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Surviving the Economy: Turning a hobby into a thriving business

By theghanaianjournal

Posted By: Jennifer Pascua
GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - For some, it's a job that often starts off as a hobby. But one West Michigan woman turned event planning into a profitable business.

For the longest time, Jessica Ann Tyson spent her free time helping others plan memorable events.

“I had a passion for it. I was helping this person out in this wedding, being the coordinator, planning this birthday party, and this celebration. It was so much fun. But it was taking so much time for each project and I wasn't being compensated for it.”

Her husband suggested she start charging people for her work. Now, almost six years later, her business has been keeping her on the go.

Greeting clients, organizing, and designing are all part of the duties Jessica Ann Tyson oversees as she works on various events. She's helping the Grand Rapids Sister Cities Ga District Committee with an “Out of Africa” fundraiser for Saturday. Her client, Benjamin Amponsah is meeting with Tyson and is quick to ask questions.

“What I'm concern with is budget given tough economic times, how do we maximize limited resources we have?” Tyson says.

She hears this question more and more these days. Clients like Amponsah say spending the money to hire an event planner has its benefits.

“No one was against the idea. The feeling was unanimous, given her connections with the community and experience planning events,” says Amponsah.

Tyson says there's a big economic plus for companies that hire her.

“They don't have to put us on their payroll. They don't have to worry about employee benefits of that nature. It's just contractual,” she says.

While some businesses aren't spending as much money on events, they're still spending. So Tyson's challenge is getting creative on a budget.

“This is a time where it's definitely a recession. But when it comes down to it, people still need to have events. They still need to make sure their employee morale is up. When you cut a Christmas party in half; you still have the same amount of employees, you still need to make sure they're valued,” says Tyson. “I couldn't imagine in a million years you could make a very good living at it.”

Even though her business is called “Events by Jessica Ann,” Tyson credits her staff of several people for making things run smoothly. As far as advice for future event planners, she says start it off as a hobby and build your reputation before quitting your day job.

The event Tyson is planning for the Grand Rapids Sister Cities Ga District is still open to the public. It's the Annual Ghana Independence Day celebration called “Out of Africa.” It will be held on the evening of March 7th at Celebration Cinema South. Admission is $20 per person. It includes an unlimited sampling of African food, and two adult beverages of your choice. Soda or bottled water will be available for those under the age of 21.

There will also be a silent auction of various unique Authentic African carvings from Ghana to support successful educational and community projects already begun in the Ga District in Ghana.