Stephanie Frazier Grimm, Owner of “Couture Parties” and Founder of “The Confetti Foundation”

Editor's Note:  Here is the beautiful thing about DRIVEN:  when I go into a meeting with an incredible woman, I know from the get-go I am going to be blown away.  But what inevitably happens is that I end up being blown away by an aspect of the woman's perspective, or story, that catches me completely off-guard.  Stephanie is a perfect example of this.  Her story of taking her incredibly successful career and accentuating it into something that benefits humanity is a slam dunk.  But then...THEN...she answers the Q&A questions at the end that strike such a chord I end up pausing my husband and my nightly Netflix marathons to sit and discuss and digest her words of wisdom.  It's a total pleasure and honor reading her words, so go...enjoy...and feel spoiled for this special opportunity to meet this wise and wonderful woman.

Photo Courtesy Erin McGinn Photography

Photo Courtesy Erin McGinn Photography

{it’s her party}

Stephanie Frazier Grimm is one of the most sought after wedding and event planners in the ultra-luxe community of Newport, Rhode Island.

Her portfolio of clients is vast and impressive, but what’s equally impressive is the way in which she’s capitalized on what she’s good at; launching a nationally celebrated foundation that throws parties for sick children who are celebrating their birthday in the hospital.

Stephanie assisting a couple for their formal pictures / Photo courtesy Armor and Martel Photography

Stephanie assisting a couple for their formal pictures / Photo courtesy Armor and Martel Photography

{jill of all trades}

Born and raised in Newport, Rhode Island, Stephanie didn’t always know she’d be planning parties in the town she grew up in.

The first time she left Newport was for college, heading down south to Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.  Her goal was to do visual display, meaning she wanted to dress the mannequins and design the window displays you see at department stores.

“I was a fashion merchandising major with a minor in business.  I was fortunate in that my parents paid for school but they didn’t pay for me to live, so I worked a ton of different jobs, from bartending to waitressing to interning for a wedding dress designer, with no clue that I’d end up as a wedding planner one day!”

Stephanie and other wedding industry friends as special guests at the Martha Stewart Show talking wedding planning / Photo Courtesy The Martha Stewart Show

Stephanie and other wedding industry friends as special guests at the Martha Stewart Show talking wedding planning / Photo Courtesy The Martha Stewart Show

{mama and bambino}

Missing home, Stephanie transferred to University of Rhode Island where she continued down the path of visual merchandising and design.  She also met her now-husband and got engaged.

“We were engaged for two and half years and then got married had our son exactly a year later.  My husband came to me to ask if I’d consider staying home as a stay at home mom, and I thought ‘oooh no, I’m not so sure about that.’” 

She decided to give it a shot, but within the year realized that she missed working in a very big way.

“I needed that creative outlet, so I started designing baby accessories for my son.  My mom friends started asking about them and pushed me to start a business.”

Her company, Mama and Bambino, made onesies, diaper bags, and other baby accessories that were mainly sold on her website and craft fairs. Etsy did not yet exist, but Stephanie was savvy enough to know that there could be a huge benefit in marketing to celebrities and celebrity magazines, should Mama and Bambino get a “big break”.

“Angela Basset ended up introducing her babies on Oprah and they were wearing my clothing.  The business just skyrocketed from there!”

Wedding at Castle Hill Inn in Newport, RI / Photo Courtesy Rebecca Arthurs Photography

Wedding at Castle Hill Inn in Newport, RI / Photo Courtesy Rebecca Arthurs Photography

{couture for her}

Stephanie’s Grandmother had, from a very young age, taught her how to throw a great party.  Between her children’s birthday parties and entertaining in her home, Stephanie developed a great appreciation for throwing beautiful and memorable gathering.

“I knew that I wanted to figure out a career that would allow me to work from home, but also allow me to talk to and engage with adults {laughs}. So I asked myself, what did I know how to do? And the answer was pretty clear, I knew how to throw a party!”

She launched Couture Parties, focusing on high-end dinner and cocktail parties local to Newport, Rhode Island.  She’s even thrown parties celebrating a more diverse clientele, dogs.

“I priced myself according to how much I felt like I deserved in being away from my children on the weekends.  At the time it was very low, but I wanted to get my name out there, and prove I knew what I was doing.”

Stephanie working on a ribbon design for a bar at a 200 person wedding on a golf course / Photo Courtesy Stephanie Frazier Grimm

Stephanie working on a ribbon design for a bar at a 200 person wedding on a golf course / Photo Courtesy Stephanie Frazier Grimm

{belle of the ball}

A year later, a past client asked Stephanie if she’d be willing to plan a wedding for her Granddaughter. 

