This weekend, Alysse and I are going to our first friend wedding. And that got us thinking about Drish Singh. Drish, 31, has secured her place in the Chicago wedding scene by planning beautiful and luxurious South Asian weddings, among other events—but her path to creating her company that makes couples’ dreams come true is the opposite of what you’d expect.
People with Panache: Can you tell me a bit about Drish Couture Events?
Drish Singh: I have a boutique event planning company. I specialize in luxury or higher-end South Asian weddings, so Indian or Pakistani. I also do several nonprofit events as well. I like to work with a lot of South Asian-based nonprofits in the city, charity galas, fashion shows. Once in a while I’ll do a private event—like a birthday party or dinner party—but mostly it’s weddings.
PWP: How did you get into wedding and event planning?
DS: A lot of other girls will usually tell you, “I planned my wedding and it was so fabulous and I loved it so I want to make it my career.” But I actually planned my divorce party as my launch party. That’s how I got into weddings!
I had an arranged marriage when I was 21, so I was barely out of college. We were married for a brief three years; it didn’t work out, it’s all fine. Gosh I can’t believe that was 10 years ago.
“I had the most horrible wedding, so for the rest of my life I want to make sure everyone has the best wedding ever.”
But I think if I hadn’t taken that step, would I be in the career I am now? I would’ve been stuck graduating, going for an IT job and that’s it. I’m happy that it happened that way. When I was going through my divorce I literally moved out overnight to a place in Brooklyn, no family around, and I had to try to start supporting myself. I was doing everything I could, trying odds-and-ends jobs and working with my aunt, a wedding planner in New Jersey, for a while before she went into catering. It was tough. I freelanced a couple of events here and there and people said, “You’re doing a great job, you should turn it into a career.”
At my first wedding, I remember crying at my reception. It was the worst wedding I think I’ve ever seen, witnessed or been a part of. So I think I’m repenting now. I had the most horrible wedding, so for the rest of my life I want to make sure everyone has the best wedding ever.
DS: Everybody has their moments. I never like to call them bridezillas. I have had one, several years ago, and I’ve named one of my gray hairs after that bride. I will never forget her name. But for the most part I don’t like to use that word because I see how stressful it is.
It’s funny; I actually don’t have a problem using the word groomzilla. That’s becoming more common. My own fiancé is a groomzilla, to be honest. It’s a good thing. Back in the day I never even met the groom until the day of the wedding sometimes. Now they’re very hands-on, really involved. It should be that way.
PWP: What makes you happiest?
DS: When I feel in control. It’s such a rare moment, but it’s those days when you’re busy and everything is clicking and working well, whether it’s running errands or just getting everything done on time. You’re not losing your Internet due to a flood or getting feedback you didn’t want—just feeling in control makes me so happy. I’m fortunate. I live a good life.
That feeling happens in the afternoon too. When everyone is working their 9-to-5 jobs and I can go get my manicure at 3 p.m. As if I do that—I only did that for the first time yesterday.
“I think sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we’ve achieved.”
PWP: What’s the best advice you can give to another entrepreneur?
DS: Before you start on your own, financially do your research. Figure out what’s out there. There are so many options for women entrepreneurs as far as grants, loans and things like that. There are a lot of resources out there. I think you just have to do it. You have to find the first couple of gigs where maybe you have to work for free or it’s a favor you do and you take it seriously after that. Then no more favors, it’s your job.
PWP: What’s it like to be a woman owning a business in the city?
DS: I think sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we’ve achieved. This is my busiest year ever and I’ve been fortunate that every year my business has doubled. Now I’m going through good growing pains, like I’m so busy I have to learn how to manage it, and I’m looking into bringing on more staff.
Especially being an Indian woman, I was expected to be a professional—I wanted to be seen as a professional woman. But I was surprised to find that the minute you start doing something you love, it actually warrants more respect.
It’s also a balancing act. Now I want to start cooking more for my fiancé and me, taking care of my home or being a good daughter. It’s a balancing act.
I think that’s part of being an entrepreneur, too, because your business is your baby and you’ve grown it. No one else is going to know it the way you do. But at some point you can’t grow until you let go.
