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Meet Rosanna Catapano of Rosanna Catapano Event Design in Northwest Suburbs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rosanna Catapano.

Rosanna, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Four and a half years ago, someone asked me to design and coordinate an event for them, and that was the start of Rosanna Catapano Event Design!

Event design and coordination are not what I have a degree in. After graduating from DePaul University with a degree in English & Secondary Education, I was a High School English teacher for five years at Naperville North High School. And I’d be remiss if I did not credit some of my current success in design and management to my role as the Yearbook Adviser during my time there. Thanks to an outstanding program that integrated journalism and technology, I was immersed in the world of design and layout using Photoshop and InDesign, while leading and managing students to produce a real publication for their peers and community. I truly believe that experience, coupled with my love for decorating and hosting, paved the way for where I am today.

Once my children were born, I left my days in the classroom behind and became a stay-at-home mom. Although I loved being at home with my kids, I felt like something was missing. With the encouragement of my sister-in-law who had started her own Etsy business a few years before, I decided to start selling some of my designs, prints, invitations, signs, and banners that I had been making for my own kids. It turned out to be the perfect creative outlet that pushed me to learn about pricing, margins, marketing, bookkeeping, and the nuances of customer service, all while making a little extra money for our growing family. I felt empowered and continued to build my shop and my brand which led to expanding my inventory and my talent in design.

Then, in 2013, a childhood friend reached out to me after seeing some my design work, and after a great conversation, she contracted me to design and style her son’s first birthday event in Chicago. Looking back now, it was amazing that someone else saw something in me that I didn’t even know was there. Although a little unsure, my husband encouraged me to take the leap. After researching and studying about event design and management, I created my first contract and hit the ground running. I was nervous and filled with self-doubt, but instead of running scared, I mustered up the courage to push all my fears and insecurities aside, buckled down, agonized over every little detail, worked hard for weeks, and had an amazing first run right out of the gate. It was that first job that really showed me that I had found something I loved.

Has it been a smooth road?
Nothing is every easy. I think for a while I was my biggest road block. Despite everyone around me being super supportive, I had a lot of self-doubt, thinking I couldn’t just start an event planning business. And that in order to be “successful”, I’d need to have my own office front, staff, or multiple events every weekend. But over the last five years, I have learned  that although there are plenty of other event planners or day of wedding coordinators out there, my goal shouldn’t be to try and be like anyone else. Being confident in who I am, what I can offer, and my own talent is so important. More than anything, I want clients to see my previous work and feel like my skill set and talent aligns with what they are looking for.

There have been times that I felt overwhelmed trying to juggle growing a business while being room mom, driving carpool, or attending baseball and soccer games. I’ve realized that I don’t have to have all the answers. When I changed my mentality, I started using my business as a tool to teach my kids about perseverance, dedication, patience, and hard work. They have seen me building and cultivating something that is all my own. Sometimes they get to “help” with an event, or my husband will bring them to an event to see what I have created. They get a front row seat to my adventure, and they are used to seeing all sorts of deliveries come thru to our home, as we made an at-home work space. We talk about some of my successes, my failures, and my “ah ha” moments, and that inspires me to work harder.

Reading books or listening to podcasts by other women entrepreneurs like Brene Brown, Sheryl Sandberg, Rachel Hollis or Jenna Kutcher helps in that arena for me. So does rubbing elbows with other women who are like me in their areas of passion and business. Hearing their stories, goals, strategies, victories, and even failures keeps me motivated and inspired, and helps me learn how I can be and do better.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Rosanna Catapano Event Design story. Tell us more about the business.
My business started with just that first event in the Spring of 2013, but because of the word of mouth referrals by my first client (Thanks Liz!), I began to take on a few more events, a little at a time. Kids parties for Chicago moms have been my bread and butter, and, they are by far some of my favorite events as they are so upbeat, bright, and detailed. I get to be creative and build an experience for my clients and their guests. But, my event planning and on-site management have been used for a variety of events and venues beyond posh kid’s parties. Baby showers, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, adult birthday parties and non-profit events are just some of the other events that have become a party of my portfolio. I excel in tying all the details together from start to finish–invitations, thank you cards, favors, linen, decor, centerpieces, food, and even what the birthday boy or girl and his or her family wear! Beyond just planning, I am often at the center of  hand-making decor. My services also include finding venues and communicating with vendors, transporting items, on-site set-up of party space, management during the event, and packing up after.

Because Rosanna Catapano Event Design began to grow (from one event, to about 12 per year) along with my family (hello baby #4), I had to say goodbye to my Etsy shop, as juggling both while prioritizing my family became too difficult. But, if you look carefully, many of my events feature some of my design work, and thanks to a whole bunch of loyal clients and local customers, I still get to dabble in digital design and graphics as well.

Over the last two years, I have expanded my business to include, day-of wedding coordination. Because a lot of the events I had been doing previously were more creative in the areas of designing and styling, I wasn’t sure if this would be the right fit for me. But, after my first wedding in the Spring of 2017, I fell in love with the process of coming alongside brides and their families to ensure a perfect day from start to finish. Brides have told me that I become the best friend they didn’t know they needed during the wedding process. I’m there to listen and lend a hand along the way. Getting to know the couple and what is important to them allows me to make sure their big day stays true to who they are and what they want. I excel in helping brides create timelines to keep everyone and everything running on time, and making sure all logistics are figured out. Believe it or not, managing an event requires just as much creativity as styling one. And the bonus, I get a front row seat to some of the very best days of people’s lives. I take pride in making sure every single detail is thought through and executed between the vendors, venues, and family members.

What I love about this business, is that I am continually learning and growing. I love that I am the boss and call the shots and can take on as much or as little as I need to while raising my kids.  In addition to being passionate about what I do, I have been cultivating a team of people who share that same passion and raw talent for event design and coordination. As a self-taught momprenuer, I think it’s so important to help build up other women who are talented. So, if you ever see me at an event you’ll often see or meet other amazing women like Amanda and Kelly who are just wonderful to work with and make my job even more enjoyable.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
When I think back to my own wedding almost 13 years ago, or the kinds of  parties I attended as a child, so much has changed. There used to be so many rules about how to do things. This industry is becoming all about customization and personalization and establishing new traditions. Although some may still wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, the execution of how those traditions are carried out at a wedding are so elaborate and intricate. No one wants a “cookie cutter” event or one that was similar to anyone else’s. They are focusing on making a unique experience for their guests. I think that is my favorite part of this industry…it’s no longer just a party, it’s an experience. Now more than ever, people are embracing who they are and what makes them unique. They are proud to share that with the world and are looking to reflect that in their special events and occasions.

I continue see a lot of influence and pressure from social media platforms like Pinterest that both inspire and confuse so many clients. And, I don’t think that will change any time soon. In a world with so many options, one bigger, better and more beautiful than the next, I see the job of any event planner becoming more crucial. It becomes our job to help them navigate through all of  the choices and options, likes and dislikes, in order to find what it is that will truly reflect a client’s taste, style, budget, and uniqueness.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Tim Tab Studios, Photos By Alexandria, Steve Matteo Photography

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