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I plan parties for the ultrawealthy. We get multimillion-dollar budgets to source real reindeer, fire-breathing dragons, and gift bags filled with Dior jewelry.

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Kathy Gallagher, CEO of Quintessentially Asia PacificKathy Gallagher, CEO of Quintessentially Asia Pacific.

Courtesy of Kathy Gallagher

  • Kathy Gallagher is the CEO of Quintessentially Asia Pacific, a concierge company for VIPs.
  • She’s organized Christmas trees with edible decorations and turned a mansion into a haunted house. 
  • “Our clients have asked us to hand-deliver invitations white-glove style,” she told Insider.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kathy Gallagher, CEO of Quintessentially Asia Pacific. It has been edited for length and clarity.  

Before I became a holiday planner, I had an exciting role in Hong Kong working for Deloitte. I had been with the Global Financial Services team for more than 10 years in London and Hong Kong, and I worked with great clients. But I found myself wanting to make a switch in my career to follow one of my passions, whether that was travel, art, food or wine. 

I was always making lists of restaurants I wanted to visit around town and my friends would come to me to ask where they should go for dinner, buy a birthday gift, or go on holiday. When I was offered the position at the VIP concierge company Quintessentially in August 2017, I knew I had found my perfect fit. I could now turn my passion into a full-time job.

Quintessentially, which launched in the UK, has offices across the globe

Our clientele includes movie stars, musicians, Fortune 500 companies, and royalty.

The entrance to a Quintessentially Christmas eventThe entrance to a Quintessentially Christmas event.

Courtesy of Quintessentially

They trust us not only to arrange their daily lives, but their biggest events — whether that’s celebration parties on private islands or parties to mark the arrival of a newborn, which we’ve done with the help of a six-figure budget. But we’re also asked to organize their holiday parties. 

We take our holiday parties to the next level

It’s not unusual for us to be given a multimillion-dollar budget to arrange a festive party. Venues can be anything from heritage buildings to a racing circuit on a frozen lake in Scandinavia. However, whether the party is small or large, we will still make it memorable. 

One Christmas, a client in Singapore asked if we could arrange a festive fine-dining supper for around 80 people. The room featured a supersized Christmas tree, which looked like something you’d find in a mall. 

Edible Christmas baubles by pastry chef Janice WongEdible Christmas baubles by pastry chef Janice Wong.

Courtesy of Janice Wong

At the end of the evening, we told guests that the decorations on the tree were in fact edible and created by the award-winning pastry chef Janice Wong. As soon as we told the guests that the edible decorations were their leaving gifts, they immediately got up from their chairs, and started running to the tree to get the best ornament. Someone described the rush as looking “like a shopping mall on Boxing Day.”

We always focus on the details, and that included organizing real reindeer as a surprise for the younger guests of a Christmas party at the recently renovated 18th-century Heckfield Place. 

When we’re planning a party, we start with the host 

Whether we’re creating a holiday party for a VIP or a Fortune 500 company, the process is always the same — you start with the host. To create a bespoke experience, you have got to tailor it to that individual or business. 

Reindeer at for younger guests at a party at Heckfield PlaceReindeer for younger guests at a party at Heckfield Place.

Courtesy of Heckfield Place

We then focus on curating a guest’s journey from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, whether that’s personalizing the name badge with hand calligraphy or doing hotel drops of boxes of personalized tea, if they’re staying for a couple of nights. 

Personalizing the experience is the real differentiator. It stops it from becoming mainstream. We will start with a mood board and may be given a theme by the host. We’re never afraid of a theme becoming tacky, as it’s all about execution.

Luxury doesn’t need to be gilded and dripping in gold

We can organize parties that are luxurious and extravagant, but our VIP clients are more interested in something that is unique. A client recently wanted to create a celebration dinner party for her friends, so we organized a private supper made from 3D printed food. 

projection mapped performance pieces curated for the Chinese New Year event CNY PerformanceA projection mapped performance pieces curated for the Chinese New Year event CNY Performance.

Courtesy of Quintessentially

The chef created an entire five-course menu for the evening, which was printed in front of the guests. Luxury now isn’t just about Michelin-starred restaurants. Luxury is about connoisseurship and experiences; it can equally be about a celebrated street food vendor catering for the party. 

Our holiday parties take place all year round 

As we have offices across the globe, we organize holiday parties all year round. 

For a Diwali party in India, we took over a palace and filled it with large-scale sand sculptures that were backlit and told the story of Diwali. For one Chinese New Year party, we made sure the festivities had the right energy by hiring two feng shui masters to act as consultants, and for another Chinese New Year party, we added a fully articulated dragon to the festivities that breathed smoke. 

A private client event around Chinese New Year featuring a fully articulated smoke-breathing dragonA private client event around Chinese New Year featuring a smoke-breathing dragon.

Courtesy of Quintessentially

With just three weeks’ notice, a corporate client asked if we could arrange a Halloween party for them in London. In this time frame, the team not only sourced an empty mansion, but installed a ghost train. Party guests could board the train and walk through the carriages. 

We also had more than 50 performers dressed as zombies and a 12-piece band — all dressed as skeletons — had Halloween goers hitting the dance floor.  

Privacy is the key word for our clients 

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a rise with our VIP clients in intimate events. Ultra-high net worth individuals want to bring the experience home in a private or more intimate space. If they choose to celebrate in a high-end hotel, they will book the entire floor and invite 20 of their friends. 

Recently, we were asked by a client to rent out an entire island in the Maldives for a celebration with family and friends. The 30 guests arrived by seaplane or private jet. Each night, we gave them a different dining experience, including being seated around a dining table sculptured out of sand. 

When it comes to parties, we take care of everything — from invitations to security and goodie bags

Our clients have asked us to hand-deliver invitations white-glove style, as they want their guests to have the experience of unboxing the invitation at their door. 

The decor from a private client’s Diwali celebration in SingaporeThe decor from a private client’s Diwali celebration in Singapore.

Courtesy of Quintessentially

Goodie bags can also be on the level of an Oscar winner’s goodie bag. We’ve had some people gift Dior jewelry to their guests, and another client gave their guests limited-edition prints. 

When it comes to organizing a party, we’ll pull out all the stops for our guests

However, our general rule is everything needs to be legal and moral. When we’re putting together a plan, we will try to find a solution to everything. If it wasn’t the guest’s first choice, we will come up with a second or third that will be equally as good, if not better. 

If it’s a dinner party, I will arrive on the site a couple of hours ahead of time. But if it’s a large event that involves staging and photography areas, I will be on site 48 hours before. 

As the planning has all been done beforehand, we focus on execution on the day itself. We have a playbook, and we just follow it. 

The key to being part of our team is thinking ahead

You need to think of plans A, B, and C, because you need to be prepared in all instances. We look for people who are solution-focused, creative in their approach, and obsessive over the finer details. We want to create an experience they won’t get anywhere else.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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