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#FGRFamily Spotlight | Annie Duncan

January 17, 2020

#FGRFamily Spotlight | Annie Duncan

A recent addition to Bold’s amazing team of designers, Annie Duncan has more than 10 years of experience in event planning and design. When she’s off the clock, Annie can be found in the kitchen with her husband (and high school sweetheart!) and their daughter, listening to podcasts and making creations out of grocery store flowers. Learn more about her in today’s #FGRFamily spotlight below!

You recently joined the Bold team. Can you share more about your past experience?
Before Bold, I was at director of sales at Dennis Dean Catering and worked there for 9.5 years. I learned so much there and was able to cross train in a lot of different areas. It’s a much smaller shop so you have your hands on everything, from flowers, floor plans and pitching in to help with catering. I feel that that experience gave me the capacity to look at an event not just as food and not just as décor. They both go together to create the guest experience.

Did you always know that you wanted to go into the event planning business?
No. I was an English major. I was a PR major before, but my mom really pushed me to major in English. Because everybody needs to be able to write a paper about Hamlet, right? My dad continues to work in food service on the commercial side. He taught at Le Cordon Bleu for 10 years and always said “Do not go into hospitality. Do not go into food service.” I got into the industry while working at Sweetwater Brewing when it was still a small operation and I basically got paid in beer. From there I went to work for Low Country Catering and really just fell into it from there. I was like “Oh hey, I know how to do this” because I’d seen it all my life and it blossomed from there. My mom was always amazing with flowers and décor, so I was lucky to grow up around that too. It was a natural fit even though neither of my parents really wanted me to go into it. My younger sister, Caroline, also works for Bold on the catering side. She started at Dennis Dean with me.

Where are you from originally?
We moved to Hiram, Ga. from Omaha after my second grade year. I wasn’t thrilled about moving when I was a kid. I ended up going to elementary, middle and high school with my now husband. We started dating when we were 15 or 16 and that’s all she wrote. We’ve been together since then!

Walk us through your love story.
We were band nerds together in high school. After graduation, I went to Auburn and he went to Georgia Tech, but we continued dating. Eventually it was like, “Hey, we’ve been dating for a really long time. We should get married!” We just recently celebrated our 10th anniversary.

Where is your favorite place that you have traveled?
Hands down, without a doubt: Edinburgh, Scotland. My husband and I went there for our fifth wedding anniversary. We started in Scotland and made our way to Germany for Oktoberfest, which was just incredible. Edinburgh is so beautiful and there’s so much history, the people are lovely and they have great scotch! We took a little day trip to Islay, a little island with 3,500 people and eight distilleries. Everybody there is drunk all the time! But it was so gorgeous. Second would probably be Munich. I love traveling, especially to Europe because it just reminds us how young America is.

Any travel tips to share?
We like to plan what city we will be in on X date and make no other plans. On our last trip, we would just step out of our hotel room and say “that way!” It’s really cool because we’ll randomly go down some alley and stumble upon weird stuff. One time, we did an impromptu pub crawl in London and it started raining. We saw a guy getting wet and invited him to come sit under our umbrella and ended up talking to him for three hours and it was so much fun. I don’t like to have anything super planned out. It’s stressful and you might miss out on more of the fun stuff. Yeah, if you’re in Paris, go see the Eiffel Tower but you can also just stumble upon an antique market or a really cool café. 

If you had to work with one flower for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s hard. I love underdog flowers, the ones that everyone else thinks are gross. Carnations, for instance, can actually be really beautiful. They can get huge, like four or five inches, and look sort of like peonies. People don’t know that. They think of a sad bud base with like a piece of fern and baby’s breath and think “ew, this is ugly.” Marigolds are another one that can be gorgeous and lovely. I always campaign to use those flowers as much as I can. Although carnations are coming back into style, I try to use them because they aren’t as commonly used, they’re less expensive, and you can get the same look as a peony. Don’t count them out! But if I had to pick one flower that I’d always want to use it would be a chocolate dahlia, for sure. I could look at those big, black, inky, velvety dahlias all day.

What is your proudest career achievement?
Some of the ones I’ve been most proud of are events that people might say, “Yeah, it was big, but it wasn’t that interesting.” Meanwhile, we might have been holding it together by a shoestring. We did an opening event for a retail store and showroom and had to set up around seven kitchens in every single space, in the stairwell. Because it’s a showroom, there are no backrooms or freight elevator. We stopped clicking at 2,500 people. Most people probably thought it was smooth, but it was something different on every single floor and was really difficult logistically. I was really proud and couldn’t believe we had pulled it off. And no one was the wiser! I love pulling off an event that people don’t realize was actually really difficult because we were able to make it look easy. That has been my favorite thing to do.

