Nicole Phillip has found a way to combine her resourcefulness, business acumen and creative ingenuity in her new marketing/event-planning venture, COCO Entertainment.
“I actually have been doing event planning corporately, and I always loved planning events as a hobby,” Phillip said, adding that through her daytime position at Express Scripts, a company that allows patients to get prescriptions through the mail, she has gained much experience planning events on a corporate level for them.
Artistically driven, the St. Pete native majored in music at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School before going on to graduate from USF with a degree in business management and marketing. So she decided to put her passions into motion.
“Just a year ago I decided to take the step and launch my own business in event management and marketing combined,” stated Phillip, a single mother of one.
The company does a plethora of events including weddings, corporate meetings and conferences, social events, celebrations, birthdays, showers, graduations, theme events and anniversaries. It also handles promotions for concerts, fashion shows and even spoken word poetry.
“There are a lot of spoken word artists here,” Phillip asserted, “and I love poetry and spoken word because it allows individuals to express themselves while using rhymes, whether it be social, political or just anything.”
Since she doesn’t feel there are many places for such artists to showcase their poetry in conjunction with other happenings, Phillip said COCO Entertainment has begun an event called “Now That’s Funny” where poetry, comedy and live music all come together.
“We actually had our first one downtown in November of last year,” Phillip stated. “So to encourage artists to come out and mix it with live jazz and singing makes it more exciting. They’re incorporated into one experience.”
The next “Now That’s Funny” is coming up in April, Phillip confirmed, adding that the artists are hand-picked and have performed at various local venues. In addition to events such as “Now That’s Funny,” her company has kicked off Lunch and Learn, a monthly hour-long event where people can meet and discuss a topic of choice, such as how to raise funds for your nonprofit.
“Coming up will be how to prevent foreclosure and actively save your home,” Phillip said of the next Lunch and Learn. “It’s going to be presented by different individuals in the community.”
And COCO Entertainment is certainly involved in contributing to the community, as Phillip said one of the most rewarding events was when her company was honored to be one of the recipients of the MLK Day of Service Award.
“We put on a health fair along with a family fun day,” she explained, “where we had a lot of local organizations come out like Youfit, ASAP [AIDS Service Association of Pinellas] and One Blood. We had free food, bounce houses, a teen forum and we had the local radio station 95.7 join us at the Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ.”
Indeed, the creative side of planning an event, however big or small, is something the 27 year old loves, and it all begins with a spark.
“I like to have just the idea—you’re in the shower, you’re driving or you see a social event—and then a thought bursts,” she said. “And to actually walk through the planning and see it transform on the day of, that’s what I really love about it.”
The toughest things about event planning?
“Sticking to your budget!” she said with a laugh. “Also, everything doesn’t always go how you planned, so you have to go with Plan A, B, C, etc.”
But Phillip welcomes a challenge, as when some events require striking a balance between a professional atmosphere and a full-blown party.
“Previously on my job, I helped plan an employee recognition corporate event,” she said. “It was a mixture of award presentations, singing, food and fun all while being professional.” One of the toughest things to do during this event, she admitted, was to keep things fun yet still maintain a professional decorum.
Phillip said her company can also market for small and corporate businesses by providing promotional materials such as fliers, banners and even t-shirts. She added that her expert team, which includes Nina McCullough, specializes in graphic and website design, and believes in a hands on approach.
“We like to walk the clients through the process to ensure that it’s exactly what they imagined,” she said. “A lot of times people want a website and they’ll go to companies and pay an expensive amount and in a day or two the company will say, ‘Here’s your end product.’ But we like to make sure that the customer is involved.”
Phillip maintained that her company prides itself on taking clients’ ideas and transforming them into what the clients themselves ultimately visualize, working with them every step of the way.
“There are businesses and music artists that like to be involved in the process, whether it be the creation of the ideas or implementing the ideas,” she said.
One of these clients is recording artist J.E. White, who has her official album release Mar. 29 at Bethel Community Baptist Church. In promoting such artists, Phillip said she explores various marketing avenues to get the word out like radio, print advertisement and social media.
“Then there’s talking to the locations, making sure the artist has the room availability,” Phillip explained. “If there’s any additional artists, we make sure everyone is in the place and in the position they need to be. On the day of, the artist is maybe experiencing nervousness and anxiety and that’s not the day for that artist to handle issues. That’s where we come in.”
Phillip said that her company draws strength from the fact that it is multi-faceted rather than a business that does only one thing and may consequently be stuck in the niche.
“We have fresh and creative ideas that we can bring to the table because we know artists, we have the marketing, we’ve made connections and have been in events,” she stressed.
With so many projects, Phillip certainly keeps busy in the professional world and with her home life. When her mother Clara Legions suffered a stroke five years ago and needed full time care, Phillip counted that as a watershed moment for her.
“It was one of the more groundbreaking moments in my life. It allowed me to look at the things that I’m doing in my life and making a real impact on others,” she affirmed. “I take care of my little brother and sister, and have become more than just a sister but a parental guidance to them.”
Through it all, she feels blessed to do what she loves and would encourage everyone to follow suit.
“Live your passion,” she insists. “I love my full-time job, but there are things that we’re created to do in life and to share with people, and I don’t want to go through life not doing them.”
Contact Nicole Phillip at (727) 656-4576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach Frank Drouzas, email email@example.com.