Chip Liebenow of Level Nine and Betsy McKay of Salt Style & Events
Have you ever had more things to do than time to do them? In the fast-paced culture we currently live in, daily life can seem more like a rat race than a meaningful experience, never mind planning a special occasion while juggling carpool, work projects and some semblance of a social life. Enter: the partnership between Level Nine Services and Salt Style & Events.
Level Nine, a full-service concierge service provider, offers clients the valuable commodity of time. Categorized under the umbrellas of “Personal Solutions” (including errands/shopping, house sitting, pet care, driving services), “Corporate Solutions” (organization, specialty labor, clerical support), and more, they’ll provide you with more than an extra pair of hands for your workload.
Salt Style & Events, a full-service event and design company, gives clients various options to ensure every event is memorable — ranging from the “Full Service Package,” which gives you unlimited consultation hours including vendor selection, decor, and invitations, to the “Week-Of Coordination Package,” which provides on-site assistance for the day of the event.
On their own, they each cater to a unique consumer need, but together they just might become the assistant you always wished you had. In their own words, Chip Liebenow of Level Nine and Betsy McKay of Salt Style & Events share how their partnership came to be, and why it could be just what you’re looking for.
Tell me a little bit about your respective businesses and the services provided and how the names came about.
Betsy: Salt Style & Events is a full-service event coordination company that specializes in creating custom events. The company name is inspired by my love for anything coastal including serene color palettes, the use of natural elements in design, and a relaxed frame of mind. Salt, by definition, is an ingredient that gives savor, piquancy, or zest to something. Travel has had the biggest influence on my business style. Louisiana, Memphis, and Florida are some of my favorite places to go for design and entertainment inspiration. In my mind, there are no better places to frequent for the best in food, wine, music, and décor. Salt creates flavorful events and spaces by fusing our creative talents with our clients’ unique personalities. We strive to make each project beautiful, fresh, and stress-free. Salt focuses on events of all sizes, interior design projects, and travel services.
Chip: Traditionally, the ninth level of a luxury hotel is the concierge level, hence the name Level Nine Services. Level Nine is a full-service concierge company providing time, convenience, and peace of mind to our clients. L9 provides a single point of contact to manage all of your service needs from errands and shopping to personal drivers to helping hands. Our staff on call is your team to delegate to so you can enjoy life to its fullest. Some of our most popular services are: valet, personal drivers, helping hands, and corporate baskets.
What was your background before these current business ventures?
Betsy: I was born in New Orleans, grew up in Memphis, and am a graduate of Briarcrest Christian High School. I earned my Bachelor of Science in communications with an emphasis in public relations from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. My background in communications has helped me develop lasting relationships with clients and vendors. Prior to opening my own business three years ago, I had worked for the Memphis Business Journal as an Event Coordinator and Immaculate Conception Cathedral School as the Director of Admissions. I am currently the Director of Sales for The Cadre Building, Bon Ton Café, and Downtown Dish Catering. My role as Director of Sales has given me the unique opportunity to understand the vendor and venue side of the event business.
Chip: I’m a Mississippi State graduate with an MBA from Northcentral University. I spent 12 years as a military officer specializing in logistics and coordination. That, combined with my 13 years developing and implementing customer service programs for a Fortune 50 retailer, has provided me with a unique skill set that is truly catered to operating this type of business. Our operations have military precision and our core competency is customer service.
How does Level Nine work exactly, and how much does it cost?
Chip: L9 has a membership program ($250 annually for individuals and $350 for businesses) that provides a three-step program for simplifying our clients’ lives so that their concierge truly manages all of their service needs. We also offer a la carte services for one-off requests. We provide four services organically: driving, helping hands, errands/shopping, and valet. For other services we utilize our network of vendor partners (like Salt) to deliver at the same cost as if the client did not use Level Nine (we work out agreements with the vendor so the client does not pay extra). For our vendor network we have a vetting process, as well as quality standards, they are held to. For our partners, they get guaranteed payment, a solid referral source, and association with the L9 brand of quality. For our clients they have the world at their fingertips with a single call to their concierge. You can reference our website for specific pricing on our website.
Is anything off limits?
Chip: Currently, we do not offer anything in the childcare field. If we found the right partner, we would consider this service.
Switching gears, about how many events does Salt Style & Events take on at a time?
Betsy: Salt plans multiple events in a given month from large wedding receptions and non-profit events to small intimate home gatherings. We recommend clients book us early on, as we will not take on more than two events in a given week to ensure they receive our full attention. Salt has a great team of event managers to call on for larger projects when I cannot be in two places at once.
Do you plan and execute events in the greater Memphis area exclusively, or do you travel for events, too?
Betsy: I personally love to travel and Salt can turn a trip with clients, friends or family into a series of exciting unforgettable experiences. From a corporate retreat to a romantic getaway, our focus is on Southern destinations. We coordinate travel and transportation, hotel accommodations, dining reservations, events, meetings, tours and any special destination needs desired. Salt has planned honeymoons, destination weddings, and client parties in multiple cities. Memphis has become such a hot spot for destination events. We had a client from New York who wanted to plan a surprise birthday party for his wife who was an Elvis enthusiast. We arranged for 100 of their closest friends to fly into Memphis, stay at The Peabody Hotel, eat at Itta Bena, party on Beale Street, and of course visit Graceland. We help our local brides plan not just their wedding, but an entire weekend of events for out-of-town guests. We specialize in welcome parties, golf tournaments, spa days, bridesmaids’ luncheons, and Sunday brunches.
