Ada Teme, Cherish August
Ada Teme is the Founder and Owner of Cherish August, a destination event planning firm that has been in business for over two decades. Ada and her team at Cherish August want to ensure that your event is tailored perfectly to your needs, whether a small gathering or a large event. Ada and Sanjay discuss charging the appropriate amount, balancing your time, and working around your full-time job.
Episode 34 – Ada Teme, Cherish August
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: Today's guest is Ada Teme, the founder of Cherish August, a destination event design, planning, and production firm. Ada has been in the industry for over two decades and is passionate about telling your love story. Ada, welcome to the show.
[00:01:13] Ada Teme: Thanks for having me, Sanjay.
[00:01:15] Sanjay Parekh: So, I'm excited to talk to you because I've actually done events and put on events before, probably nowhere near to the level that you do.
[00:01:23] Ada Teme: Oh, I didn’t know that.
[00:01:25] Sanjay Parekh: So, I'm looking forward to getting some tips from you. I actually don't do events anymore. But I'm going to commiserate with you in a minute. But before we get into that, give us like a two-minute background on you and what got you to where you are right now.
[00:01:40] Ada Teme: Yeah. So, it's so good to be here with you. Thanks for having me. I consider myself a global citizen. So, born in Scotland, raised in Nigeria. And growing up my mom was very influential in all things pretty, right? Like we couldn't just sit at the table. It had to be set. We couldn't just have forks and knives. It had to be laid out and the napkins had to be placed a certain way. And there had to be flowers. So, there was a certain etiquette around entertaining or having people around and how we should really create an atmosphere that welcomes them in, that they feel great about what they're eating. It should look good, and it should taste good. And that kind of led me into where I am now.
[00:02:34] Sanjay Parekh: Oh, that's awesome. Okay. Let's talk about what you're into now. So, the event planning, Cherish August, is a side hustle for you, right? So, you've got a full-time gig as a lawyer. So, what made you want to say, Hey, I don't have enough things to do? Let me add a side hustle to the game. What motivated you to do that?
[00:03:02] Ada Teme: So, I'm all about balance and symmetry, right? So, balance the left side of the brain with the right side. But interestingly enough, being a creative allowed me to be really successful throughout my law school career and my practice career. Being able to think outside the box, being able to problem solve very quickly, being able to listen and go beyond, I just want a great event. Well, tell me more. What exactly do you want? What do you want people to feel? What do you want them to feel, to see? What do you want them to take away from this experience? And I realized I definitely needed to balance the left side for sure. As a stress reliever. But also, I realized while I was even currently in my practice, I do end up going to the other side of, how can I do this creatively, efficiently, while having this great product? And I see those two things. My side hustle doesn't feel like a side hustle, because it's absolutely what I love. I wake up and dream in flowers and decor and structure architecture. I'm always being inspired by what's around me. And so, I don't necessarily see it as a side hustle. I see it as, I'm just balancing what's in between my ears.
[00:04:42] Sanjay Parekh: What's interesting is your description of being a lawyer and creativity has helped you. That's not traditionally the way that people view lawyers, it's like a very by-the-rules type of job. And so, it's interesting that you kind of position it that way, that your creativity has actually helped you.
[00:05:01] Ada Teme: And so, what I say is that there are bright line rules. You have to stay in your lane. Don't color over the line, keep the red in between the black, but it didn't, it doesn't tell me that I can't go zigzag when I paint my red or I can't go, circles. So, that's the space and the freedom within that area that you can really come up with something great.
[00:05:27] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, is this your first time doing something entrepreneurial or did you do things when you were younger? Maybe when you were a kid?
[00:05:36] Ada Teme: Yeah. In my family, my husband is like, you are such a hustler. I have friends that are just like, you're such a hustler. Maybe they didn't say it in a nice way, but everything I've done has been legal. Let me just say that. But nothing on a grand scale, but certainly I am the queen of turning zero into a couple of zeros. So, whether it was reselling my clothing, jewelry, things that were gently used. So, I was really huge, I still am, on the resale market. And as I've gotten older, I would never forget in our first home, I didn't like the landscaping that they placed there. They had these boxwood shrubs and I'm like, this is not attractive. I want something softer, and I thought, you know what? There are a lot of new builds going on around here. Somebody's going to want this. I uprooted them and I sold them literally in 30 minutes. I sold six of them. I made $800. And I remember being like, you Nigerian woman, you're so good. And I'm like, I know, I'm like, that's exactly what we do. We turn lemons into lemonade. I've certainly always had that drive in me and so this is just on a big girl scale.