“I said no at first because I was so worried about messing up the ceremony, which I believe to be the most important part of the wedding.  Once I got past that and realized that I was responsible for getting people down the aisle, not picking out their personal details for the ceremony, I agreed to plan the wedding.”

The event, which was for a well known socialite family, ended up being a success and was published in Town and Country magazine.  Overnight, Stephanie became a Newport, Rhode Island wedding planner.  Eight years later, Stephanie’s business is at a point where she oftentimes has to scale back, turning down potential clients to maintain her “max” of 70 events per year, 8 of which are weddings.  She keeps her operation running with the help of her staff, two coordinators and a few seasonal interns.

Stephanie playing with Celia during a hospital visit at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Stephanie and The Confetti Foundation throw a group birthday party there once a month for all the patients. / Photo Courtesy Laura Dee Photography

Stephanie playing with Celia during a hospital visit at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Stephanie and The Confetti Foundation throw a group birthday party there once a month for all the patients. / Photo Courtesy Laura Dee Photography

{it’s their party}

Five years into the launch of Couture Parties, Stephanie received a call from a close friend in Michigan.  Her friend’s son had been born extremely premature, and doctors had expressed serious concern about long-term complications.

“I talked to my friend every single day, and one day she told me about her son’s suitemate in the NICU who was turning one.  Being a party planner I asked, ‘oh! What kind of party is he having?  Who’s coming in?  How are they celebrating?  She told me that they didn’t throw parties in the NICU and I was floored, wondering how these milestones could pass without celebration.”

Stephanie couldn’t get the problem out of her mind, letting it fester for nearly two years as she worked on a solution. Inspired by her own personal illness, Stephanie decided to apply for a 501c3 status, which enabled her to launch her nonprofit, ‘The Confetti Foundation’, four months later.

“Two years since The Confetti Foundation began, we have 126 hospitals in 42 states onboard AND we’ve thrown 1,125 birthday parties!”

The Confetti Foundation is 100% volunteer, with “birthday fairies” from across the country assembling and delivering birthday boxes which include everything you need to throw a party (minus the cake), to deserving children who are hospital bound.  Private donors and corporate sponsors have helped tremendously with financing the foundation and bringing it to life.

Stephanie and her husband Paul and kids Carter and Ellie on the Today Show plaza after her appearance talking with Al Roker about her win for Mazda Drive for Good Campaign for the Confetti Foundation / Photo Courtesy Stephanie Frazier Grimm

Stephanie and her husband Paul and kids Carter and Ellie on the Today Show plaza after her appearance talking with Al Roker about her win for Mazda Drive for Good Campaign for the Confetti Foundation / Photo Courtesy Stephanie Frazier Grimm

{drive for good}

Since The Confetti Foundation’s launch two years ago, Stephanie and her team have worked diligently in “getting in front of everyone’s face imaginable” to spread the word about the mission of the organization.

“I see the impact we’re having on the kids in bringing some normalcy to them, which has motivated us to keep pushing forward.”

In November of last year, Stephanie applied for the “Mazda Drive for Good” campaign, which was a partnership between Mazda and NBC.  The Confetti Foundation won the competition, receiving a $30k donation to the organization. 

“They came and filmed a commercial with Minnie Driver in about 12 hours, which aired on NBC for one month.  They also invited me to the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center in New York City and featured The Confetti Foundation on the Today Show!”

Stephanie was also featured in Redbook, which broadened The Confetti Foundation’s sponsorship reach to a much broader audience nationwide.

The Grimm Family, Stephanie, Ellie, Carter and Paul / Photo Courtesy Jeremie Barlow Photography

The Grimm Family, Stephanie, Ellie, Carter and Paul / Photo Courtesy Jeremie Barlow Photography

{a tale of two ventures}

Stephanie now spends about 50% of her time on Couture Parties, and 50% on The Confetti Foundation.  She’s managed this great balance, of running two companies that she says she’ll ‘never be able to give up!’ while also caring for her 12-year-old son, Carter and 9-year-old daughter, Ellie.

While she’s excited to see The Confetti Foundation grow, she knows that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and she’s in no rush to make it her full-time work.  In the meantime, Stephanie will continue to throw memorable parties in tents and hospitals alike.

Photo Courtesy Carla Ten Eyke Photography

Photo Courtesy Carla Ten Eyke Photography

{DRIVEN q&a}

You seem to have achieved this perfect work/life balance.  What’s your day-to-day schedule like?

“Oh Boy! Are you sure about this?! :)

•   6:30 wake up, check email and social media from bed. Also check my icalender schedule for the day and see what meetings etc I have (my assistant likes to pop things in there so It’s best if I know before I head out the door if I need to dress for meetings or not!) 

