From the Gegent: “There’s no computer program to do this;” event planner and floral designer Chani Greenbaum says there’s more to planning events than meets the eye.
‘From the Gegent’ is a series of articles featuring businesses, services and the people behind them in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. Presented by Mica Soffer, owner and publisher of community news service COLlive.com and neighborhood directory gegent.com:
Photos by Shimi Kutner, Benams, Chana Blumes
Chani Greenbaum is the first one to admit that she was never the “domestic Goddess” type. “I was never very domesticated,” she says. “I wasn’t the one planning exquisite and delectable dinner parties or anything like that.”
But here she is today as one of the busiest event planners and floral designers based out of the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, with her reach far beyond.
It started while she was working for Rashi Minkowicz OBM at Chabad in Alpharetta, GA, and later, Shternie Raskin at Chabad of Brooklyn Heights, when she discovered she had a knack for throwing great events.
“I was asked to organize a Challah Bake event in Brooklyn Heights, and it ended up being really beautiful. I just put it all together, and somehow it worked,” says the South African native.
After months of organizing events for Chabad which were received with much excitement, she knew she had to take the plunge. She had a conversation with her father-in-law, Crown Heights businessman Yossi Greenbaum, about opening a business.
“Soon after, my brother-in-law got engaged, and my father-in-law told me to go ahead and plan the engagement party. He had the confidence in me, that I could put on an event for 400 people,” she recalls – and so she did.
The vivacious 30-year-old businesswoman and mother of two now runs a flourishing event planning business, directing a full staff and organizing hundreds of events each year in the Tri-State area, sometimes 3 in one day, back to back.
Yet even with her growing clientele, Greenbaum always remembers the early days when she was trying to make it in the business, relying on word of mouth and social media to spread the word about her work.
“My first full-scale event was for my friend’s father’s 60th birthday party. I bought my first candelabras and went to the market to buy flowers. I had no staff, so my mom and my cleaning lady pitched in to help me make the flower arrangements. It was from Hashem, that somehow, I just knew how to make them, and everything came together,” she says.
As her clientele grew, she was being called upon for events more and more often. With each event, she was able to buy more and more props, which piled into her playroom, and then spilled out into her building’s boiler room and storage rooms.
And when she was hired to do events or design something that she had never done before, she says, she just “did the research, and figured it out.”
“I believe in never saying no to a client,” she says. “My motto is to always say ‘yes’ to a request – and work it out later. ‘No’ is not an option. There are always ways to overcome a challenge. It just takes work.”
What started as a part-time gig, soon grew into full-time work. “Quitting my day job was a little scary for me. But I am very driven to succeed, and I realized, I couldn’t let fear hold me back,” Greenbaum says.
She soon became a popular coordinator of both large and small events, from intimate corporate parties to huge weddings.
“All our parties are equally important, created with attention to detail,” she says. “I want people to know that it’s not about spending a lot of money, it’s about creating elegance and beauty within the budget we are given.”
Adding to her busy schedule, Greenbaum also started offering flowers for Shabbos every Friday. People order via email, and she delivers fresh, exquisite bouquets to their homes, priced $35 and up. They will be doing the same for Shavuos as well.
With all this on her plate, the busy wife and mother admits that the business is by nature one which comes with a lot of pressure, “but I thrive on pressure, especially working with nice people,” Greenbaum notes. “I love when people are happy, That’s what I love most about what I do. My goal is to make every client feel special and make sure their day is perfect.”
Greenbaum says she’s learned from her mistakes as well.
“I had one party that didn’t work out as I planned, and the customer wasn’t entirely happy. I didn’t charge them enough to pay for what they expected it to be,” she recalls. “But I did learn a lot from the experience. It was the best thing that could’ve happened to me because I learned many lessons about communication, price and expectation, and it pushed me to do even better.”
Greenbaum prides herself on her events not only reflecting elegance and beauty, but the taste of the host as well.
“I really have to tap into people, into their personalities and what they love,” she says. “During the planning, I ask them to send me tons of pictures, because at the end of the day, the event has to reflect them, and not me. I spend a lot of time talking to clients to get a feel of what they are all about in order to reflect that in their event.
“It really just has to have that human element,” she says. “There’s no computer program to do this. We have to put in a lot of effort to make each event come together.”
Another thing she’s discovered while in the business is how much kindness is done every day in the Crown Heights community.
“So many people volunteer and work in this underground network of Chesed, quietly helping others,” she says. “I work on many small events where I get to see all the chesed being done, such as Esty Lebovic of Bikur Cholim, Lubavitch Yeshiva auction volunteers, Berel Majesky of the Freindship Circle, Devorah Benjamin of KSCVK, and the Bais Rivkah board members. These are all people who spend their time helping others, and I get to see it up close. It is so inspiring.”
Her success has taught her most about being grateful for the faith and support she received from friends, family, customers, and even strangers.
“I have been the recipient of so many kind people who have recommended me and shared my social media posts, my ‘cheerleaders’ who have supported me for a few years now,” she says.
“It’s truly amazing to see how much positive energy can accomplish, and how it has made so much of a difference to me. People should realize how far a kind word about someone else can go.”
Chani Greenbaum events