“Choosing a business partner is somewhat like a marriage,” says Cindy Benezra, co-owner and half of the mother daughter team behind Seattle-based planning and design company, Elite Events. “Do you sincerely respect and feel value for the other person? Can you truly communicate and grow through the ups and downs? If not, it may not be the best idea to start working together.”
Cindy and her daughter, Hannah Mitchell, have become a dream team in the luxury wedding and event industry – something Cindy never foresaw during Hannah’s childhood.
“We fought like cats and dogs,” she shares. “When you have an alpha mama raise an alpha daughter, you are bound to have some clashes. I was confidently proud that she would hold her own in this world and find her happy place in whatever she decided to do for work. I never entertained the thought that I would be part of that vision. Never say never; the irony is that we are so much alike at the end of the day, it is comical.”
Hannah spent a decade away from her hometown in the Pacific Northwest, having moved to Boston after college to be with her now-husband and work as a wedding planner. Since Cindy always wanted her daughter to move back to the Seattle area, she mentioned that if Hannah were to return, they could start their own company together. Later, during a snowy Boston winter, Hannah asked if the offer still stood and they began planning her move back to the west coast.
“I love being able to spend time with my mom and create beautiful events together,” says Hannah. “She is so kind, fun, and creative! My mom is always the life of the party and she has so many amazing ideas that always infuse an extra fun twist into our events. Working with a family member can sometimes be tricky because it introduces a new dynamic to your relationship. With a mother-daughter relationship, I feel like it is very important to clearly express how you are feeling with each other and to divide up your roles so there is a clear expectation of the day to day workflow.”
“The way we structure our company, Hannah is my boss so she gets final say relative to operational matters,” Cindy adds. “However, we don’t disagree very often. I very much enjoy working on the design with Hannah and we often meet in the middle.”
Along with the family dynamic of this mother daughter team, Hannah and Cindy also bring an element of balance to the celebrations they create with Elite Events. Hannah prefers to focus on the “bigger picture items,” as that area of planning gives her a sense of calm. Cindy, however, has a knack for dealing with the smallest details, along with the patience to consider different décor placements until an event space looks picture perfect.
“While I love all events,” Hannah states, “I have to admit that weddings are my favorite. There is something so beautiful about being able to guide two people through the planning process to one of the most important days of their lives. You get to know the couple and their families so well, that by the time of the wedding, you feel like your sister or best friend is getting married. You feel like an extension of the family.”
With Mother’s Day coming up, this mother daughter duo will be making sure to spend some bonus time together, with their Mother’s Day traditions typically involving a fun activity and some fabulous food and wine. For Cindy, it’s safe to say that working side by side with her daughter is one gift that keeps on giving.
“When I step away from being a mother,” she says, “I can clearly see that Hannah has stepped into mastering her craft. It’s incredibly gratifying to witness this. It’s such a simple joy, but the greatest joys are the simplest ones.”