Anna Rembold is in the connectivity business — but this Bay Area founder isn’t part of her city’s booming tech industry. Rather, she’s the woman behind Anna Marie Events, an event planning firm she launched 7 years ago to put her knack for real-world people-gathering to good use.
It’s taken off like a tech company, though. It’s grown 1,136 percent over the past three years and made a reported $4.1 million in revenue in 2018. And, it was recently ranked as one of the region’s fastest growing businesses in both Inc.com and the San Francisco Business Times. Today, she and her five staffers — in addition to a small army of over 30 contractors — pull off between 20 and 30 meetings, cocktail parties, press conferences, VIP events and more per year. Big clients include tech giants Twitter and Samsung, game makers Playstation and personal finance company NerdWallet.
Rembold attributes Anna Marie Events’ success to a mix of talent and reliability. After all, “I don’t have clients if they can’t trust me,” she points out. But what’s even more important to her than those two characteristics is “a really deep love of people.”
It’s not just a company line — it’s a passion. “I think human beings and human connection gives me energy,” she says. “The power of human connection is probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.”
Grounded in Principles and Planning
When Rembold launched her company in January 2012, she says she was armed with three things: “a really crappy website,” a natural knack for event planning, and — most critical of all — a nest egg of just about $500,000 that she had saved up while making a significant salary during her first career in private equity.
Indeed, she was self-funded from the start. “Nobody really likes to tell this part of the story, but the reality is, to do this type of thing takes capital.” She never took on debt, either, she says — rather, she lived a simple life full of “diligence and sacrifice” in order to maintain that financial padding until Anna Marie Events took off.
And it would take years to find truly solid footing. She remembers putting in 60 to 80 hours per week while not being able to pay herself much of a salary. It was “a lot of grind.”
While starting up wasn’t easy, she landed a small client — literally — her very first day in business. She planned a 6-year-old’s birthday for old contacts, which admittedly wasn’t her target market, but she was “so happy someone was willing to pay for my services, it didn’t matter.” Every gig helped as she established her reputation in the corporate world, since businesses were initially hesitant to hand important events over to a relative unknown.
“I’m really grateful to people who took a chance on me — their reputation was on the line, and it was a big risk,” she says.
A Lifelong Love
The seed of Rembold’s event-planning interest was planted “way back when I was a teenager.” She recalls coordinating youth retreats for her local church, pulling together 3-day events involving up to 250 children. Even then, she says, she was the one steering the ship and coordinating the committees that pieced together all the logistics.
After graduating high school, she jumped straight into the working world, turning a part-time gig as an administrative assistant to her father into full-time work. But at age 24, she realized that “this was not the life I wanted — I knew I could do more.”
Rembold decided to pursue her higher education in earnest, eschewing scholarship offers she received to the University of California at Berkeley in favor of a more intimate, women-centric experience at Mills College. It was the right call for her — Rembold says her time there “fundamentally changed my life,” adding that “being around women, being taught by women, being supported by women, it was a 180 in my confidence.”
Earning her bachelor’s degree also boosted her salary, despite “literally doing the same job I was before school.” She worked at a private equity firm for several years, carefully saving any additional income. When she decided another life change was in order, she decided to get her MBA. But that didn’t pan out the same way — she was rejected from all of her top schools.
It was a painful learning experience, but Rembold realized the problem was that she wasn’t communicating any passion on her application essays. Thinking back about what truly inspired her, she recalled her early event-planning days — and yearned to reconnect with that love.
It was then that she took her carefully-cultivated nest egg and, “with no previous experience within the event industry, I blindly went and started a business with my core skill set.”
Coordinating the Future
Her gamble worked out. Today, Rembold is encouraged by her event planning firm’s fiscal growth, and excited about the healthy workplace culture she has cultivated. (The latter became a priority after she attended seminars through the nonprofit Entrepreneurs’ Organization).
Rembold has now set her sights on expansion, with plans to one day break into other parts of the U.S., as well as Europe. And she believes staying grounded in what she loves and believes — bringing people together — will make it possible.
“On a fundamental level, that’s what I believe I’m doing: facilitating the ability for people to have amazing human connections,” she says.