Tag Archives: planitomaha

Women Are the Life of the Party

February 1, 2018 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

Lesley Brandt and Renee Black

May 4, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

“Whatever it takes” is a personal motto for both Renee Black and Lesley Brandt. As the founders and principal producers of Omaha’s premier event planning agency, planitomaha, this power female duo knows that “having it all” comes from a lot of hustle. No client request is too lofty and no event too grandiose.

“On any given day, our team is coming and going, event supplies are shipping in and out, and face-to-face meetings with clients and vendors are constant,” Brandt says.

Just because these ladies have headquartered their firm in the Midwest doesn’t make their agency small potatoes. For more than 18 years, planitomaha has worked from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between to provide their clients with highly specialized and highly strategic corporate meeting and event management services.

“Like most entrepreneurs, we started with a vision, a box of business cards, and the drive to make it succeed,” Black says.

Years before that first box of business cards, the two actually met each other in high school and stayed in touch through college. After both developed careers in nonprofits, marketing, business, and—of course—event planning, they came back together 18 years ago to form planitomaha when they realized their strengths and backgrounds were complementary.

This special combination of skills has led to a legacy of delivering wow moments. Whether they are planning an event for six people or 6,000, planitomaha works as an extension of their clients’ teams to produce work that is on time, on-budget, and on-point.

From Hollywood backlot parties to political national conventions, there’s practically nothing Black and Brandt haven’t touched as they’ve developed their small firm into a multimillion-dollar company.

“We always relate to our clients as people and will always get the job done accurately,” Brandt says. “In a fast-paced and successful company, it’s important for our women-owned business to invest in relationships and empower those around us to do great things.”

True to their word, Black and Brandt have devoted much of their careers to empowering women—especially young women. The entirety of planitomaha’s full-time staff is comprised of women, with the firm’s internship program regularly following suit.

“Our employees fit the brand by being smart, professional, and Type A personalities,” Black says. For interns who fill this niche, many have been hired on full-time.

Beyond the unique makeup of the company, Black and Brandt say their firm’s event technology puts them ahead of competitors. One of the only event agencies in the country that has its own innovative technology program, planitomaha’s AttendeeXP is a custom attendee management system that also provides meeting and event elements in a virtual environment.

It’s this progressive mindset and atmosphere that has led to planitomaha’s success in creating award-winning events on a local and national scale.

“It’s important people remember how smart and efficient we are,” Brandt says. “Our work ethic and problem solving skills are what our clients thrive on while our wide reach and experience keeps them coming back.”

10832 Old Mill Rd., Suite 5
Omaha, NE 68154

Planning Your Company Party

August 26, 2013 by

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about planning your next company party. Unsure how to make this year’s party a success? Amy Lackovic, event production director at planitomaha, gives practical, step-by-step advice.

Where to start? Lackovic says to first consider the attendee experience. “Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves,” says Lackovic. “It is important to create an environment where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.”

The next thing to consider is the budget because this will determine everything from the invites to the location. If your budget is tight, Lackovic suggests these steps to saving money: go with electronic invitations instead of print; use preferred vendors with discounts; reuse décor, florals, and linens from other events; eliminate labor costs by doing it yourself; control your event timing so you do not run into overages; and limit alcohol consumption.

Once you have the budget in place, start looking for the event space. “You should lock in your event space as soon as you can,” says Lackovic. “Typically, you should lock in your space at least six months in advance.” When finalizing the space, Lackovic recommends asking about cost and deposit, number of people it can hold, catering options, AV options, location (easy for the majority of your attendees), and any limitations the venue may have.

“Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves…where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.” – Amy Lakovic, event production director at planitomaha

Theresa Farrage, ballroom event specialist with Scoular Ballroom (which just underwent a complete renovation), suggests remembering two things when selecting a venue: your vision of the event and your guests. “You should definitely keep your big picture in mind but also don’t forget about the little details,” says Farrage.

Simple details that make a big difference may be included in the venue’s overall cost; just be sure to ask the key questions. “Is there a security guard on premise? Does the fee include table and chair rentals? You may think you’re getting a great deal, but once you factor in the cost of a few amenities that don’t come standard, you may be in for a big surprise,” says Farrage.

Farrage stresses booking your venue well in advance. “If you have your heart set on a venue, be flexible with your dates. Booking your event on a weeknight or during the off-season will often save you money.”

Once the venue is chosen, Lackovic breaks the event down by the remaining essentials: entertainment, decorations, personalization, menu, and gifts.


“Revisit the question of ‘what do I want the attendee experience to be?’ If it is a more social and lively event, I would suggest a band, as they have the ability to strongly interact with the attendees. If it’s a networking event, I would suggest going with simple background music or even a DJ.”

“If you had an area to splurge on, definitely look into spending the extra dollars on entertainment,” says Lackovic. “The entertainment can make or break an event.”


“Adding lighting to your event can add a dramatic effect and ambiance. Adding some soft seating around the venue can also make the event feel more chic. Make sure you utilize everything the venue has to offer. Sometimes, your venue has in-house décor options included in the rental fee.”


“An easy and cost-effective way to show this is to have a personal note of gratitude from the employer or manager. Another avenue is to offer incentives in the everyday workplace, such as a ‘Jeans Day’ or a floating PTO day the month of their birthday.”


“It is not a necessity to provide a take-home gift, but it may leave a lasting impression on the attendee. You want to make sure that whatever item you decide to give away can actually be useful. We have seen people go toward more tech-savvy items such as branded cell phone power docks or USB drives. This way, their gift will not only remind the attendee of the event or organization, but it will also make the person more inclined to keep the useful and unique gift.”


“Within the past couple of years, the menu options have expanded quite a bit. People are much more health-conscious, so it is extremely important to plan ahead for those attendees who may be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.”

Jennifer Snow, owner/director of operations at Catering Creations, dishes on the latest ideas in food: “A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them…this makes the food fun and familiar for your guests and still gives them an opportunity to try new flavors.”

Some examples of comfort-food-turned-haute-cuisine are Gouda cheese-stuffed sliders or a French fry station with truffle aioli and caramelized onion ketchup. Another trend is to “bring out the kid” in your guests. “Everyone loves a classic sundae station with chocolate sauces and whipped cream—and don’t forget the sprinkles!” says Snow. “Or what about a pretzel cart traveling with assorted toppings like nacho cheese, honey mustard, or even chocolate sauce and chopped nuts?

“We are currently working on our holiday menus to include customized caramelized popcorn stations with several varieties of sweet, salty, and savory popcorn mixes such as a Cajun caramelized popcorn with nuts and chocolate,” shares Snow.

“A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them.” – Jennifer Snow, owner/director of Catering Creations

Not every event needs shrimp cocktail. If your company is on a tight budget and you still want to include a nice seafood item, Snow suggests crab and shrimp cakes, which are still delicious but less expensive.

“It has also become trendy to use some of the less expensive meat options and add savory flavors and tenderness by slow braising them. This saves costs versus ordering beef filet,” says Snow.

“Coffee service isn’t always needed for a hot summer event but always plan on more coffee drinkers for events during the holidays,” says Snow. “Try throwing in a fun option like a specialty coffee and hot chocolate station to add condiments such as chocolate chips, caramel sauce, whipped cream, or peppermint sticks.”

There you have it—expert advice on how to make your company party one to remember. Now get to work!