November 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

No name badges. No paint on a door. No hot mics.

Small details like these are “throw-up moments” for some of the employees of Planitomaha. Moments when something bad or out of the ordinary happens that makes the employees want to vomit.

Event planning is not all glamorous parties and confetti. It is a tough, multi-tasking, meticulous business.

Jaycee Stephens started at the company as an intern her sophomore year of college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Now an event producer, Stephens became hooked on the fast-pace rush of a job well done. She recently finished with backstage management of a 1,000 person day conference. Each client request is kept on a “million notepads of lists” which she crosses off when completed.

Each name badge stuffed. Check. Correct light color on the podium. Check. Music for each speaker. Check.

Stephens is motivated when she bites off more than she can chew. The throw-up moments do happen, but she believes it is her “job to find those mistakes and make them seamless.” So when the job is finished to expectations and the client is happy, Stephens falls in love with the business all over again.

And since the company is all-female-employed, the pressure is on. Stephens feels image is important. She dresses professionally, wearing suits and heels even when setting up an event means performing manual labor.

She maintains a professional image in order to be taken seriously, which can sometimes be a struggle.

“People are surprised we are young women in this industry because we meet their needs so exceptionally,” Stephens adds.

From left: Caitlin Gruis, Alycia Zabrocki, and Katie Sullivan

Plantitomaha bloomed in 1998 when Renee Black and Leslie Brandt developed their event services business. Now, 14 women are behind the successful brand. The company is not averse to hiring men, but the industry is female-orientated.

It does makes the work space unique and collaborative in different ways. Hairspray and dry shampoo are staples in the bathrooms. During their “fish tank” brain-storming sessions, the women are not shy about speaking their minds. Some admit that, if a male entered the dynamic, they might choose to stay silent.

“I don’t feel as scared to share my opinion,” six-year veteran Caitlin Gruis says. She adds that some of that may be due more to age rather than gender.

Close personal relationships are developed through a mutual understanding and respect for women’s issues. Whether discussing breast-feeding or a pesky mother-in-law, the office is a bit more relaxed when sharing common ground.

After hours, some of the women recently gathered in a meeting room to share slow-cooker tips at a tasting party. Since their working hours mean nights and weekends, they want something easy for their husbands to cook.

The hard work and flexible shifts have paid off. Stephens says the company, which does 40 percent of their business outside the Midwest, prides itself on being a woman-run business.

Katie Sullivan, who has been with the team for 11 years, believes the founders have empowered women.

“It’s cool to see all these younger girls coming in and training the future of our industry,” she says.

One thing is certain: these driven ladies know how to plan. Whether it is an event for Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, or monthly team outings, each member serves as a cog on a fast-churning wheel. If a speaker or celebrity wants exactly 17 bottles of Mountain Dew, only red Skittles, or only blue M&M’s, the women find a way to be flexible and personalize each client’s needs.

And they are ready to move heavy boxes in heels.

Visit planitomaha.com for more information.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.

Caitlyn Gruis