Be a Guest At Your Own Event: Marcelle Folk

It’s not uncommon for startup founders to juggle two full-time jobs. One being their standard 9-5 and the other being their “passion project” — or startup. We had the opportunity to talk to Marcelle Folk, founder of Wine Key Experience, a DC-based event planning company that provides clients with the peace of mind that they can in-fact be a guest at their own event. While juggling a paralegal job, a teenage daughter in high school AND a startup, to say that we are impressed with Marcelle is an understatement.

  1. Tells us a little bit about yourself and your business. 

It’s inspiring to see the growth year after year. Everyone was once a startup. As a startup you get valuable information from other more seasoned business owners. I love meeting new people and building relationships. You never know who you can help, or who can help you. 

2. Tells us a little bit about yourself and your business. 

I’m a Paralegal for the federal government during the day. I have a Master’s in Business Administration and Bachelor’s in Legal Studies. I have a teenage daughter in High School. At Wine Key Experience, we are a DC based event planning company. We help our clients put on great events with innovative cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, portable bars and professional staff. The most impressive cocktail we have made for our clients was the “in the rocks” mojito. We inject our cocktails into ice and that’s always a hit.

3. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

I always wanted to be my own boss. In October 2012, Living Social had a deal for a $29 Introductory Bartending Class. I soon got into hospitality and banquet serving for business owners. I developed some friendships and being around various businesses made me want to start my own. So, I started a bartending company.

4. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first started your business?

Plan plan plan! Build your team before you start getting business. It’s better to train your staff before you start working. That foundation and organization will make everything else run smooth if you plan properly.

5. DC is a great market for Wine Key Experience — the hospitality industry is booming! How has the industry changed since you started your company?

Hosts no longer want to be exhausted after an event realizing they never got to spend time with their guests. Time freedom is important, and hosts want time with their loved ones. It’s become a trend to have hired professionals to assist with the event planning and service. For that reason, hospitality is a lucrative career path and for that reason, the cost of hospitality staffing has greatly increased. It’s a career, and it’s highly competitive for both employees and employers. Getting a job as a banquet server for a major hotel is not an easy process. People with master’s degrees may not get a job as a server.

6. Your business model is heavily reliant on providing great customer service. Do you have any advice for hiring a trusted staff?

When you treat your staff well and give them fringe benefits that don’t cost you much, they become trustworthy. The staff I hire are people that genuinely want a chance to learn new things and make a better life for themselves. I offer hands on bartending training and certification free of charge (I’m a trainer) and every event I send him home with leftover food and drinks that will otherwise go to waste. And they appreciate that.

7. It looks like you partner up with both local and national brands — we’ve noticed Saturday Session and Bumble, specifically — how can fellow startups benefit from strategic partnerships?

Developing partnerships adds credibility to you as a small business. When you first start out, no one knows who you are or what you do. They also don’t have a ton of faith in you. Partnerships with larger brands builds credibility and trust with new clients.

Thanks, Marcelle! I think we can all take a little something about staying organized, building relationships with the right people and developing a solid foundation for your business before taking the leap and launching it. We hope see you and your company around at various startup social gatherings!