Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms weekly Meet a Mom series where we feature one local mama, what they’re up to both personally and professionally. This week’s Meet a Mom feature is the lovely Northfield mama of two children, Megan Estrada. In just 10 years, Megan went from a full-time career in catering events at luxury hotels to have two babies just 12 months apart, to starting up her own successful events company. AND if that’s not impressive enough, her company has plans to expand New York City, Florida and Texas over the next year. Get to know Megan and make sure to catch her advice to moms about starting their own entrepreneurial endeavor👇🏼!
Hi Megan! Please introduce yourself.
Hi! My name is Megan Estrada, CEO and Event Consultant for NSWE Events, formally known as North Shore Weddings & Events, a luxury wedding and event planning company. I grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, just a few blocks away from where my office is in the Hubbard Woods Design District. I moved away for many years, but in 2011, my ex-husband and I returned to the North Shore to raise our two kids where we grew up. We lived in Glencoe and now I reside in Northfield.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have two kids, boy 10 and girl 9.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?
The endless love of parenthood. Businesses change, clients come and go, relationships end, but I will always be a Mom. The endless love of parenting is priceless.
Do you have any mom tips to make quarantine/COVID life a little easier?
Get help. Mom’s need time to themselves for work, play, exercise or even a little time alone to read a book or watch your favorite TV show. If you can’t hire someone, ask a friend or family member to take the kids and get some time for whatever you need. The kids need the outside social interaction too.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I was a photographer and singer in the Electronic Dance Music industry.
Any local favorite takeout restaurants?
Thai Inbox in Glenview is our take-out go-to, but then on Mommy Daughter nights, we like to order from Mt. Everest in Evanston and order way more Indian food than we can eat. Luckily, it heats up perfectly.
You’re a mompreneur! Please introduce your company, NSWE Events.
Ten years ago, I found myself with dilemma. I had my children 12 months apart and needed to find a part-time job that I could do from home and I raise my two babies. My job as a Catering Director for luxury hotels did not allow me a flexible position, but my background and experience with event planning did. I launched North Shore Weddings & Events the weeks after finding out I was pregnant with my daughter. After her birth, I left my hotel catering position and executed my first wedding.
In the upcoming years, between diaper changes and during naps, I developed a solid business model and process for efficiently handling high-end events. I have been blessed with a strong referral business and really amazing clients who value the services I provide them. We quickly grew to handle lots of events per year (42 events in 2019) and moved into an office space in Hubbard Woods. We now serve events across the country and have rebranded to NSWE Events to represent the national brand. This year we are targeting new locations in New York City, Florida and Texas.
We all know that the pandemic has hit this industry in the gut. Please share your view about it.
This past year has also brought on new challenges as the special event industry faced the hardship of Covid-19 shutting down the industry. Covid-19 prevented groups from gathering, which is what the events industry is based on. I partnered with the National Association of Catering Events (NACE) and created the NACE Covid-19 Task Force. We wrote letters to the governor and mayor and were able to assist in writing the guidelines for Event Venues and educated the industry on how to apply them. We also were able to gain attention to the special event industry needing financial relief and event industry professionals were included in the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) issued by the Illinois DCEO. Unfortunately not enough funds were funneled into event businesses and we have to continue to lobby with local officials to get our industry back and running in 2021.
Who are your influencers and/or mentors that have helped you get to where you are today and/or continue to inspire you?
My father was a great mentor to me, prior to his passing in 2019. He taught me to be interested in everyone and many business skills that I often refer to. He was my biggest cheerleader (along with my Mom) and I miss talking to him every day.
What are the 2 most common questions that people reach out to ask you?
Are you available for my wedding? To that I answer: We have multiple planners on staff and can handle multiple events on any given day. We assign a lead planner to the event, but each is trained in the systems that i have developed over the last ten years, so every client gets the exact same service quality, no matter who is handling the event. To inquire about services, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I become an event planner? And to this I answer: If you are really serious about a future career in wedding or event planning, I suggest you seek out a position in catering. Catering is 50% of social events, like weddings. I only hire event planners who have at least 2 years experience in catering either at a hotel or an off-site caterer.
What advice can you give other mamas out there who are looking to start a new business in the current climate?
Current lipstick brand/color: I don’t wear lipstick
Undergrad college/major: Arts Management
Favorite candy: Swedish Fish
Strangest thing in your purse right now: Napkin Rings
Last book you read: The Art of Gathering
Your binge shows: 60 Minutes
Have you thought about how you and your family are going to stay sane this winter with shutdowns and such?
My kids are back in school with in-person half days soon, so I’m excited for them to get back to that routine… for me and them. I’m busy with the business expansion, working with clients, creating event safety guidelines for Florida, and scheduling a lot of Zoom hang outs with friends. I feel that we now have a finish line in front of us, so we just need to keep moving forward and get through this upcoming 6 months.
What’s on the horizon for your brand? Future aspirations, plans….
NSWE Events is actively growing to serve the entire country and be considered a national leader in event planning. Think what Ritz Carlton is to hotels, we will be in wedding and event planning.