You also do interior design for clients. Tell me a little more about that aspect of the company.
Betsy: Interior design projects make up the style side of the business and are based on the client’s individual needs. Salt specializes in creating elegant, inviting spaces that incorporate elements of the client’s personal style into the design. We assist clients in selecting art, color scheme, fabric, furnishings, and home accessories. Whether designing a brand-new home or giving an old space an update, Salt’s classic and timeless style is sure to please.
What advice would you give to someone considering a party planner, but has never given the reins over to a planner before?
Betsy: People today are so busy juggling work, friends, family, and life in general that they do not have the necessary time and attention to give to planning a successful event. Salt listens to clients’ needs and budget and takes the stress out of the organization, coordination, and overall production. Our goal is for clients to focus on looking and feeling good, and truly enjoying the special day they’ve been planning for so long. Hiring an event coordinator ensures that the client’s vision is brought to life while focusing on keeping the project on budget. There is no better compliment than hearing from clients after an event that we were worth every penny.
How did the idea for a partnership come about?
Betsy: I have several friends and clients who use Level Nine for multiple services so I was familiar with its success prior to working with them on the Cirque du CMOM event at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. Chip scheduled a meeting with me and proposed his idea for a partnership for the events side of his business. I was a fan from the start, and the process has been smooth and a great fit.
Chip: Betsy and her company Salt are well respected within the Memphis services community, and she was recommended to us several times. We were excited to have the opportunity to finally work with her at the 2015 Cirque du CMOM event. Level Nine’s processes are well defined and very disciplined so we look for like-minded partners. Event planning is very creative so it can be difficult to work with a regimented, process-based company like L9. However, it was apparent early on with Salt that they too value organization and communication, and we quickly found we worked seamlessly together. That event was large in scope, and Betsy handled it with ease and precision. I knew then we had to partner.
With events such as Cirque du CMOM 2015, how did you split responsibilities to make operations smoother for the client?
Betsy: The two lovely Cirque du CMOM event chairs, Bridgette Speake and Sarah Watkins, reached out to me a few months prior to the big event. They originally hired Salt to focus on staffing the event and bar layout. After our first meeting, Salt took on more roles such as assisting with overall layout and design, ordering product for the bars, and vendor communication for the event. Salt was on-site the week of coordinating production, volunteers, managing staff and vendors, and run of show.
Chip: Level Nine provided the valet service and some driving for the CMOM event. Betsy’s ability to coordinate the complicated logistics involved in an event like that, while appearing to feel no pressure at all, was impressive. We look forward to many more events like this in the future with Salt.
What was the client response like after the event?
Betsy: I conducted an event recap meeting a few weeks after the CMOM event to discuss pros, cons, and ideas for future years. The overall 2015 event was such a huge success, thanks to all involved, that Salt was signed on to coordinate for 2016 and 2017. This is such a wonderful event for a worthy cause, and we look forward to working with the new chairwomen and CMOM team.
Chip: This was our second year providing services for Cirque du CMOM. It is such a wonderful event, benefiting a valuable community resource (that my kids in particular love). We were thrilled to be a part of it. The organization’s leadership team is amazing, and the committee is a pleasure to work with. Partnering with Salt provides a much more robust team that has virtually no boundaries to what we can accomplish together. It’s exciting to think of how many future venues we can serve together.
You’re both continuing your own businesses while offering this partnership as an added bonus. What type of events do you hope to partner on in the future?
Betsy: Salt hopes to partner with Level Nine Services on a variety of events. We love working events of all shapes and sizes and look forward to combining our efforts with L9’s unique skill set. It is refreshing to partner with an organization such as Chip’s that values customer satisfaction as much as we do.
Chip: Salt is an amazing resource that we can deploy in support of our corporate and individual clients to provide everything from amazing parties and charitable events to weddings. Likewise, our team is able to offer Salt the ability to get more done with less time while offering enhancing services for her events like valet, private drivers, and staff.
Is there any event too small to collaborate on?
Betsy: Chip and the Level Nine team will continue to take care of clients for smaller events and projects that do not require full-service planning and time. They will utilize Salt for large-scale projects that require multiple vendors and details.
Chip: We would only leverage our relationship with Salt for events that fit the scope of her relationship. Our rule of thumb is if we can’t do it the best, then we partner with the team that can. Some small jobs just require shopping, errands, and some helping hands. For those events, we are happy to still provide those services. If the situation calls for full event planning, you can be assured that we will have Betsy on the job. At the end of the day it is all about the client and their needs.
What is your hope for the future of this particular partnership?
Betsy: Partnering with Level Nine Services means the possibilities are endless with what we can offer clients and guests. Combined, we can now handle any need or desire. We meet frequently with the L9 team to discuss current projects, collaborate on new ideas, and brainstorm on ways to progress and flourish.
Chip: This strategic partnership exponentially enhances the level of service and range of venues that Level Nine can serve without sacrificing our commitment to simplification. Now with a single call our client can coordinate everything from the week’s groceries to their daughter’s wedding. It’s the continued evolution of our commitment to serving our clients and their families.