For an early glimpse into tomorrow’s interview, Lucca created this GIF. (Click on the image below to see it move!)
We can’t wait to share the accompanying story—even though Lucca hasn’t read the interview yet, her GIF is a really intuitive and fun representation of our next Panachie. Check back in the morning!
Janessa Knodt is one of those people you like immediately.
Genuine, easy to connect with and kind of quirky, she shot me a text before we met for coffee—“Want to meet up for a drink instead?” Janessa, 32, moved from the West Coast to Chicago, worked in advertising but eventually couldn’t deny her roots. Continue reading
We’ve shared dorm rooms, cartons of Breyer’s mint chip and a futon. But that was college. Now we’re older, smarter and infinitely more sophisticated—we might actually use bowls for our ice cream now, not just spoons in a community tub—and Lucca Raventinkie is joining Kate and I on another adventure.
Kansas native and San Francisco transplant, Lucca came to People with Panache asking for more visual interest, and we agreed! But our favorite artist friend wasn’t just talking photos. She’s going to add to our blog almost weekly with whimsical drawings and doodles to represent the unique women we feature. And like you, we’re excited to see what she creates. But before we give you her first drawing (okay, okay, it’s at the bottom), read a bit about her.
People with Panache: So what do you do with your time now?
Lucca Raventinkie: I work at an art school, and I paint a lot. I also started gardening!
PWP: That’s right up Alysse’s alley! What do you grow?
LR: I’ve been feeding roses, watering succulents and planting bulbs.
I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now. I just got an art studio in the city—before I had my studio in my apartment. I think the thing I love about San Francisco is that it’s not all about being commercial, it’s more about exploring ideas and creating a dialogue with people.
PWP: And at the school, as an assistant registrar, it sounds like you work with students a lot. What do you like about your job?
LR: I like the freedom of thought there; I like the freedom of thought in the atmosphere.
PWP: So what are you most passionate about?
LR: I’m passionate about connecting with people on a real level. I try to do that every day. I think a few years ago I realized that when you pass someone and look them in the eye and say hello that they really appreciate that recognition and cheerfulness.
“I like people who are sharing, whether it’s a good attitude or their thoughts on something.”
PWP: Do you find yourself drawn to certain people?
LR: I think I’m drawn to people who like to do things in a friendly and effective manner. That’s just something I’ve noticed. In group discussion for instance, it doesn’t work if people aren’t participating. I like people who are sharing, whether it’s a good attitude or their thoughts on something.
PWP: What do you want your life to look like in the future?
LR: I want to keep exploring, whether that’s learning or sharing experiences with people. That’s an interesting question; I could really go a lot of ways with that. I want to see the rainforest. I will always be painting.
PWP: What do you like to paint?
LR: I like to paint things that are succinct with my conceptual ideas about what I’m thinking about right then. I’ve been thinking a lot about my sexuality and how sexuality is portrayed in our American society.
“I thought it would add a little pizzazz to the interviews because the drawings would be a little quirky.”
PWP: So, how do you go about building and participating in the art community in San Francisco?
LR: I think I’m getting to know people and the scene better now, more and more. This will be my second year here, and I think just connecting with people and keeping the dialogue going about my artwork and theirs, and about what’s happening even outside of San Francisco, is really important.
PWP: Why do you want to add doodles and whimsical drawings to People with Panache?
LR: I just thought it was a really fun idea! And I thought it would add a little pizzazz to the interviews because the drawings would be a little quirky. People with Panache is inspiring. It highlights people who could be good role models and celebrates those people, so it seemed like a fun thing to be a part of.
PWP: How did you come up with the idea for your GIF?
LR: I love doing conceptual maps, and I’m really into showing geography, my movement and maps! It’s a simplified map—with text!
PWP: What makes you happiest?
LR: A lot of these things make me really happy. This is going to sound so weird, but I don’t know how else to put it: feeling good physiologically! I feel good when I’m working out or when I have worked out, or when I’m doing things that make me happy. I feel like those things have an impact on my physiological body and my attitude.
[Photos provided by Lucca Raventinkie; portrait by Kevin Valor, 2013.]