[00:07:01] Sanjay Parekh: I am like super upset now because in our house many, this is decades ago now, we had bad landscaping and we just replaced it and I didn't think to go to sell that to anybody. It's such a lost opportunity, such a lost opportunity. I know. So, was there anybody I imagine there was anybody else in the family as you were growing up that were entrepreneurs?
[00:07:29] Ada Teme: I can't remember. Yes. What should I say? I have, I had an uncle that owned his own pharmacy. He was a pharmacist. My uncles and aunts were medical doctors and owned their own clinics. Now, back in the day, we didn't have these terms of art, this is, you being an entrepreneur. I didn't have those as part of my, lexicon, just not knowing that this is a thing. And really that's the story of Cherish August. I didn't realize that event design and planning was a thing, especially one that you could get paid for. And so, as we got older, I have three brothers. One is squarely in the entrepreneurial space and so as we've gotten older, now that we know what things are, certainly, we each have our little side hustles.
[00:08:32] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. That's cool. When you were embarking upon this, realizing that you needed something to balance the lawyer side of you, how did you land upon event planning and weddings and this kind of thing of all the things? Because like you said you didn't even know that was a thing really. And how did you slip into it?
[00:08:57] Ada Teme: That's the interesting thing, right? It was a thing because people would always reach out to me because I'm very type A and a half. As my aunt would say, you are like A plus plus, you just took it to another level, but I've always been very organized, very detailed oriented. I can stand and see from a 10, 000 square foot view what's wrong. And I can also very quickly narrow and focus my attention on, that thing is crooked. That program is two inches off than the next one next to it. And people naturally just started to reach out to me, hey, can you help me do this? And so, all through college. I remember in college putting on a massive concert. We had about 10 different colleges, U of I, all these different colleges come together. We gathered all of their gospel choirs. It was such a big thing. I didn't realize it was such a big thing until we got like a thousand people in this space. And so, it took me and really from then another five or six years to realize, man, I've been doing this for a long time. So, it really started off with people just saying, you seem to be really organized. You seem to have your stuff together. You're able to come into a space and make it better. You're able to understand flow, movement, aesthetically, where the eyes should look, where you don't want it to look. And really at the end of the day, the important thing for me was creating an atmosphere where those that attended would always remember being there. So, I enjoy now when I hear people say there was such an anticipation for a Cherish August event. It makes me feel really good because outside of the pretty and the music and how things are laid out, it's they're able to connect with each other. And those are memories that they would not or may have not been able to have otherwise.
[00:11:12] Sanjay Parekh: So, when you were getting kicked off, I assume incorporated at some point and then went to go do your first event. How did that person find you? And if they were somebody that you already knew then the next one. Whichever one it was the first one where they didn't actually know you and got hired, how did they find you and how did you make that happen?
[00:11:34] Ada Teme: Yeah. So, this business is all about connection and relationship and I'm very fortunate because at times, even though there's social media and there's technology and there's Facebook and there are all these things, there are a lot of options out there. And so, when people connect with you, if they say, I heard from this person to that person that you do this really well. And so, we recently had an amazing event in Paris this summer. I did another project on infertility with MSNBC. And that person happened to watch it, reached out to me on LinkedIn, connected with her. Then she had another friend and it's this friend that said, I heard about you, didn't know I did events, just happened to connect on LinkedIn and we're talking. And I said, I own this company. And she goes, I've been following you, even without knowing that this was me, introduced me to her and we ended up having an amazing event in Paris.
[00:13:00] Sanjay Parekh: So, how do you balance that? So, you've got a full-time job and now you've gotta jet set off to Paris. I'm assuming that's not a one-day gig. You've got to be there of course.
