For this week’s #ShopFranklin Spotlight, I interviewed Sandra Verhaegen of Absolutely Fabulous Affairs!
Sandi’s event-planning expertise began with her first job out of college, where she worked with a company running multi-million dollar promotional events for major corporations. “It was a lot of fun to see it all come together,” says Sandi, but at the time, she didn’t see herself making a career out of it. She left that job to study public policy in graduate school, moved to Chicago, and launched a career in educational reform policy for the mayor of Chicago. Life intervened, however, and when Sandi’s family relocated to Franklin, Sandi decided that a career change was in order so that she could stay at home with her kids. Throughout her time in Chicago, Sandi had continued to plan events on an informal scale for her own kids and friends, and she realized that although her public policy work had been fulfilling, “my creative side was really starving.”
The result was Absolutely Fabulous Affairs, which will turn three years old next month (and Sandi will undoubtedly be celebrating that anniversary in style!). Sandi handles everything from a small get-together to full-service wedding planning, but the bulk of her business is medium-sized parties like kids’ birthdays or bridal showers. Some of Sandi’s clients aren’t sure what they’re looking for when they first consult her, so in those cases, Sandi sits down with the client to learn more about their needs and wishes. From there, she’ll build some ideas, and present several proposals for the client to choose from; once the client has chosen, Sandi can start the planning from there. Others contact Sandi and know exactly what they want, so Sandi says her job for those clients is to get all the details perfect and help them in “making their vision come alive.”
Sandi doesn’t have a favorite type of event to plan; in fact, Sandi says that the constant variety is the best part of her business. “That’s what really keeps me going, is the change. It’s not always the same. I really seek that.” Every event is different, but according to Sandi, the most over-the-top event she’s ever planned was a carnival party. With details like a dunk tank, face painters, and carnival games, Sandi literally brought a carnival to the client’s back yard. Sandi also recently helped a couple plan a Snow White-themed afternoon tea party for their six-year-old daughter. “They didn’t want it to be something they had ever been to or their guests had ever been to,” says Sandi, and she succeeded in planning a “very fancy” afternoon tea that delighted everyone.
More than anything, Sandi wants the Franklin community to know that event planning services don’t have to be expensive. Whether you need assistance with a single detail of your event or full-service planning, Absolutely Fabulous Affairs can help. Sandi owns many of her own props and decorations, and has negotiated favorable rates with vendors in order to pass the savings on to her customers. “There are definitely ways that using me is going to save you money and time at the end,” Sandi says.
A California native, Sandi first came to the Boston area for graduate school, but later came back to follow other family members who had settled here. When Sandi and her family were looking for a place to live, they fell in love with Franklin because of the reasonable housing prices, great schools, and friendly small-town feel. “I just love that my kids are growing up here,” Sandi says. Sandi has also benefited from the strong local business community, and has already launched partnerships with other local businesses such as the Cake Bar. The first two Cake Bar/Absolutely Fabulous Affairs collaborations are scheduled for May, with others sure to follow.
Although Absolutely Fabulous Affairs keeps her busy, Sandi will soon be launching a second business, The Sugar Pea Co. “It’s another artistic avenue for me to explore,” Sandi says. She’ll be making hand and foot imprints in clay for babies, kids, pets, and even adults, similar to the impression made of Sandi’s own hands when she was four years old and which is still displayed in her parents’ home. According to Sandi, “I had always remembered that… as I was growing up, I’d always put my hand up to it.” Now, with her brand new kiln delivered this week, Sandi can help other families create and keep those memories. She plans to start with wall plaques, but in time, she’s sure she will expand into other designs as well. “I have a hundred and fifty ideas already and I’m forcing myself to just start small,” Sandi laughs.
Visit Absolutely Fabulous Affairs’ Facebook page for party ideas, upcoming events, and more!