If I wasn’t tone deaf, I would totally join an a cappella group. But, as folks regularly remind me to let the Beyoncés of the world do the singing, I’m well aware of my vocal shortcomings. So, I silently pitch-slap those frenemies and instead, turn to Fat Amy, er, Fat Patricia – she would never do me dirty like that. I recently made the acquaintance of three lovely ladies which reaffirms my belief that aca-people are like Canadians – simply awesome. Erica Taylor, Liz Castelli and Adette Contreras are the seriously talented trio behind Tinsel & Twine, an event planning and design firm in Brooklyn, New York. And rumor has it, they’re harmonious in more ways than one!
NAMES Liz Castelli (31), Adette Contreras (30) & Erica Taylor (30)
LOCATION Brooklyn, New York
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND We are all alums of The George Washington University. Liz’s background is in science (she got her grad degree at Columbia); Adette’s background is in international business and marketing with a focus on Spanish language (she speaks 4 languages, including her native Tagalog); Erica studied communications and sociology.
COMPANY Tinsel & Twine
ESTABLISHED Fall 2010
Tell me a bit about Tinsel & Twine and how you got started. Like many of our best ideas, we first started making plans about Tinsel & Twine over happy hour drinks. The three of us had all come from different professional backgrounds, but wanted more inspired and creative career paths. Liz had just planned her own amazing, memorable wedding. We thought, wouldn’t it be a lovely life to design celebrations for a living … That was it. We are all the type of women who, when we put our minds to something, it’s going to happen, so it was just a matter of putting that kernel of a thought out into the Universe.
You are experts in (absolutely stunning) event planning & design. Whether it is an intimate dinner party or a large-scale corporate affair, you consistently bring your client’s vision to life. Generally speaking, what are the creative & planning processes like? With any event or project, no matter the size, our goal is always to get to the heart of what our clients want to convey. What’s their story? What impression do they want to make on their guests? Why are they hosting this event? We start with a kick-off conversation to talk through what the client has in mind. Then it is our job to build on their vision to decide what key details tie everything together to create one cohesive picture.
How did you get the word out about your company when you first launched? How have you handled marketing since? Our business has been built largely by social media, word-of-mouth, referrals, and one-to-one connections. Real, authentic relationships are very important to us. As friends who became business partners, it is important for us, both personally and professionally, to surround ourselves with kindred spirits. Good people who do good work. We continue to be impressed, inspired, and honored by the people who add fresh talent and positive energy to our growing tribe of creatives.
What has been the highlight of Tinsel & Twine to date? Too many to name. Owning a business is very hard work. But we love the little moments when we can take a step back and appreciate how far we’ve come. We knew we had a real, sustainable business (and not just a side gig) the first time we didn’t have to physically be at an event, because we had trusted team managers in charge and running the show. We were making money while sipping wine at home on the couch! And even more than past accomplishments, we are energized by our plans for growth. Our highlights are always what’s yet to come.
You are certainly passionate about encouraging entrepreneurship & creativity. What is one pearl of wisdom you would share with someone considering starting their own business? We could write a book (in the works, so stay tuned) but the pieces of advice that come up again and again would be: (1) “Yes” is a lot more interesting and exciting than “No.” When opportunities present themselves, say “Yes” and figure it out as you go. (2) That being said, it’s important to know when to say “No.” It’s a powerful tool. You have to be fiercely protective of your business, so never let anyone take advantage of your ambition or good will. (3) Always keep in mind that you know more than you think you do. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, no one else will. And more importantly, no one will pay you the money you deserve. (4) On a practical note, put everything (everything) in writing. Contracts, invoices, and email recaps will cover your ass (and your assets) if ever you need it.
Let’s travel back in time a few years. What advice would you give yourselves on the topic of entrepreneurship? Although it’s felt like a bit of a journey, we’ve learned a lot in a fairly short amount of time. One of our best lessons was to simply ask for what we want. You can’t sit back and wait for work to drop in your lap. It seems intuitive, but so many people — especially as they’re first starting out — are too timid and afraid of offending people. Or afraid that they are big/good/important enough. If you want your business to go anywhere, you have to grow a pair and make it happen.
Fast-forward five years. Where do you see Tinsel & Twine? Our 5-year plan includes growth in the form of greater brand presence, speaking engagements, books, products, multi-city offices, and the expansion of a charitable program we are currently working on.
And aca-scuse me for asking a completely unrelated question, but did you enjoy Pitch Perfect? That would be an unequivocal “YES” sung in three-party harmony. We will always be big a cappella nerds. Anyone who has worked with us knows that our studio is a very musical place where we inevitably end up singing, humming, and whistling as we work.
Guilty pleasure? AC: An empty pool table and a worthy opponent. Oh, and steak for breakfast. LC: 90s night dance parties and a good red lipstick (what we call “war paint”). ET: Alternating naps, reality tv marathons, and good books on a rare slow weekend. ALL: In no particular order: late night karaoke, red wine, and an empty dance floor.
Best happy hour in Brooklyn? We’re big fans of happy hours in general (borough agnostic). We usually end the day in our studio with wine o’clock. Otherwise, we can often be found at Clover Club on Smith Street in Cobble Hill.
Cake or pie? Affogato.
Song that just never gets old? We feel strongly that Adele’s “Skyfall” is one of the best songs ever written. Or at least one of the most amazing and epic songs for karaoke and car rides. And “Soul to Squeeze” by the Chili Peppers will always have a special place in our hearts as a reminder of our a cappella days.
Spirit animal? AC: Florence Broadhurst and Coco Chanel LC: Dolly Parton and Robin Wright a la “House of Cards” (but not as extreme with the violence and betrayal) ET: Diane von Furstenberg and Eartha Kitt ALL: So basically, we are all excited to live boldly — to travel broadly, to love wildly, to dress richly, to laugh loudly — and grow gracefully into our grande dame status. We were born to be stately, rule-breaking women of the world.