enough scar tissue and experience to know. You may not know how it’s going to end, but you probably know how it could end. And there’s lots of ways to get there. So, I would definitely defer to you when it came to things like this.
Jan Levie: [00:12:24] Thank you. Something as simple as, you want to have an entertainer and you have the space for them. What is it that you would like people to see? Like, one event that we did, they had a huge gallery of beautiful art. And so, we set it up so that when people were waiting – and this was before COVID. We have pagers now if people need them. We have a scheduler now if people need them – they were hanging out, they were in line, they were waiting, they were speaking with each other, but they were in a place that had things they could bid on or buy. And that was really useful. That was useful for the organization. It was useful for their guests. And they said that everybody stayed and they stayed a long time, much longer than ever, and they made more money than ever.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:13] Now, isn’t that a great example of how an event and working with a professional organization like yours, it can save the host time and money and make them more money than they might have been able to do if they had just kind of put this together on their own. Or just said, “Hey, you’ve done events,” something on the team, and they just kind of hand it off to them and say, “Yeah. You’re good. I had a party at your house, that was a good one. You’re in charge of this.”
Jan Levie: [00:13:44] Thank you, Lee. Thank you. These are the things that make a huge difference. Like, do you have sponsors or donors that you want to highlight, you want to give them business? Do you want their business to be part of the event, something that they produce?
Jan Levie: [00:14:04] For example, we are preparing a proposal, actually, today for an event, and they have many small boutiques. And one option is for them to have lip print analysis on an item that is produced by one of the boutiques. So, that actually highlights what the shop sells. It gives people something to take with them that has information about the event on it. And it gives them something about themselves, which is a lip print analysis.
Jan Levie: [00:14:42] We’ve done that before with the step and repeat, with the different logos from the different companies and the different sponsors. And people have written on them. They’ve put their prints on them. They’ve written about the organization. And there were lots of pictures and it went on social. So, what they had to say about the organization was on social, literally.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:06] And it’s that kind of thinking, though, why I’m a big believer in hiring specialists for certain things. And this an example, one, where a person like you are going to help me think of things that I wouldn’t think about because you think about this every day. I’m thinking about this once a year.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:24] And to hire an expert that, first of all, knows where all the landmines are, that’s super valuable. Someone that knows ways to elevate my event, super valuable. Knows ways that I can maybe make money or get more value in terms of social media exposure for my brand, for my company, that’s extremely valuable. I think that any time anybody is having an event of any size, it’s worth having a conversation with you or somebody on your team or somebody in your industry.
Jan Levie: [00:15:55] Totally. And one way that we save people money is that we work with trusted vendors. We work with partners who actually do what they say they’re going to do when they say they’re going to do it. And they have backup plans.
Jan Levie: [00:16:10] So, what’s really great about that is that, by using us, you get things at a much better consumer cost than if you were going out and spending the time, spending the energy, or paying your employees to go out and source and price everything, not knowing in the end if those companies that are less expensive are going to deliver what you need, what you want, and when you want it in the condition you expect it to be in.
Jan Levie: [00:16:37] And I can’t say enough about having trusted partners in business. It’s so amazing, so awesome, and helps me sleep at night.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:46] Yeah. And in business today, you have to have those kind of trusted people around you in order to execute what you do and you’re doing the vetting for me, the consumer. You’ve already kind of kissed all the frogs to find the princes, right? You already know who are the people that keep their word and promise. And that’s super valuable because my time is worth knowing that. And I don’t want to do that and audition all these people. You’ve already seen them in action. You might have seen them in another event and say, “Hey, this person is a rock star, let me get them on the team.” And then, you built kind of a team of people you trust to help execute. I mean, that’s super valuable.
Jan Levie: [00:17:25] It’s incredibly important, and I know that you all have that too.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:29] Yeah. I mean, we try to do that as well. Like people say, under-promise, overdeliver. To me, the optimal is, overpromise and overdeliver. So, I want you to be wagging your tail when this thing is over. I want you to have a great experience.
Jan Levie: [00:17:48] Absolutely. And one of the ways to do that is to really find out. For example, we had a walk through yesterday, and one thing I discovered that I hadn’t known from our previous discussion is that, even though this planner was amazing and has the most incredible ideas, for her, a turnkey solution is better than something that is more involved and has more bells and whistles. She wants something that’s really kind of easy in and easy out. Whereas, somebody else might say, “Well, you know, if we could do this part, that would be fine with us. And you could take care of this part.”
Jan Levie: [00:18:31] So, it’s really good to know what are your strengths as an organization or as a person. Like, if you’re someone who really wants to manage those, are you capable of managing the installations, the tents, the permitting, making sure that your bartenders are licensed, and that your caterer has the correct setup to keep everything the proper temperature? Can you do that? Do you know that your officiant is licensed? Do you know all these things or do you need to have professionals take care of it for you or to help you with it? So, there are different levels of engagement.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:09] Now, let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about GWBC. Why was it important for you to get involved with that organization?
Jan Levie: [00:19:17] I’m a woman. I have a woman-owned small business. And I am the owner of a company that is certified by GWBC, by the Greater Women’s Business Council. And I am so glad, and the reason I’m so glad is I am now, as a business owner, eligible to work with large corporations and entities that do business with the federal government.
Jan Levie: [00:19:45] We have been able to really make strides in business in, I’d say, the past six months because of this certification, which has allowed us to get in front of partners that, otherwise, they would probably just go to the big boys. When I say big, I mean big. When I say boys, I mean boys. But by having diverse certification opportunities, people who have businesses that normally don’t get a chance to sit at the table are at the table. And that creates an equity that is long overdue.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:28] Now, in the growth of your business, what can we do to help? What do you need more of?
Jan Levie: [00:20:34] You should hire us. We will put together an amazing show for you, an amazing event.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:42] And then, when you’re saying event, what is an example of the types, maybe the range of events? Like, what would be something small, medium, and large?
Jan Levie: [00:20:51] Something small would be, well, nowadays, in the last-year-and-a-half, two years, we’ve had quite a few micro events with 25 people, 50 people, 75 people. You could have something medium which is about 300 to 500. Something larger from 1,000 to 5,000. And you could have something with installation of tents. You could have something with bands. You could have something with a specific type of entertainment like, for example, a sword swallower. They’re hard to find. You know, find a good swallower that stays around.
Jan Levie: [00:21:40] You could have an over-the-top wedding. We did a wedding, well, it’s two months ago now, and it was safe. We created an environment that kept all of their guests safe, which was really important for them. We used our contact free entertainer booth. And everybody managed to be able to interact and have what they needed. And to take something home that reminded them of their experience. But they weren’t exposed to someone else’s germs.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:15] Well, Jan, congratulations on all the success. If somebody wants to learn more, what is the website?
Jan Levie: [00:22:21] www.handyentertainment.xyz.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:29] And it’s just as you think it’s spelled, right? H-A-N-D-Yentertainment.xyz?
Jan Levie: [00:22:35] Yes. Except you wouldn’t think that it’s spelled xyz, but it is.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:40] That’s the surprise and delight moment that you add to the whole thing, right?
Jan Levie: [00:22:44] Thank you. And that’s so sweet.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:46] Well, thank you again for sharing your story, Jan. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Jan Levie: [00:22:51] Well, thank you so much, Lee. And it’s been a pleasure to talk with you.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:55] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on GWBC Open for Business.