Job Title: President and Creative Director, Elegant Touches
Why She’s A Top 40: She is an industry leader and was named Event Planner of the Year for 2010 by the local chapter of Meeting Professionals International.
Key To Her Success: “If the competitors are doing one thing, that guarantees we’re not. I never want to be a follower. I always want to be the trendsetter.”
After Katherine Stavropoulos Lomax graduated from the University of Alberta with an education degree, she took on wedding planning projects in the summers between teaching gigs – just for fun. “I was perfectly happy. I had it all planned out with what I wanted to achieve in teaching and where I wanted to go. All this has kind of happened by mistake,” she says from an office overflowing with pillars, centrepieces and decorations.
Within a few years, her home business (formerly An Affair to Remember) grew from planning weddings to organizing corporate events accommodating hundreds of guests. Since becoming incorporated in 1999, Elegant Touches has gone on to provide the decor at City Hall when it hosts parties for some of Edmonton’s biggest events, including the Grand Prix, Canadian Finals Rodeo and the Grey Cup. She also donates her services to annual fundraisers for the Alberta Diabetes Foundation and Stollery Children’s Hospital.
The industry is seeing an influx of ambitious young planners, but Lomax knows that experience separates her company from the rest. Her clients often seek her out after being referred by hotel staff, florists and even other planners.
“I’m a huge believer in the importance of relationships and loyalty and integrity, and people in the business know that about me,” she says. “[Elegant Touches] walks a very fine line, because we not only provide event planning services, but we’re also the preferred rental company for many of the event planners in the city.”
Though she produces glitzy events, including the New York-style fashion shows at Edmonton Bridal Expo, of which she is executive producer, Lomax points out that the business is not quite what one might expect – and that’s a tip she shares with her students at NAIT, where she instructs event management courses.
“There’s a misconception out there that event planning is glamorous. [But] we’re in the business of perfection. People hire us to make sure it goes perfectly, and that’s a lot of pressure,” she says.
Amid it all, Lomax has raised three daughters, including twins who were born prematurely. While they stayed at the Stollery Children’s Hospital for six months, complications from the birth required a period of rest for Lomax, during which she kept the business afloat from her recovery bed.
Six years later, the girls are healthy, but Lomax still visits families in the neonatal intensive care unit and has done speaking engagements on behalf of the Stollery. “Going through all that has made me a better businessperson, too,” she says. “It makes me focus on what really matters, so that I don’t get caught up in the silly things.”