[00:13:12] Ada Teme: 48 hours.
[00:13:14] Sanjay Parekh: 48 hours. How do you plan all of that and then how do you make sure you fit that in with work as well?
[00:13:18] Ada Teme: Yeah. So, I don't sleep. It makes it really easy if you don't sleep. Everything is easy that way but because I love this so much. And a lot of the design takes place here. And so, because this is free and as you're, as I'm working, I'm also thinking, or I'm being inspired by nature or architecture or whatever's out there. I've become very efficient with managing my time. And unfortunately, I really do not sleep. So, I tend to do a lot of work at night or early, early morning, right before work. But once I've met with someone, I talk with them for about 30 minutes. And usually, we do these series of talks. The first time we're just meeting you, you're hearing my voice, you're seeing my face and just first interaction. How do you feel? Because people, there's a saying you could, make a determination and how you feel about someone in the first, I don't know what, 30 seconds. So, we do have that meet and greet. And then, if things go well, they're happy, we're happy. We set up a second meet and greet. And during this time, you get to tell me, why are we doing this? What do you want out of it? Who do you want there? Is there something that reminds you of this? What are you inspired by? What do you not want to see? And so, from that point on, once I get their story, it now becomes my story. I'm living it. I'm breathing it. I'm seeing it. So, everywhere I go, I'm thinking this would be great to tie into what so-and-so told me. Or, they had asked for this, I actually think this would be better. So, I don't see it as work. I wake up and the first thing I do is check out pop culture, right? What is the newest and latest? What are people wanting to see? What are people listening to? What are people wearing? What are people not wearing? And try to incorporate that into this great story.
[00:15:45] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox, committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at Hiscox.com. Hiscox, business insurance experts.
[00:16:06] Sanjay Parekh: So, let's change gears a little bit and talk about just running the business. Like one of the things. I think that happens to all entrepreneurs. You're nervous about something. Either you were, or you are. What are the things that you have been nervous about or are nervous about? And how do you overcome those challenges for yourself?
[00:16:30] Ada Teme: Yeah. So, I would say, and this is me being very transparent, that COVID period was the first time I got really nervous. And really, it's because, like I mentioned, I can put on, it's not about the decor and the florals, but I thought, we're missing that connection. And if we're missing that connection, we don't have the abilities to share stories anymore. And so, that was the first time I actually – we literally did not, I think we went one and a half years without having anything. It's not to say that people were not having events then, but 95 percent of my business is destination. No one was really traveling. And so that was the first time I thought, Oh, my gosh, there is a possibility that could see this creative venture not look like what it should look like or feel like what it should look like. So, that's the first time I got scared. Now there's not much that makes me uncomfortable. I think I've gotten comfortable with being uncomfortable. The other time was when I upped my prices, when I said, hey, I'm kind of good at this. And I kind of valued myself a couple of more zeros after this. And so, there was a period where I thought, no one's going to want to pay for my services. No one's going to want this. And it required me to sit in that space and you feel like there's this fire burning under you, meaning, how am I going to pay for my CRMs and how am I going to pay for ads and all of these things. And after I got through that period of, you know what, I'm just going to sit and I'm just going to wait it out. And I know that there are people out there. It's just a matter of time. Not much makes me uncomfortable anymore.
[00:18:43] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. What kind of propelled you to make that change in prices and to increase your prices? I think that's a challenge that all of us as entrepreneurs have, is that we undervalue the products and services that we sell. Like, nobody's going to pay that. So, this is what I, this is what it costs me. So, I'm going to just charge a little bit more than that. And that's not accurate. People are willing to pay a lot more than that because of the value it drives them. So, how did you get comfortable with that? And how did you decide to do that?
