Monday, May 7, 2012

Member Insider: SLATE

Think about the last large family event you went to.  Now try to think about the person who planned it all.  As I learned from Slate's Sam Boudloche, event planning is more than just organizing flowers and table cloths; it is about fitting into a family system and forming relationships that end once the event is completed.  Please join me to learn how this New Orleans native came to New York looking for Sesame Street, and finding so much more.  Plus what is the one thing shy NGLCCNY members need to know to succeed?  Read on...

Damon L. Jacobs:
Tell me about your work with Slate.
Sam Boudloche: I am on the sales side, as well as the creative event planning side, for corporate and family social events.  The fun stuff!

Damon L. Jacobs: Have you always been interested in Event planning?
Sam Boudloche: Yes, over the last ten years.  I’d say the industry chose me.  I really like hospitality, it’s just who I am.  I’m from South Louisiana; I’m not sure if you heard of a thing called “Mardi Gras” (laughs).  We New Orleanians like to throw parties for no apparent reason. 

Damon L. Jacobs: Did you host Mardi Gras parties in New Orleans?
Sam Boudloche: I worked more on the bartending side.  But let me tell you, bartending for Mardi Gras is a marathon.  We’re talking four days of working and partying, it’s just the norm.  But you’re making money, and having a good time.  A lot of us would go away the week before to relax because we knew we were going to get hit. 

Damon L. Jacobs: What drew you to New York City?
Sam Boudloche: I always say it was Sesame Street.  I’ve always wanted to get to Sesame Street.  I found myself living in Astoria for a few years, and ended up living right by Kaufman studios where it is filmed.  So I finally found Sesame Street.  I went on the set, and everything was much smaller than I thought it would be.  But I came to New York because I like the diversity, the multiculturalism, I need that.  I like this pace.  In New Orleans it is very...very...slow...pace.  When I go home it takes awhile to get used to. 

Damon L. Jacobs: And then how did you bring your hospitality skills and services to New York City?
Sam Boudloche: I had been living in Chicago a few years before this, managing a sports bar, ironically.  When I got to New York I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do management and the long hours.  I didn’t know if I was going to stay here, I didn’t know if I would like it here or if New York would like me.  So I came post 9/11, and it was really hard to find any kind of work then.  There were lines and cattle calls to get into any part of this industry.  I went home back to Louisiana for awhile, and cleaned houses for my Grandma’s church people so I could have some money to come back, and get this interview at Slate.  Ironically, it felt like I already had the job during the interview, like a déjà vu.  It felt like this is where I was supposed to be, and I have been here since February, 2003. 

Damon L. Jacobs: What are the rewards of working at Slate?
Sam Boudloche: Watching this business develop and being a part of that is a huge reward.  When we started Slate it was a swank cool pool hall at Chelsea Billiards. Now it developed into what it is today, which is an event-space, bar and restaurant.  Watching the evolution of the move, focusing on our dining, developing our lounge scene has been rewarding.  It had always just been corporate before.  Now we do different wedding, Bar Mitzvahs, engagement parties, birthday parties, anniversaries. 

I also find the relationships rewarding. You meet with the family and you become part of their lives for a whole year up until that special day.  And then when it happens it’s bittersweet.  You’re sad for a second, and then there’s someone right there ready to plan something else and you’re part of that family for the next year. 

Damon L. Jacobs: I hadn’t really thought of family events from your point-of-view before. It seems a lot of it is finding your way into these family dynamics.
Sam Boudloche: And I really enjoy that.  It comes natural for me.  It differs from corporate America.  We do big events with corporate funds, like Shining Stars.  But when it comes to the families, I become part of that. I get to know the kids, I get to know the relatives, and then I'm out of their sight, out of their minds. 

Damon L. Jacobs: You just form these relationships and they forgot about you?
Sam Boudloche: Well hopefully if you did your job and you care about your product then people talk about you and recommend you.  They’ll often send someone else my way. 

Damon L. Jacobs: How many events are GLBT focused here at Slate?
Sam Boudloche: It really varies.  We do a lot of special events.  We do theme nights with Truck Stop Girlz.  I’ve worked with gay promoters like Lee Chappell and Jayson Littman on night life events.  And as for GLBT corporate, NGLCCNY has been a big part of embracing that at Slate, such as Shining Stars and Marriage Equality parties.  So I’d say we went from zero percent GLBT focused two years ago to almost 10 percent now.  That is great; I want more of the GLBT corporate events. 

Damon L. Jacobs: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the GLBT community these last ten years?
Sam Boudloche: A lot of us are uniting now when it comes to business.  We didn’t have that before; we have our own resources now.  I never knew there were so many GLBT businesses I could resource until the NGLCCNY started. 

Damon L. Jacobs: How did you decide to join the Chamber?
Sam Boudloche: My friend Bari Zahn suggested it.  She told me, “Sam you are out now, this would be good for you; Slate would be a good fit.”  I went to an event, and all the members of the Chamber were so welcoming, it felt like a family.  I have been a member of other chambers in the City, nothing compares to NGLCCNY.  Especially the M3 Events.

Damon L. Jacobs: If someone is considering joining the Chamber how can they make the most of their experience?
Sam Boudloche: You have to be involved.  You have to put yourself out there and let people know who you are.  You have to communicate and take advantage of the tools that they offer you.  Going to the M3 events to network is important.  You should always bring a guest if you can.

Damon L. Jacobs: What about people who are shy?
Sam Boudloche: Find a big brother or big sister to hold your hand and introduce you to people.  My big sister was Bari Zahn.  Find yourself a Bari Zahn!

Damon L. Jacobs: What are the greatest rewards of your work?
Sam Boudloche: The greatest reward is that smile of satisfaction.  When you have all the stress leading to the party, and then it goes off perfectly, and it’s over, you see the smiles of happiness as they pay the bill.  That’s what you want - people to be happy that they spent the money on this party.  It makes you think, “It was all worth it, I made a difference.  I made a moment in someone’s life.”  I think every venue should strive for that.  Every venue in New York City should treat someone like that kind of guest. 

Damon L. Jacobs: What are some of the greatest struggles of your career?
Sam Boudloche: The economy.  The operational costs are high at a venue like this.  So when the economy fell, that was tough.  We strived, we booked twice as much, and we did as much as we could. And starting out was tough. Just getting yourself out there and networking in the beginning is the hardest part, and the most rewarding.
Damon L. Jacobs: If you could go back 10 years, before you began working at Slate, and give yourself a piece of advice, what would that be?
Sam Boudloche: I definitely would have joined the NGLCCNY if it existed!  I would also tell myself to relax and breathe.  And to keep all your receipts! That was the advice I got from the lady in the toll booth when I moved here.  “You’re coming to New York...keep you receipts.”  I didn’t know what it meant then, but I’ve been doing it since 2002! 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist who helps couples and individuals learn to improve communication, create and rebuild trust, cope with grief and loss, health issues, stress management, depression, addiction, ageism, bullying trauma, and caretaking fatigue. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To schedule a counseling visit or speaking engagement, call 347-227-7707, or email at An initial complimentary consultation is offered to NGLCCNY members, or people who are referred by NGLCCNY members.

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