Today we’d like to introduce you to Abby Borden.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Abby. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
As a child, I loved “helping” – whether it was at my siblings birthday parties or setting the table for family celebrations. My event experience then developed formally as the daughter of a diplomat: As a family, we entertained foreign dignitaries, took etiquette classes; learned how to eat watermelon at a formal dinner (yes, it is proper to spit out the seeds!); and volunteered at charitable events. Little did I realize that all this “helping” was the humble beginning of a career in events.
Years later, while attending Bucknell University, I noticed that what I wanted to study didn’t quite “fit” into a major. Thankfully, the Liberal Arts curriculum allowed students to design their own major, and so I did – ‘Arts Management.’ I petitioned the Dean to see that there was a need for someone to be able to balance artistic vision, with budget and integrity. I recognized that there were many artists who were not financially successful; as well as highly effective business minds who lacked creativity – so I endeavored to speak both languages. My curriculum included Accounting, Management, and Entrepreneurship alongside Stage Management, Design, and Directing.
With a degree in ‘Arts Management,’ it seems logical that I became an Assistant at Creative Artists Agency. Every year, CAA hosts their ‘Young Hollywood Party’ which is executed by the Assistants, and the “interest meeting” is held over a lunch hour. The meeting was reminiscent of a high school prom planning committee – people with specific interests: guest list, tickets, sponsorship, raffle; and those who attended to be seen, vying for popularity, or to be recognized by the agents. People signed up for various teams, and at the end, I approached the senior assistant leading the meeting and asked, “so, who handles your logistics? How can I be a part of that?” And she answered, “um, no one really. But you can if you’d like.”
I then spent nights at home, my lunch hour, and some time on weekends coordinating the logistics – voluntarily, all this was unpaid. I set deadlines for specific goals, worked with the website gal on when it would work for her to receive updates, funneled outreach to vendor partners so they would receive one request for donations and not one from each team… and kept a giant binder to track it all. That year the event raised 75% more money than the previous year and had received praise from the partners. It was that recognition that had me look – I had done all that for free, and was happy to do it! I was “in the zone,” and it was much more fulfilling than shuffling scripts at my desk… What would it be like if that was my job?
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Before going out on my own, I worked for various companies within the industry – starting as a Hollywood intern learning the importance of a coffee order and navigating the intricacies of Angeleno’s pickiest dietary requirements early. I worked for an Event Producer, Caterers, and Event Designers, wanting to absorb and learn everything I could to figure out what I was “best” at. What I’ve discovered is that what I love is, the people.
The “artists” that I had set out to make a difference for in my college vision are Chefs, Florists, and Designers. They have talents and passion that are just looking for the right opportunity to be expressed. I take pride in knowing the Artists I work with – what their talents are, what their favorite projects look like, and what environment has them stand out and shine. I would never ask a Chef who specializes in fine dining to execute a backyard barbecue, and similarly, a florist who loves the avant-garde and bright colors is not going to be the right fit for an ivory ballroom wedding.
In my work experience, it took a little while for me to understand that I was sometimes alone in this opinion. I had heard “they can do anything,” or “just call our guy”… sure, everyone appreciates getting that call, but the missing piece was – are they excited about each and every project we’re calling them about? Are we using them to their full capacity and talents? Not always… and I slowly built up an internal conversation with myself, grumbling, “I wouldn’t have made that call,” “I wouldn’t have asked that of them,” or “I wouldn’t treat them that way”… It was those growing complaints that had me look at how frustrated I had become – I was in an industry that I loved, doing pretty well working for other people – but I wanted to do it differently.
I knew I was going to eventually go out on my own “someday.” “Three to five years” I had said… “I’m not ready” until a personal development coach asked me:
“Are you okay with knowing you are going to have that persistent complaint for three to five years?”
“No.” I answered.
“So Abby, when are you going to stop complaining?”
“Tomorrow.” – And that is what had me take the leap.
Literally the next day I shared with my boss at the time that I was grateful for everything I had learned, and appreciated all the opportunities I had been given, but that what I wanted for myself and my life was to go out on my own and freelance fulltime. The miracle that happened next was not at all expected – “Okay Abbs, let’s make this your two weeks, and the projects that are currently on your plate, you can freelance on, and I’ll be your first client, does that work for you?” And it was that day, that I became my own boss, standing for what I wanted to do – I haven’t looked back since.
Please tell us about Table Set Go.
I am an Event Producer, and with Table Set Go, I specialize in events that involve food. My ideal clients are “foodies.” I love curating menus that fit a theme, and surprising guests with the unexpected – you’ll never see a standard “cheese and cracker display.” I endeavor for the service to be seamless, the guests, well-fed, everyone thoroughly entertained and still talking about it when they leave.
I often work within a larger team, bringing in whatever might be missing, that would make a difference to empower a successful event. This could be as a project manager, vendor liaison, or catering coordinator.
I was lucky enough to have my first major event experience with the Grammy Celebration. I started the assistant to the Producer and worked behind the scenes coordinating vendor logistics, and Talent needs at the show. I am immensely blessed, grateful, and honored that ten years later, I am still a part of the team as their Senior Catering Coordinator. While the companies I worked for, and my job titles have changed over time, the Grammys are still my favorite event all year, and the team that The Recording Academy has put together is unlike any other.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” An event producer does whatever they can to prepare for a multitude of curveballs, changes, and challenges onsite – and when they happen, we are quick to improvise, and problem solve while ensuring that no guest knows that anything was amiss… The opportunity to rise to the occasion takes experience, preparation, and quick thinking. Lucky guests, lucky host – who don’t need to worry about anything.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
If I started over – I would have asked more questions of those I was learning from. What was their creative process? Why did they choose one thing over another? Where did their inspiration come from? What had them go in that direction? Asking those questions may have broadened my understanding of what it was to be a producer, earlier.
I would also have wanted to pay attention and build some of my vendor relationships sooner – there’s nothing like having that knee-jerk “I need to call the person who did X for this!” Only to realize that I hadn’t saved their number, didn’t follow them on Instagram, or couldn’t remember their name.
- Website: www.tablesetgo.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @tableset_go
Girl Squad Inc