Party planner finds her business addicting Organizing events tests ingenuity

August 05, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

When Louise E. Layton named her company Second Set Of Hands Inc. three years ago, she meant to describe what she had imagined would be a thriving concierge-service business, picking up the cleaning and the groceries for harried executives.

But after a month and a half of slow business, she switched her notion and her business focus to something she knew -- event and entertainment planning.

"I thought about changing the name to something like Second Set Productions," explained Ms. Layton. But she said she didn't want to destroy what name recognition her fledgling company had.

The Annapolis-based business, which has 35 regular clients and four employees, designs and produces corporate openings, private parties, anniversaries and weddings.

"I found my niche and ran with it," said Ms. Layton, 39, who spent 12 years working for others in the party planning business before she set off on her own.

Party planning is something she loves, she said, even though she tried to get out of it three times. The work days can be long; the road travel frequent.

She remembered not being able to be with her father and sister as much as she wanted before they both died in the 1980s.

But circumstances eventually led her back to the field, which she says requires an excellent sense of humor and an outgoing personality. She might, for example, have to fill in for a musician who doesn't show up to perform.

Ms. Layton, who lives in Mitchellville with her husband, Greg Ashton Floyd, said she likes to set a theme for an event or party, then have her staff dress up to meet that theme.

Two years ago, she dressed her staff as roller-skating reindeer and had them dance the Electric Slide at a corporate client's Christmas party, she recalled.

"They had their little Rudolph noses and their little antlers and they had sleigh bells around their necks," said Ms. Layton, pointing to a picture of the event.

Those in the party-giving business "all need to be frustrated actors to a degree," she said. "They have to put on costumes and they have to be up and they have to put on an atmosphere for the client."

Even she must be ready to perform if necessary. "You have to be ready to change hats at the drop of a stone," Ms. Layton said.

She credits her father, who dropped out of school in the fourth grade but went on to own his own business, for giving her his entrepreneurial spirit, and her sister for passing on her sense of humor.

Her 77-year-old mother, Louise Layton, was instrumental in helping her set up her business, Ms. Layton said. She came in about three days a week to answer phones, do filing and give her a shoulder to lean on.

"You either love it or you hate it," Ms. Layton said of her job. "And obviously I must be addicted because I keep coming back."

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