Jihan Francois is an extraordinary wedding planner and event designer. She is also the Chief Experience Officer and Founder of Amani Affairs. @AmaniAffairs
She was recently featured in MunaLuchi Bride Magazine for the fabulous micro wedding she pulled off in Charlotte, NC during the pandemic.
Our team sat down with, Jihan Francois to hear more about her journey of how she became a wedding planner and what it’s like to work with industry icon, David Tutera.
– JiJi, okay. Oh, it’s so pretty! I wish I had that background!
– Yeah, we have the pink wall and-
– Alright, so let’s get started. Gigi is gonna’ ask questions.
– Yeah, so Can you give us a little background of your journey and how you became a wedding planner and what drew you into wanting to become a wedding planner.
– So, I started college in 1998 in Virginia Hampton, Virginia. And, around that time, is when like Pharell, and Timberland and Missy Elliot were really really popular. And they were always on campus, because they were from that area. So, I started doing parties with friends and that was just to capitalize, make some money while we were in school. And, through that, we started working with record labels and doing like album release parties and that sort of thing. So, that’s when I first started to do events and really be like, “I like this!” So then, after college, one of my roommates started her own media, marketing, and management company, and, again, I started working with her. We were both in Atlanta doing corporate events like Porsche and Converse and Coke and different activations. And another one of our friends was getting married and asked us to help. And so, I helped my friend do the wedding, and I thought it was really fun. It was very similar to doing events, but I still just kept on the corporate party event theme. So, then, in 2008, my best friend in the whole world- we’re only two weeks apart, we’ve known each other since our mom’s were pregnant with us, she was getting married in the Cayman Islands. And she said, “Can you plan my wedding? You do events all the time.” At this time, I lived in Atlanta, and she lived in New York. And then, the wedding was in Cayman. So, I was kind of very scared and overwhelmed by this feat, but she had complete confidence in me. So, I did that wedding where I was also the maid of honor, and a lot of the venders there were stopping me and my parents saying like, “If this isn’t what you do, this is what you need to do.” So, after that, my corporate day job- I was a director of marketing and communications for a ton of non-profits, and I worked at different agencies, and I also worked for the Falcons. So every job I had, I had to plan some sort of event. And, so, after the wedding in ’08, I was helping here and there every couple years with a family or friends’ wedding. Being that I was in a non-profit world and in marketing, I unfortunately was laid off 4 different times
– “Oh God.”
– So please welcome to the stage, and someone that will be part of our journey as we do with our real event, when I say real event, a challenging event, of a client of mine somewhere here in the United States, Jhan Francia.
– Yah it sounds that, through everything that you’ve been through in your past that, it’s just been your calling and this has always just been pulling you towards the events industry and that’s beautiful. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your experience working with David?
– Yah, it’s really good to have someone there to mentor you and especially, to let you know you’re doing a good job, so there’s a lot to learn from him. Also, I understand that you are also an interior designer?
– Oh sorry, wrong question!
– Events and design.
– Okay, events designer. Can you tell us more about how you incorporate the 2 together in you business?
– Yah, great. So congratulations. I understand how hard it is to go through the struggles and actually succeed in a business and commit, and make your dreams a reality, and it’s beautiful, and there’s so many women out there who are going through the same thing as you, and I just wanted to ask, what advice do you have for others who are pursuing their dreams in this.
As I look back, I understand why every lay-off happened, why every bad situation happened, and how it led me here, and so now I encourage myself and others to realize that whatever you think is bad is actually for your good, and even if you don’t understand it now, soon you will. – That was beautiful. Oh my gosh. Couldn’t have said it better.
– Thank you! – So who are your biggest role models, and why?
– So, the first two that come to mind, and this may be cliche, but, one is my grandmother, she passed away in 2013 from Alzheimer’s, and kidney issues, but she was a single mom to 3 girls. By the time she was 24, my grandfather and her had broken up, all she had was high school. She ended up putting herself in Boston Business School, with 3 girls at home living in the projects in Boston, to graduate 2nd in her class. And then went on to work at State Street bank in Boston, for over 3 decades, and buy a 3 story home in Boston, which was home to her and many of my family members over the years. And then she continued, after her kids were grown, to take care of her whole family. She took in her sister when she had cancer, after her sister died she took in her sister’s grandkids cause their mom couldn’t take care of them.
