THE PARTY WHISPERER: Elizabeth Slossberg
If EKS Events founder Elizabeth Slossberg even has a desk in her Aspen office, there’s no chance she spends more than 30 seconds at a time actually sitting at it. She tends to be on the move, pacing on the phone, hovering around the conference table, dashing to and fro and then out the front door, always a smile in her voice, a sparkle in her step. On the day we spoke, members of the Biden presidential campaign had commandeered a desk and were finalizing logistics for an event later that evening.
Just another day in the Aspen professional event business where the stakes couldn’t be lower (we’re talking cake and Champagne here), and yet couldn’t be higher (important people doing significant things in the world and regular people doing significant things in their lives). On the 20th year of EKS Events, Slossberg looks back at how it all came to pass. “We’re not saving lives here,” she concedes. “But it sure is special to be able to make memories.”
So… Aspen… when and why?
I grew up in Florida and graduated from the University of Alabama.
Roll Tide. I had never seen snow before I moved to Aspen. My cousin and I decided we wanted to move to a ski town and we picked Aspen because… well, go big or…
… stay in Florida.
Exactly. I grew up in restaurants, filling salt shakers, wiping menus. My dad, Papou, owned restaurants. That’s what the Greeks do! And I swore, swore I would never work in or marry into the service industry. But then I got a job at the [Hotel] Jerome and I was hooked. I forgot about law school and just fell head over heels with service. I just loved making people happy.
When you started your own company, was there an event or moment that sort of put you on the map?
That would be David Koch’s New Year’s Eve party. Everyone who was anyone was there. Diana Ross sang. People were handing our security guards wads of cash, trying to bribe their way onto the list. I was actually still working at the Jerome at the time, and this event gave me the courage and support to go out on my own.
When you have a high-profile client, what have you learned are some important things to keep in mind?
The No. 1 thing, and this goes for all my events really, is to protect the client. Everyone deserves privacy when they are celebrating something as personal as a wedding or a child’s bat mitzvah or birthday, anniversary, etc. I’m a very protective person by nature. Don’t poke this mama bear.
One time we had to chase away paparazzi at an event in Woody Creek. We chased them into the woods!
So, what’s the secret sauce to putting on a good event?
It’s all about the personal touches. For a wedding, I like to spend time with the bride and groom. I love to get to know them on a personal level… What do they snack on when they are watching movies? What do they do on lazy Sundays? And then, what kind of experience do they want for their guests? If the party is in Aspen, what kind of an Aspen trip do they want for their guests? It boils down to priorities. For me, it’s everything; for other people, it’s more about music, or wine, or food, or whatever. But the client sets the priorities, and then I prioritize the vendors accordingly. Anyone can spend money, but we make it really special, really personal. We make it about the actual people who are celebrating. My passion is creating memories.
Any good tales of crises averted?
Oh my, well, this band, and I’m talking about a really good band that was the client’s dream band, was stuck on I-70 behind a mudslide. We ended up getting a bunch of trucks to ferry them across the slide and they made it.
How about some over-the-top productions?
We did a whole rodeo with barrel racing. We’ve done a circus with acrobats and elephants. I’ve booked tigers, eagles, butterflies. I have a really good butterfly guy. I’ve flown in Berthillon sorbet from Paris. We have designed custom-fabricated tents from India and had them shipped over. We once created a Wild West town from scratch; we re-created the Delano Miami Beach in the mountains. I’ve buried bourbon under a tree so it wouldn’t rain.
Did it work?
Yes! It did.
You have nine children and run a business. I mean… how on Earth?
I call it high-level multitasking. Everyone who knows me just calls it ADHD. I do involve my family in the business. One of my team members recently went into labor quite early, and I called up two of my sons and they got on an airplane to come fill in. Also, there is not a charity event that I do without my family, by force if necessary.
A lot of the events you do are philanthropic, no?
My passion is philanthropy work and teaching people to give back. Every year we pick seven charities to do pro bono. Mostly local. Helping a nonprofit put on a beautiful event, that’s my absolute favorite thing.
You also do a lot of events outside of Aspen?
When I started, about 90% of my business was here in Aspen, but then clients took me to other locales. Now we’re about 40% Aspen, 25% international and the rest around the U.S.
How do you get ‘boots on the ground’ in foreign lands?
You ask locals for the best flowers, the best tents, the best designers and so forth. I will bring in an outside element or two, but the main thing is to respect the local vendors and trust them. For example, we just did a birthday in Mykonos and the natural thing to do would be to go with a big vendor from Athens, but instead we went with this amazing local floral shop that was three generations working together, and they absolutely killed it. Killed it!
Any plans for further expansion?
I toy with the idea of opening up offices in different cities, but right now we are just doing our thing with Aspen as our home base and continue to do better and better events around the world. Always elevating the experience. Giving back. Making memories. It’s pretty special.
Photography by: Jose Villa