Ernie Hodge

Best-laid Plans

3273_02-02-15-49How’d you get started?
My first love was interior design. But I saw a presentation on Career Day while in High School that made the Hospitality industry sound so glamorous. After I graduated, I did a summer crash course and went back in September as an English, Food and Nutrition, and Hotel Trades teacher. After a year, I applied for a scholarship, was successful, and left to study in Barbados. I was 18 going on 19, and I did my first stint in tourism.

Following that, I came back, went back to the school, and taught Hotel Trades, with a little bit of Food and Nutrition, for another two years.

I then decided to try banking. I applied at Barclay’s Bank, and I worked with them for a couple of years before moving on to the Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB). At the time, Amelia Vanterpool- Kubisch was the director, Candis Niles was the Deputy and I was the Information Officer.

 

When I see the pictures, and get thank yous from my guests, I think ’This is what we are here to do.
—Ernie Hodge

During that stint, I went back to school. I went to Schiller International and did my first degree in Hotel and Tourism Management. It was there that one of my professors suggested I consider events, because my projects were so detailed and layered. I came back and took up Product and Marketing with the Tourist Board, which I did for another 5 years. In all, I spent ten years at the ATB.

I was offered an opportunity to set up the events department at Cuisinart in 2003. I went back and forth over the decision. I even refused the job, twice! On the third time they called me back, I said yes. In my first season, we did only a few events—you could count them. But then, in the years after that, it grew. By 2007, we were handling forty events a year. I left in 2011 to start Couture Concepts.

Have you done any training in events?
I learn on the job. I have the vision of what I want, and I go for it. But as I keep working more and more, I become better.

What kind of events do you prefer?
I love them all. Each one comes with a new challenge.

Which ones are the most demanding?
I think corporate clients are more demanding than some weddings are. If you get a high-profile wedding, where you have several planners, then that becomes very demanding, too. Or, in some cases, you have a demanding mother-in-law. [laughs]

How do you handle the days when things are just not working out ?
You have to stay positive. The weather is one thing, because it affects everything. That’s why I try to move ahead. You can’t get upset. You have to stay calm.

What’s your style?
My style is a mix of contemporary and traditional, depending on who I’m dealing with. In terms of florals, totally modern. Clean look, but not hard and uncomfortable.

Where do you get your flowers?
They come from all over: from South America, from Europe. Then, we ship them here through MIA. You can order flowers twice a week, and during the high season, you can get them three times a week.

IMG_5394-21What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
The thank yous, [and] when I look back at the pictures. I don’t think that I appreciate it when I’m doing it: it is getting it done, stepping back, and seeing that we are on time and it’s executed to what I’m contracted for. But it’s after I see the pictures, and I hear the comments from my guests—then, I say, “Wow, this is what we are here to do.” And I love that, I love the smiles.

Anything you’re unable to do, being in Anguilla?
I always tell the clients, give us time. If they can afford it, it’s just a matter of time and budget. If it’s out there, we’ll find it.

IMG_3236-150-20Do you have any other interests?
Interior design. I am not a scientific person at all. I like anything in design—I love make-up, I love fashion.

What’s next?
We want to run a full flower shop for 2015. We’re going to open a small showroom here, and we want to do some more local marketing.

If you weren’t doing events, what would you be doing?
I would be doing hospitality, either with the Tourist Board, or in a hotel. At some level, more than likely, I would have been on the events side, because that’s what keeps pulling me all the time.

There are so many things that I want to do, but I don’t want to grow too fast. I’ve been told that I’m cautious. But that’s okay. It’s good to be cautious, because it says that you have taken time to put your foundation in place.

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