[00:19:13] Ada Teme: Yeah. So, you know how it took me a few years to realize what I was doing was a thing. And those few years I'm like, you guys were getting it for free. I was putting on these amazing things and I wasn't charging because I didn't appreciate my value. I didn't think that one, there was a place for it, but it took me some time. It was actually during the COVID era. That I sat back, and I said, wait a minute. I've been doing this for over 20 years. So, I should be charging not just my worth now, but the accumulation of 20 years of education, of experience, of expertise, of classes. Of really understanding the art of getting into people's mind and being able to translate that in a way that they understand, but also when clients would come to me, and they were shopping around and when I would tell him what this is the figure. They would say, really? Because so-and-so over there doesn't do half the job you do. And they charge this. And I'm like, they do what? They charge how much? And so, it made me realize there is a place for me. People do value my attention to detail, my style of work and the end result. So, I now actually had to learn, how do I price accordingly where it values myself, values my team, values my hard work, and also its value for your client. The client wants to know that what they're paying for, there is a net net win, whatever that word is, right? There's the value of their dollar is equivalent to the end result. If I'm constantly cheapening myself and they're raising the standard, something is not balanced there. So, I quickly had to learn. One, I don't do that many events a year, right? I'm very specific and very picky of how many events we pick a year. So, if I'm going to do this one, it's you're getting my full attention. You're getting the most customized experience. It costs.
[00:21:31] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Okay. Let's change gears a little bit. And talk about the stress and demands of running, not just only a business, but a side hustle along with full time work and family life and personal life and friends and all of those things. How do you balance all of these things to make it all work?
[00:21:54] Ada Teme: There's no stress at all, Sanjay. Look at me. I'm always like smiling. No, you know, being a planner, I think is one of those jobs that has one of the highest rates of depression. Because any interaction with human beings in a most stressful and vulnerable situation – weddings, birthdays, funerals, whatever it is brings out, I don't want to say though worse than people, but it brings out the other side, that you don't want anyone to see. And also having a big girl job that is also stressful. I find that the more targeted I am in picking the right client, the more creativity that particular production allows me to have, is such a stress reliever. That’s my happy place. That's where I live. Flowers are floating and decor is just running, and we're putting on a great show, whether it's a concert and I could hear people being happy and music and people dancing. That is where I get to breathe in and breathe out. And I go, you know what, let's get this, let's get it done. Let's keep going.
I've also implemented a Sunday off day. I used to just go, Sunday through Sunday because I am destination, I work with a lot of vendors in different time zones. So, there was an event we did in Italy and I was trying to manage our creative partners in Nigeria, Italy, and China. Talk about a crazy time. I was up all the time, and I was on all the time. And so, Sundays are now like, I don't answer the phone for anything design, but that's also my thinking day to get inspired, to go outside in nature, to look at the shape of a leaf and realize that would be an awesome print for this person's invite. And then we should, transfer that print to their floor wrap and to their thank you cards and things like that. So, it's been really important for me to have that off day.
I've also started to say, you know what after my big girl job, I'm going to devote two hours.. I can take phone calls up into two hours, so 8:00, 8:30. And then that's it. Then I have all day Saturday if we're not doing events. Now, there's some that require me to spend a little bit more time. I may say, I can't take phone calls on Wednesday because I'm spending that three-to-five hour block focusing on designing something or, trying to plan.
[00:25:02] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Interesting. Sunday's off. That's a good plan there. Okay, so, you've been at it for a while now and you've probably had things that, man, I wish I hadn't done it this way. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently and why?
[00:25:25] Ada Teme: There's only one event I regret. And I hate using that word but the reason I use it is because it led to a really pivotal concept for me, which is, while I am the principal and the creative director, I work with a team. And I should always listen to my team. They have a different perspective than I do. While I have the vision and how to implement it, they're able to see the non-tangible things. Okay, so, we're working with this client and when she's working with you. She's great. She's respectful. But when you're not there, she's disrespectful to us. She is really verbally abusing vendors. And I just didn't see it. I'm like, she's great. The person is great with me. That was one thing. If I could go back to that particular event, I would have fired the client. That's exactly what I should have done. But I quickly also learned to say, you know what, Ada, this is a learning opportunity. You've learned from it. Don't kick yourself down. Don't beat yourself up. You've learned from it, and you've moved on. It's allowed me to have more trust within my own camp, but also, it's allowed us to now weed people out to say, you're not the type of client we want to serve as you are not a Cherished August client. And that's certainly not the type of way we would want our brand to be looked at. And so, if I could go back, I would have then paid more attention to what my team says and how they felt about certain events.
