We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Arena and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nicole, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I have always been a planner from the age of 12 and yet the greatest/most impactful decisions I have ever made have sort of been risky ideas that just came to me and were never a part of any grand plan so I would say that if your intuition is telling you to do something that you should listen. I had a great career as a fashion buyer in Manhattan and I suddenly moved to Los Angeles for a relationship. Then when there were layoffs at my company in 2007/2008 I quickly decided I would try event planning, a career I knew nothing about. I needed to learn the event business and sought out a famous event planner by attending all of her son’s baseball games (we had a mutual friend) and I approached her and asked to work for her and she said yes. I started my first company, Green Ribbon Parties so I could execute my own vision and have my own clients and it’s always risky to start your own thing since you won’t have consistent income, which I was used to coming from a corporate background. But you get used to the ebbs and flows of it. Also, you have to continue to take risks in pitching yourself, networking and continuously expanding your circle since business comes through your connections. Finally, I started my newest company, The Social Arena, to serve a need I found in the event space. Clients kept looking for restaurant spaces for parties and restaurants would ask me to come in and bring clients so they could book for events. It was definitely a risk to start another company when I had a successful business already. However, I feel energized by learning and the challenges that accompany a new business, especially when it is in an industry I do not know everything about. I find that the risks I have taken in my life have initially made me feel uneasy at times, but the rewards that accompanied them are immeasurable…from the people I have met, the experiences I have had and the feelings of accomplishment that have remained. And even if a risk doesn’t pay off, the lessons are the best building blocks for your next move.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I originally worked in luxury fashion buying for companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Prada and Louis Vuitton and then after moving to LA I took at job at Juicy Couture in merchandising. I worked there for around 3 years when the recession hit and I decided to re-evaluate if I wanted to continue in fashion and I decided to explore the world of events at the urging of some friends. I reached out to planners hoping to speak someone/secure an internship at the young age of 31! But that proved difficult so I took matters into my own hands and found a planner I had a connection to and sought her out and offered my services and she took me up on it. You really need to take chances when it comes to your career because you never know if you don’t try. I realize it can seem scary to approach people, but I have found most people do like sharing their story and helping when they are able. When I started Green Ribbon Parties, it was hard at first since we did not have instagram and I would just offer my help to anyone planning a wedding – I found people on Facebook through friends and did shoots, anything to get some photos and some experience and then it just progressed from there. With The Social Arena, that has been more of a learning curve for me. I know the event side of the business, but I have never worked in a restaurant, which is why I have a restaurant consultant/advisor to tell me what I might not be seeing since I want to be able to serve both sides – the party throwers/planners and the restaurants. It has been a different experience starting a company like The Social Arena since that is company that is being built to scale so I really have to think about systems I want in place when we bring people on. It was also a much more intricate website to build since it was more than pretty photos and I went through a few developers to get it the way I wanted. And since The Social Arena is more of a start-up and is raising money, I have had to educate myself on that world, but I have found it to be an interesting challenge and I will say that speaking with other founders, particularly females has been the key to getting referrals and finding out what I didn’t know! And with any networking I would say that the greatest advice I have been given is to make it as easy for the other person as possible so you should ask for a call vs. a coffee, provide them when specific info you might be looking for so they know what to prepare. If you are asking for an intro from a friend then give your connection a bio so they do not have to come up with what to say. This makes for a much more efficient process and you control what is being said about you as well and they will appreciate it!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Non-covid world…. For Drinking- Esters Wine Shop & Bar in Santa Monica For a Fancy Dinner- Giorgio Baldi For Fun Food – Definitely check out Grand Central and get pie from Fat & Flour and BBQ from Horse Thief, if you want breakfast…Egg Slut! For an Old School Experience – Check out The Sunset Tower Hotel and order an ice cream sundae. For Hiking- Westridge Trail off Mandeville Canyon – a REAL hike with amazing views, good parking (key in LA) and it’s not crowded with tourists, only locals. For Shopping-since I am a Westsider I would say Abbot Kinney and now it really extends out to Lincoln and Brentwood Country Mart. For Dancing – Clifton’s or The Edison, I think DTLA is lively and eclectic in the best way possible and totally unpretentious with great music. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I do not think I could choose just one person to shoutout! I would say that one of the greatest gifts from being a business owner is getting to meet my clients. As an event planner, I am with many of my clients for around a year and I become very close to them since I am involved in some many important aspects of their lives – their relationship, their money, their families etc. And I have been lucky enough to meet so many wonderful women who have not only entrusted me with their special events, but their friendship. And then I would also add….other vendors and planners in particular. When I first started in events I was scared to talk to other planners since it felt competitive, but as I became more secure in my own business I realized that there was plenty of work to go around. Planners are the best for sharing resources and offering a listening ear, especially Erica Espana-Lakin of Twine Events and Robin Baab Olascoaga of RMBO Collective. Then when I decided to start The Social Arena, planners and clients alike have backed me all the way, wanting to help give me feedback and cheering me on. I also have an amazing restaurant consultant Kate Elizabeth Green who has worked in restaurants for well over a decade and can advise me from the POV of a restaurant and she is also the ultimate connector, which has been invaluable to me.
Instagram: @thesocialarena and @greenribbonparties
Raya Carlise (tabletop photos and photo of me) Marisa Vitale (Palihouse and Botanica) Max Wanger (drinks)