•   6:50 listen for the kids to get up, and make sure they have let the dogs out

•   6:55 mediate for 10 minutes (this is a new thing for me, I have been using the app CALM and it really has been clearing my head for the day

•   7:10 turn the shower on, hear my husbands alarm go off

•   7:20 make sure lunches are made, homework is completed, permission slips are signed and breakfast is eaten

•   8:15 drive the kids to the bus stop

•   8:40 get to the studio, check social media again

•   9:00 team arrives at the studio and we plan our day, I am also the owner of Couture Parties, (wedding/event planning company) so we divide and concur

•   9:30 Production meeting over and we all work on our tasks at hand (Couture Parties, The Blogs, & The Confetti Foundation) 

•   10:30 Potential Client for a wedding wants to meet for services at the studio

•   12:00 I leave the office for a speaking engagement with a Corporation that wants to do a community service project with us, eat lunch in the car

•   12:15 Present to 100 people in a board room and then have them make birthday cards for our birthday boxes

•   2:00 Head back to the office where I have to phone interview with a radio station

•   2:30 work on Couture Parties clients events, we manage about 70 events a year so this is a daily task, today we worked on transportation for a Bar Mitzvah

•   3:00 Leave the office, while driving think about what to make for dinner and stop at grocery store

•   3:30 Pick up son from school and take him to basketball game across town

•   4:30 basketball over, go back to school to pick up daughter from her after school Sewing Club

•   5:00 Get home, make dinner, help with homework, talk about our day (If I am not traveling, we sit together for dinner as a family every night, no exceptions) 

•   6:30 do a load of laundry, hang out with kids watching TV or homework if it wasn’t finished

•   8:00 Kids start getting ready for bed, showers etc

•   8:45 Kids in rooms, doors closed

•   9:00 Check social media, schedule some Facebook posts and Twitter posts. answer some emails or work on contracts or speeches

•   10:00 Watch some mindless TV :) or read a business book and hope to fall asleep by 11pm because Paul snores loud so it's better if I am sleeping first!"

You didn’t feel fully satisfied as a stay at home mom, so you sought out unique opportunities to get back into the workforce.  What’s your advice for other moms who are stay-at-home, but feeling unsatisfied?  

“Family is ALWAYS first! It is VERY easy to get caught up in your work, the feeling of your passion come to life. To get attention from people other then your children. To feel that you have gotten a little bit of “yourself” back because you give so much to caring for a child and making a house a home.  It is always VERY easy to get burned out. We want to be successful instantly and will do everything in our power to make it happen. Stepping back sometimes and realizing your priorities is good reality check. Also comparison is the WORST. It’s business nature to want what some else has achieved. There is no magic formula, what works for someone else, may not work for your business model. You have to get knocked down a bit before you can walk. Also, pick a niche. Something you really can excel at and be known for. I established myself as a person who designs sea side (mostly) tented affairs. Master your talent, word will travel fast as the ”go to” for your business.” 

What have you learned about launching a non-profit as an extension of your personal business?

“That if you do not have ANY business sense, do not start a nonprofit! From working as a team (your board), to planning budgets, to Grant writing, to fundraising, to getting people as excited about your mission as you and forming a community.  When you are a business owner, you are the boss, you get to do what you want. Not with Non Profits. You have many bosses, but you become a leader and an influencer. There are so many moving parts.”

Do you ever feel in over your head?

“Sometimes! My problem is I want everyone to be happy, have a memorable experience without them seeing any complications. Sometimes it is hard to accept that not everything is in my control. I am a problem solver. By leading a non-profit and a business, I am being depended on so I don’t look at not “doing it all” as failure, but as a lesson learned and to work harder to make it successful and what will work for me and my team.“

What’s your advice for throwing a great party!?  

“When planning a party, look at it as a guest, not as a host. What would YOU want if you were invited to a party. Go thru the whole timeline as if you were there. Mix up your guest list, seat people with other guests besides their friends or spouse. So many friendships and business relationships are formed by putting your guard down and allowing yourself to enjoy what the host has planned for you. It is only 2 hours of your time, enjoy meeting new people!”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?  

“My Dad has always taught me, “we all put our pants on the same way” Treat EVERYONE the same, no matter their income, ethnicity or circumstance. Do everything with a bit of kindness but don’t be taken advantage of. Stand strong in what you believe in.”

To visit Couture Parties website, click here.

To learn more about Confetti Foundation, click here.

Next week, meet Jocelyn.  She is the lead automotive inspector for Beepi, which is a peer-to-peer marketplace for buying and selling cars.  Imagine studying and being the only female in your class, then working your way up the ranks in an industry dominated by men.  She did it, and her story rocks.  She's up next, on DRIVEN for Women!

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