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Empowering With Erica: Allison Palestrini

For years I have attended incredible events supporting No Kid Hungry.  From Give Me 5 to Taste of the Nation, there is nothing better than dapper events that support an incredible cause — and who doesn’t love a great champagne tower!  Well, the awesome woman who puts on these events is Allison Palestrini.  She is one-half of the dynamite duo of Crave Soiree, an event production company that features unique events and party rentals.  I had a chance to grab a glass of champagne with Allison as we sat to chat about her journey.

What was your journey like to get where you are? 

Nonlinear (drops mic)…. But seriously, it was following my passions while fine-tuning my strengths and learning, learning, learning. I’m still cultivating new skills on a regular basis and I get easily bored if I can’t grow.

I majored in Public Relations at UGA, started at a large international PR agency in Atlanta and was blessed to work on product placements (TV and movies) along with national media relations and cross-country restaurant openings. It was big budget all the way. I learned as a young 20-something PR rep how transferrable my skills were between clients, how to rock out NYC press tours and have confidence in myself in unique high-level situations.

Then I went to a smaller firm, and learned how to work mean and lean. I was interested in being on the client side in an expanded marketing role – so my next move was internal to restaurant companies.

I worked at Focus Brands on Moe’s Southwest Grill in field marketing and my region was the Northeast. The constant travel was rough, but I learned that I can certainly hold my own when franchisees with attitude wanted to test me. I also learned some people get trained to act out (yelling, being demanding) based on how they were treated previously – it was the first time in my career (not the last) that I had to say “you don’t have to believe me, but I ask that you give me the opportunity to prove I’m going to do what I say.”

From there I became the Southeast Director for No Kid Hungry. I managed a team, the travel slowed down – and I got the opportunity to work on my favorite event: Taste of the Nation! Here I learned how to manage a team – sometimes successfully, sometimes not – and I had a unique job perk of working with a career coach. I worked with him to draft the business plan for Type A Development in 2013 – leveraging the grab bag of skills I had honed to start my own business focused on partnership development + communications.

In an unforeseen yet fortunate turn of events, No Kid Hungry became a client of my business and the events I manage in the region have continued to grow over the years. And Type A Development has grown, spinning off a brand-new little sister company Crave Soiree in 2018.

What is your favorite thing about working with No Kid Hungry? The people! Share Our Strength (the non-profit of No Kid Hungry) was founded on the idea that everyone has a strength to share. I deeply enjoy working with the people who rally around this cause – and introducing it to new people I meet. Chefs, committee members, sponsors, the event chairmen, mixologists, volunteers – I love the people working together for a great cause with proven results.

What inspired you to launch your side hustle? 

Being highly distractible. I’m kidding… It can be a challenge to schedule, but I carve out time (quarterly is ideal, annually is more realistic) to review the business of our business. This is important. It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day work and not prioritize working on the business itself to steer the ship towards things you really want to be working on. This July 2018 session was the start of Crave Soiree. My business partner, Elizabeth Baker, and I said “if we were to start all over again, what would we do? What do people want us to do? What do we love to do?” and Crave Soiree was started that day. We are leveraging our event experience, communication skills, culinary connections and experience of needing specialty items for our events to offer “events a la carte” offerings to our network. Crave Soiree is the future of our business, an extension of services, and (thankfully) our reputation precedes us.

How do you mange to run a full-time business, a side hustle while being a wife and mother of two?

If you wait for the time to be “just right” it will never happen. I picked that up along the way somewhere and have always believed that it is better to just start.

Try to figure out the best way to communicate family schedules (I’m still working on that) and like the work day, play into your strengths. I’m the worst, worst, worst at deep cleaning. My husband and I tried to do it ourselves early on and we spent our weekends arguing while doing a bad job cleaning bathrooms – so we outsource now. Sometimes I feel bad about it – but I have to remind myself: you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

What is the most rewarding/hardest part of being an entrepreneur?

Spinning plates. Feeling like a Rockstar and lost in your career in the same day (or hour).

It’s mostly exhilarating and a little terrifying that no one else is dictating my day, results or process. It’s all me.

Ensuring someone else’s “emergency” does not derail my productivity for the day.

If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive who? Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain.  

What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your footsteps? 

Okay, these are going to sound like a bunch of inspirational memes, but they are also the truth.

Operate in the gray area: Life is not black and white.

Change is the only constant: The more you are okay with that, the more successful you will be.

Play to your strengths: Know them, celebrate them – but there are blind spots with each strength. Recognize yours and check yourself.

I am also extremely comfortable “managing up.” If you need something from someone higher up to keep the project moving or the results top notch, ask them. Done correctly, you’re not a pest, you’re an asset.

Don’t partner with anyone you aren’t in lock step with. My business partner and I were friends for years before partnering, but we still “dated” for a year so we could test it out and talk through worst case scenarios. Operating a business together means we take responsibility for each other’s finances… you better know that person and trust them beyond measure.

What exciting plans do you have for 2019? 

Increased collaboration. It is exciting to revisit past clients, contacts and connections in their new roles – and work together again.

What is your favorite quote and why? Just one???

It’s better to be good and done than perfect and unfinished.

From Amy Poehler’s “Yes, Please”: “Good for her, not for me.”

I’m a long time Jay Z fan (pre-2000) so from Mr. Carter, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”

What is your go to cocktail? I’m a wine lover, but if there is a great bartender, I usually order something that I don’t know how to make myself (with egg whites! How intimidating).I If I’m in party mode, my college favorite cocktail: a “skinny pirate” – Captain Morgan spiced rum and Diet Coke.

What would be your last meal? A well-balanced combo of crusty French bread, fig spread, Humbolt Fog cheese and a corner piece of birthday cake.

Erica Key

Erica Key is the editor-in-chief and founder of Eating with Erica. She founded Eating with Erica in 2013 due to her love for the Atlanta food scene. Erica is an award-winning Atlanta-based blogger with a passion for all things dining, entertaining, and food.



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