How AJ Williams Has Risen to the Top of the Boston Event Industry
by Leila Lewis · 07 Apr 2021 · 5 min read
This interview is part of the Entrepreneurial Women Series, a column published by Leila Lewis, to shine the light on the inspiring women making waves in the business world.
Recently named one of Boston’s Most Impactful Black Women in 2021, AJ Williams, the Founder and Creative Director of AJ Events, has become an icon in her industry, specializing in luxury weddings, corporate events, nonprofit events, and fundraisers – and more recently, virtual events! She has proven herself to be successful in adapting to change, and from awards to speaking events to press interviews, the events industry is ready to see (and learn) more from her. We were honored to hear more of her story!
What inspired you to start AJ Events and how has it grown since then?
I was already in the business for years, and I was inspired to start my company after having an epiphany during the 9/11 tragedy. We began producing weddings and social events, then I subleased an office from a political lobbying firm that taught me fundraising, and I was hit with the nonprofit bug and loved it. AJ Events is a now full-service event production firm specializing in fundraisers and event experiences for corporate and luxury weddings. We focus on engagement, event strategy, innovative design, and flawless execution. Most recently I was named by BizBash as one of the "Most Influential Event Professionals” in the country and have been featured in BRIDES, Top Planner every year by the Boston Business Journal, and more. I have been lucky to work with some of the biggest names and brands in the industry like Mercedes-Benz, Informa, Jennifer Hudson, Earth, Wind & Fire, Queen Latifah, Anthony Anderson, President Bill Clinton, Michael McDonald, Vanessa Williams, Danny Glover, Common, The Eagles, Run DMC, and many more.
How do you seek new ways for growth in your brand?
I am constantly educating myself. I love to learn and give back by providing value. I love Clubhouse, you can find me in an event room either as a moderator or on-stage providing value. Getting back on the speaker circuit was important to me and to my growth. I will be speaking at The Special Event in July in Miami. I am also writing 2 books, a motivational book about life and struggle and an event design book.
How have you adapted to change in your industry?
Recently, with COVID-19, I remained resilient. Our 2020 goal was to help our clients continue fundraising in light of restrictions being placed on gatherings during the pandemic. We held firm to produce events that provided just about the same in-person gala experiences in a virtual world. I executed “live” (not recorded) hybrid virtual events and monetized the platform’s capabilities for engaging live auctions to live audiences and the results were staggering. We brought people together with exciting, themed LIVE experiences. Our Party in a Boxes were a huge hit, our programming was captivating and engaging and as a result, we raised more than $5.5MM for our fall clients in 2020.
We held firm to produce events that provided just about the same in-person gala experiences in a virtual world.
What excites you most about what you do?
I love event day! All the planning, strategy, and creativity that leads to day-of is what I am passionate about. For example, I am honored to work with the Founder of Kayak to fully conceptualize a large fundraiser for the King Memorial he was building in Boston to celebrate the love of story of both Dr. King and Coretta Scott King. I transformed the event into an immersive so much that the guests felt like they were in LA. The event featured Common, Taylor Dayne, civil rights icons, Tamron Hall, Esperanza Spalding, and Earth Wind & Fire. We raised $1,475,000 in under 6 months including $500K night-of during the live auction. It was THE most diverse event for a highly visible, high-ticket, high-end event in Boston. Together with my team, we did that! We meshed the many black and white multi-millionaires together in one room for the first time in Boston. The event was the ultimate thrill ride.
Together with my team, we did that! We meshed the many black and white multi-millionaires together in one room for the first time in Boston. The event was the ultimate thrill ride.
How do you push yourself to stand out among your market competitors?
I am always pushing my events to the next level. It’s all about engagement and the experience for me. In addition to event logistics and event design, we fundraise for our nonprofit clients. We typically raise 40% more, double or triple when we take on a new annual event. We work really hard for nonprofits because they work hard to do good.
How do you recharge after a busy workday?
I have a work hard play hard mindset. If I’m exhausted, I like to cuddle up to an easy-to-watch movie and rest. After an event, I book a spa day and reservations at one of my favorite restaurants as a treat.
What’s your go-to inspiration source (podcast, book, Instagram account, etc.)?
Coffee table books, fashion and interior design mags, and graphic design current trends, Award shows, and Film.
Favorite PM drink.
Well, that depends on how I feel. It could be a bold and fragrant Cabernet or if I’m celebrating, a Gewurztraminer. My typical is Grey Goose on the rocks with muddled oranges and a splash of Aperol, and my favorite drink is on Nantucket by Oran Mor -their Pain Killer with ice that’s made out of rum. Yum!! Cocktail please!