It was an ad that inked the deal for Kelley Thwaite, co-owner of KM Event Productions, a full-service boutique event management company in south Jersey. “I answered an ad in the newspaper for a job at a small association management company,” she says. The company was indeed small, as Thwaite worked for the husband-and-wife team out of their basement. She learned a lot about the industry, though, and it’s where she’s spent the last two decades building a name for herself.
After a layoff in 2013, she decided it was time “to do my own thing,” and created KMEP in 2014. The boutique firm handles event planning for a variety of nonprofits and corporations of all sizes. “I really wanted the opportunity to get to know local companies by working with them on their meetings and events,” she explains of the incentive to create her own business. “We can do everything from a small meeting or client event to those on a national or international scale.”
From the economic crisis to décor trends, Thwaite handles plenty of change, but one thing that remains static is her commitment to relationships. “Since the beginning of my career it was ingrained in me that relationships were key. I was always a member of MPI and in 2011, I served as president of the MPI Philadelphia chapter. As someone who has been in this business for 20 years, I’ve only been unemployed for four months. It all has to do with relationships,” she says. “I believe wholeheartedly in building a network and turning to it when you need something or helping out when someone else needs something.” Her relationshipbuilding also led Experient to come knocking at her door shortly after creating KMEP, and Thwaite also serves as their national account manager.
The one change that Thwaite really welcomed? Recognition for the career path. “You used to tell people what you did for a living and they didn’t understand,” she laughs. “Now, people can major in what I do as a career, though my great aunt still doesn’t know what I do!”