This month, I sat down with my aunt, Christina Whitney. She started out in the culinary industry. At one point in her career, she made the decision to create her own company, Whitney Events. She is an event planner that focuses on helping couples make their dream wedding come true. I sat down with her and asked her a few questions about how she has made it to this point.
Me: How long have you been a business owner?
Ms. Whitney: I have been running my company for five years now.
Me: What inspired you to start a business?
Ms. Whitney: I was tired of working for other people in the hospitality industry. I was working too many hours during the weeks and weekends. I had a different vision of how this business can run than other people in the hospitality field. I wanted to give more attention to the couples rather than work just the corporate side of the business. On top of that, I could make my own hours on my own terms.
Me: What challenges have you faced in your career and in achieving your position
Ms. Whitney: There’s a big difference going from working for someone and then being your own boss. It’s a whole teaching experience. I had to teach myself discipline, and how to advertise and network my business to the public. Another challenge that I faced was making connections. I have a pretty good niche on that now, but it was hard at first to connect with people. When I first decided to go into wedding planning, a lot of people said the business was always changing or it was to hard to accomplish. They were trying to discourage me from doing this. But, I had a great amount support from my family and I took the chance and did it. We now do around 20 weddings a year.
Me: Do you think you have faced greater challenges than a male has?
Ms. Whitney: I definitely think I have. When I went to culinary school, there were only five girls in my class. I was working in the restaurants and working for businesses were the owners respected males over females. Every kitchen was run by a man, they got promoted more, and there was a buddy system. Since a man tends to be an executive chef they become friends with other male chefs, which is how male chefs can get work their way up faster than a woman. I was with men for 12 hours a day and there were definitely moments where they would be disrespectful. Now, I feel that the cooking industry has changed a lot though, from being male dominated to being more equal now. Women need to help other women and sometimes all we do is challenge each other.
Me: Define a great leader? What are some traits you think a great leader possess?
Ms. Whitney: I think someone who is open to new ideas is a really good leader. When I first decided to create my own business, there was this florist that I knew who worked in Manhattan. She would meet me every weekend and would give me advice. She is like a mentor to me. I also think that being cooperative is a great component to being a successful leader. I love to meet with my team and listen to their ideas so I gain different perspectives on how I can make my company even better. There is always room for improvement no matter how good something is.
Me: How do you balance your work life and personal life? What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your life?
Ms. Whitney: Being your own business owner you don’t have the luxury of having time off. I don’t really have a personal life right now. I have six weddings this month, and work until around eleven each day. The nice thing about being my own boss is I can schedule around holidays and import dates, and there are times where there are not as many weddings going on. We don’t have as many wedding in the months of January and February.
Me: Why do you think women still lag behind in obtaining leadership positions?
Ms. Whitney: Women just need time to get up there. I think its changing over; a lot of fields used to be male dominated so its going to take some time for women to get up there, but it will happen.
Me: What advice do you have for aspiring female leaders?
Ms. Whitney: Be strong, make decisions and stand by them. You can’t be emotional and irrational when things happen. Learn to always keep calm in the face of adversary, and forge forward with what you believe and you will be successful.
Julia Whitney ’21 Staff Writer