And so, she’s always been a role model. I wear her ring every day and I look at her picture every day because I just want to make her proud. And the next would be, my mom, she was one of those 3 who grew up in the projects, and she was able to get into one of the top schools in Boston, Girl’s Latin, and then get a scholarship to Tufts University, and be the first black woman in their engineering program. It’s like, I’m surrounded, when I went to watch ‘Hidden Figures’, I was like, my mom is a hidden figure, she was a mechanical engineer in the 70s, at Tufts, one of the best schools in the country, and then when she started working at a nuclear plant, she went in with an afro this big.
– You’re surrounded by so many dedicated people, and they’re also strong, and you’re an inspiration to so many others that you don’t even know that, you know, will watch you in the future and be like, wow, she made it this far, she did this, and I think that’s beautiful. Thank you for being such an inspiration. So my next question is, do you have anything planned for the future, and are there any goals that you can share with us?
– So I mean I always have big grand plans, even though I’m a planner by nature when it comes to planning my life, I don’t do it as much. But I do, at least for my goals, at least for my business, is to get to the point where I have a team of planners that work for me, and I can have multiple events on the weekend. To have, 50 plus events a year, and to work with budgets of like, 100 thousand and above. So that’s like my ultimate, ultimate goal. Short term, one thing that I’m working on is, I’m planning to get my real estate license? Because I live in a beach town that’s very popular, weddings and buying homes go hand in hand, it’ll help with networking and getting my name out there, and the skills I used to sell myself as a wedding planner are the same skills I would need to sell a home. So that’s something I’m excited to work on in the summer, I always joke with Cho, because I live with my parents again while I’m building my business. So I own a house in Atlanta and I have a tenant, but when I moved to North Carolina, I was only supposed to be here for 3 months and move back to my house in Atlanta, and so one thing we joke about is, short term getting my business to the point where I can live on my own again? I always make jokes like, “I want to be a grown-up again.” my parents are like, you’re a landlord, you’re more of a grown-up than us. But that’s like a short-term goal and I love living with my parents because its just good to spend time with them but, I lived by myself for a really long time, so, I eventually, hopefully, want to be married myself and be a mother, so that’s another goal I have. I joke now “those who can marry those who can’t plan” to friends, but to be honest, some people might not see that as a goal, but family, as I’ve talked about so much here, is so important to me that, having my own is probably like my ultimate goal.
– Yah, that’s lovely. – Well, you are beautiful inside and out and you are an inspiration to many. – Thank you. – Thank you so much for sharing your story with us and I know that you will make a lot of people, you will be a motivation to a lot of people.
– Thank you so much, and I mean Lovegevity, Cho, Mary, everybody’s been so awesome I’m like so happy cause I’ve researched all these schools and stuff I’m just so happy that I chose Longevity because the opportunities that have been afforded to me through the school have been amazing. I know I wouldn’t know David without it, you know, and Cho’s always looking for ways to help me grow my business and I don’t think many other school leaders would take that much time to really like talk and get to know their students, so, you guys are awesome at Lovegevity, and I’m a very very happy student, and I can’t wait to take another class, I want to do that event design next.
– Oh, that would be great, yah.
– Yah, yah, so I’m trying to like, this year I have more clients so I should be able to afford to take the class, but trying to get my business in a good place so I can take another class.
– Perfect, well let us know if we can do anything for you.
– Will do, thank you so much! – It was so nice meeting you.
– Nice meeting you too! And I truly am jealous of your surroundings.
– Hahaha, come join us. – Is that like, Lovegevity offices?
– Yes, it’s our studio.
– Oh yah, I need to work there. – Hahaha. – I need to visit. When I come to the West Coast, that needs to be my office. That is gorgeous, even though I feel like I would get something dirty. – I love it here, such a nice conference. – Yah, I’m like, so much white. I feel like a little kid sometimes around that kind of stuff. But it’s so pretty.
Well, thanks guys. – Thank you. Have a good day. – You too! Bye.
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