Chicago-based event planner and designer Debi Lilly, 40, named her company A Perfect Event for a reason. At the events she designs, which have ranged from Oprah’s 50th birthday party to charity galas and weddings, she likes to make sure no detail is overlooked.
Lilly has enhanced her reputation for thoughtful, picture-perfect events on social media, a platform she embraced early on. She began sharing content from her events on a blog—using a Blackberry phone, no less—10 years ago and has been evolving her strategy ever since. “Live experience is everything at an event,” Lilly says. “The energy, the connection with guests joining through live-streaming … it’s fantastic.”
More importantly, social media has proven an effective marketing base. “Once we started focusing on social media, business has gone gangbusters,” she says. “And it’s truly because of social media. You can ask people why they’re hiring us, and they will tell you: it’s because they’re seeing our flowers, they’re seeing our papers, they’re seeing what we’re doing all over Facebook, etc.”
Aside from winning new clients, social media has opened new revenue streams. Lilly’s posts caught the eye of a publisher, and in 2012 she released the book A Perfect Event: Inspired, Easy Elegance for Every Occasion.
“Live experience is everything at an event.”
Lilly makes her ideas accessible with a signature product line. Through a partnership with Safeway, she developed Debi Lilly Design, which includes hand-tied bouquets and home decor. She also runs a boutique. A Perfect Event’s offices, headquartered in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, combine a design studio, a library, and a shop carrying entertaining items such as candles and pâtisserie-style cupcake boxes.
In 2013, Lilly designed, planned, and coordinated a wedding cover story for Martha Stewart Weddings using tabletop items and decor from her own line.
Offline, Lilly is constantly on the lookout for new event trends and inspiration to share. Each summer, she travels to Paris to train at Le Cordon Bleu. Along the way, she snaps and shares photos of everything from European flower markets to crystal service pieces; her own line of downloadable travel guides is in the works.