Jung Lee, founder of events production-and-design firm Fête, writes about the moment she learned to create a stronger support system.
When you’re an entrepreneur, your business is your life. But it’s not your entire life. Your family and friends are there, too. You have a life to live. It’s important to remember that, but it can be easy to lose sight of.
In the spring of 2009, Fête, my wedding and event planning and production business, was taking off. I was working on one of the biggest productions of my career: a bar mitzvah for a very prominent, wealthy family in New York. It stretched over multiple days, with nearly 800 guests. We had to do everything – build temporary housing, make sure all the meals were strictly kosher, and truly create a bespoke experience. The pressure was enormous.
At the time, my sister-in-law was fighting cancer. I’d known her since I was 16 years old. She was my oldest brother’s girlfriend then, the love of his life. When they got married, I was her maid of honor. She was diagnosed a year before I started working on this bar mitzvah, but now, just as I was consumed by the project, she was becoming increasingly ill.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, ORDINARY CELEBRATIONS BECOME TRULY EXTRAORDINARY.
I wanted to go see her, but I felt compelled to stay on the job site. We had a crew of about 70 people, but I had only one designer on staff at the time. It forced me to take charge of every little decision and detail. I was working 19-hour days for weeks leading up to the event.
One of my strengths (which is possibly also a weakness) is that when I’m focused on something, I don’t let anything else through. I did that with this event. When it was over, I rushed to the hospital and, days later, was there when my sister-in-law passed away. I wish I’d spent more time with her at home before she passed. I’ll always regret that. It haunts me to this day.
The experience made me realize that I hadn’t been making the best investments in my business. I was putting everything I had into the client, their needs, and their expectations. That meant I was constantly doing instead of building. Rather than prioritizing hiring and training and developing a strong team, I was giving 100 percent to each client and managing everything myself. As my business grew, it made it impossible for me to step away; I didn’t have the experienced team in place that would allow me to do so. It was a wake-up call. I had to build a stronger, more scalable organization.
I CULTIVATES INTUITIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH CLIENTS AND TRANSLATES THEIR LIFESTYLES INTO DYNAMIC, PERSONAL EXPERIENCES.
It’s taken time for me to adapt my business and develop solutions to combat this issue. At first I hired senior people with plenty of experience, but I found that they didn’t work out. I realized I was looking for a particular kind of person — someone who cared deeply about our mission, even if they didn’t have the experience. I could always just teach them what they needed to know about the business, but I couldn’t teach them to be smart and passionate.
Now I have a team I trust. I may still be the first person our clients meet, and I may be the face they’re looking for, but my amazing staff can lead their own projects. It has allowed me to not only expand Fête but also launch another business, a registry called Slowdance.
I still struggle with work-life balance, but I’m doing better. If I’m working too much, I try to sit back. I’ve learned that taking the time to develop talent will always serve a business. It’s putting money in the bank for the future — and giving you space to focus on what really matters.
Fête—a full-service event planning and design production firm based in New York City—creates extraordinary events for discriminating private and corporate clients throughout the US and across the globe. Under the direction of co-founder Jung Lee, Fête has become one of the world’s most celebrated and sought-after event companies.
Fête events are highly customized and reflect the personality and essence of each client, whether an individual, product or company. Jung recognizes that incredible events need to go beyond just great design. She cultivates experiences that integrate incredible design with the finest in cocktails, dining experiences, music, entertainment and surprises. Through each element, Jung masterfully curates each detail, striking the right balance in all of these to create a tailor-made event with incredible energy from start to finish. Each custom experience is rich in meaningful detail and full of personality; guests never want to leave.
Fête is one of the only companies that conceptualizes, designs, plans and oversees all key elements of an event in-house. This allows for unmatched quality control and ensures that the vision stays cohesive. Far more than just stunning visuals, a Fête event is painstakingly orchestrated from start to finish by Jung and the Fête team. The flow is seamless yet natural; energy elevates as the experience progresses. It is this ultra-high level of workmanship and detail that puts a Fête event in a category all its own.
Official Website: Fête