What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m planning a Candyland-inspired father-daughter dance at Piedmont Driving Club next month. I’m really excited because it’s different and there is a lot of color involved. Everyone is still doing cream, ivory and champagne right now and while it’s beautiful, I’m desperate for color.

Any tips for managing stress?
Go back, double and triple check your stuff. I think you have to go into events knowing that this is just a plan and plans rarely go exactly as you expect. People show up late, the chairs are wrong… You have to go into it with a plan b and knowing you can make it happen.  Instead of freaking out that the chairs are 30 minutes late, you have to think, “You know what, we’re going to soldier on and do this set instead and when the chairs get here, we’ll set them up.” You have to be able to think on your feet and change with it. A friend of mine has this really good phrase: “It’s lunch and dinner, not life and death.” It’s true. You have to remember that it’s supposed to be fun for everybody. Overall, I think just going into it with that attitude helps cut down on stress. Sometimes after I’ve held something together with a paper clip and a wad of gum I’ll freak out when it’s over but in the heat of the moment I just go into it saying, “fix it, let’s just fix it.” To blow off steam when I get home, I throw on a pair of yoga pants and an old t-shirt immediately.

What do you do in your spare time?
My husband and I have a little wine tasting hobby. We also both like to cook. We have a three-year-old daughter named Birdie and she really likes to cook with us. We have a little stool that she stands on and we let her stir things. She’s more apt to eat asparagus if she helped cook it! 

I’m also a podcast junkie and listen to them constantly. I love true crime podcasts like “My Favorite Murder.” I’ve also gotten into audio dramas recently such as “Alice Isn’t Dead,” “Rabbits” and “Homecoming,” which they made into a show. There are a lot of them and it’s interesting because a lot of actors and actresses have gotten into doing them. It’ll be eight or 10 episodes long, but are really, really good. I just listened to “Sandra” with Kristen Wiig and Alia Shawkat.

I like to challenge myself and see what grocery store flowers I can pick up and zhush up to make them look pretty. Grocery store flowers and anything I can clip out of my yard. I like to preserve some of my flowers sometimes with vegetable glycerin. I’ve actually had success selling some of those. I have gigantic hydrangea bushes and have sold them for $4 per stem.

How would you describe your personal style?
Imperfect. I say that because very rarely are you going to see me put together something that’s perfect. I like things to be just a hair off – maybe just a little asymmetrical or maybe there’s something in it that’s unexpected. I like people to look at something and say, “Wait, is that a carrot?!” I think it’s just more fun that way. 

What kind of events do you like to plan?
I like doing all sorts of events, including store openings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and fundraisers. Those are always super fun. 

Can you tell us more about your experience planning your own wedding?
We had a few hiccups: the rental company was supposed to bring white wooden chairs but brought black plastic instead. I didn’t notice until 45 minutes before the ceremony and we were over an hour away from town. But you know what? I couldn’t and didn’t let it really stress me out. Nobody remembers what my chairs looked like. I’m probably the only one. People remember that they had fun and that there was plenty of food and drink. I got my flowers and cake two weeks beforehand. I was so lax about the whole thing. 

How do you keep up with industry trends?
I follow a lot of planners, florists and designers on Instagram just to see what’s out there and only just recently gotten into Pinterest because I’ve been working with more brides lately. Honestly, I’m interested to see where I can draw inspiration. One time I got inspired by a Tommy Hilfiger ad and it ended up becoming one of my favorite schemes. I was flipping through an old magazine and thought “Oh I like that.” It got me thinking, “I’m going to do a little plaid and some candelabras” and it turned out to be very high low and super chic.

Do you have any trend predictions for the new year?
Boho is still mega right now. Pampas grass is still exploding. The loose greenery is huge. I’m hoping and praying for a little color, but I think it’s muted Boho right now.

What do you think of “classic blue” as the color of the year?
When I saw it come out, I instantly thought it could be really beautiful. We did an awning stripe with it on a table with a pop of yellow and some white, maybe some fuchsia. I’m into it.

What is something that most people might not know about you?
I was in the Auburn marching band. I chose to do it on the collegiate level because you get to travel with the football team. I got to go to the Sugar Bowl when Cadillac Williams was there. We marched during a presidential inauguration, too. You get a front row seat to a lot of the fun university stuff and make friends.

What instrument did you play?
Piccolo. And not to offend any musicians, but it’s not cool. You know the band Jethro Tull? I get irate every time I hear them because I played flute and piccolo.

What is your favorite part about being part of the Bold/Fifth Group family?
I love being surrounded by creative people and feel like I pick up something new every day. I’ll walk past a room and somebody will be doing a prototype that I’ve never seen done before. It’s elevating me in what I do because I’m surrounded by people who are super great at what they do. If you aren’t constantly learning and not constantly trying to improve yourself then you’re stagnating and that’s never a good place to be. I definitely feel like I’m learning and growing exponentially every day because of the people around me.