[00:27:28] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. It's an interesting point that you bring there is that as entrepreneurs, a lot of times we will take any client because money is money. And sometimes, money isn't money and it really is important to find the people that you want to work with, that fit in terms of what you're trying to accomplish even overall. Let's talk about that for a second. That's I think a great piece of advice for somebody that might be thinking about launching a side hustle like you. What else do you have in terms of somebody that is thinking about, that's already got a full-time job like you do, but is thinking about launching a side hustle? What advice would you give them?
[00:28:15] Ada Teme: So, the thing I would say is, depending on how intense your big girl or big boy job is, what's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? What do you gravitate to? What seems like it's work, but it's not necessarily work. And if that's the thing you gravitate to, then how can you monetize it? Knowing that, is there a need for this thing? How can I work smarter and not harder? I've had to really, really focus and stay within my frameworks to make sure that emails, I'm not working too hard. I have systems that take care of that. I have CRMs that take care of this. I have, this platform that takes care of that. So, really knowing what your love is, knowing who your target audience is and figuring out what do I need to make what I want to do easier and not harder. Those would be the three core tenets for me. And again, because it fits in with my lifestyle where I just seemed like I was on all the time, and I didn't have time to do anything. And so, those are the three core things for me is really, realizing this is a thing. I wake up every morning. This is what I'm doing. Okay. How can I monetize it? And now how can I make my life easier in the day to day running of it? I don't have ten hands. I wish I could and even for my team I would want them more focused on other things, you know interacting with clients, not the mundane, but very important things that need to happen in a business.
[00:30:18] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Okay. I've got one last question for you. And this is on your expertise there. So, if a listener is trying to do an event, put on event, whatever, what's the one thing that they could do or think about to make sure they execute properly to make the event just so much better? What's the thing that you see people mess up all the time?
[00:30:44] Ada Teme: The thing I see people mess up is, you're doing an event to have people. You're having people there. Even animals, if you're doing something for a dog, it's with the dog in mind. And so, I find that people are doing events without thinking about, who is my audience, who am I doing this for? If it's for myself, you don't have to invite people. You can sit at home, get a pizza, get a couple of whatever it is, put on music, have a party. But the moment you invoke other people, you have to consider ,what cost is it going to take for this person to be at my event? And how do I show them that I respect that. That I value their time, their effort. When you have a wedding and you have, let's just say women, you buy a dress, we have to do our hair, do our makeup, jewelry, we get a plane ticket, hotel, we have to rent a car. All of those things are already thousands of dollars. And then what are they going to eat? Then you serve them one chicken wing. Now I get it. If that's what you can afford, then that's also okay. But then realize that you should not have those people make such a heavy investment because it just is not showing I value this person. I respect that they took the day off work, that they spent this much money just to tell me that they cared about me. And this is how I treat them? I always find that people are missing the most important thing, which is you're having an event to incorporate other people. Think about the other people. Actually design with them in mind. I want them, that's why we really focus on the art of storytelling. What are you trying to convey? What do you want this group of people, this person to feel? What do you want them to see? It's so important. I see the people just miss it all the time. It makes me cry.
[00:32:44] Sanjay Parekh: That is fantastic advice. As somebody who has put on events before. I believe that is fantastic advice and I hope listeners really do heed that. Ada, this has been fantastic. Where can our listeners find and connect with you online?
[00:33:00] Ada Teme: Yes, so we are online www.cherishaugust.com. We are on Instagram, Cherish_August. We are on Facebook, Cherish August, LLC. We are on Pinterest, Cherish_August. Where else is there? We're on Threads, you name it. And we are always happy to talk with people and learn how we can be a part of their story.
[00:33:28] Sanjay Parekh: Awesome. Thanks so much for being on today.
[00:33:30] Ada Teme: Thank you for having me. It's been such a treat.
[00:33:38] Sanjay Parekh: Thanks for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit Hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit Hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host, Sanjay Parekh. You can find out more about me at my website, SanjayParekh.com.