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December 23, 2020
Owner to Owner

Female Disruptors: Katherine Frost of 'ORO' On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Candice Georgiadis

Dec 23, 2020 · 13 min read

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katherine Frost.

ORO was founded by Katherine Frost, owner of the Denver-based events company, A Frosted Affair. After 10+ years in the events industry, it became apparent the technology available to event professionals was lacking. In early 2019, Katherine assembled a team to help streamline the planning process and created ORO, a truly all-in-one platform to plan and manage events.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up in a family that liked to host parties. We had engagement parties, nonprofit events, tea parties, and school functions. I was able to start organizing the buffet flows and participating in the parties when I was about 7. Rarely were there any children at these events. I would start making myself useful by picking up plates and glasses that were around. When I went off to college, I became social chair for my sorority for two years and realized there was a whole career path for planning parties! I quickly dove into the deep end and started working for a Destination Management Company (or DMC) and worked with the convention traffic into the Denver area and also the surrounding mountain towns. I loved working with conventions, but I always had a drive to start my own company. In 2015 I made this dream a reality and focused on luxury weddings in Vail and Beaver Creek, local corporate events and nonprofits. I would talk to others in the industry seeing what they used for tools to help streamline their processes and we were all stuck in excel and using a few platforms here and there. I started to think that there had to be a better way! As a planner I was wondering why there seems to be an app for everything but not an app to help me plan my events more efficiently? The lightbulb went off and I started to interview different developers and found one that I grew up with at the end of the day. It took us two years to come up with the design and all the functionality to create ORO, but it truly is an all-in-one planning platform for planners. In my wildest dreams, I never would have guessed I would go from planning events to supporting planners, but I love this transition and look forward to evolving alongside the industry.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

My ORO platform is disruptive because it efficiently supports event planners to effectively communicate between vendors and clients while streamlining the planning process. There are so many platforms that help with sales, or help the DIY brides with wedding registries and checklists but where are the tools to support event planners operationally to get out of the minutia of managing changing details? We communicate with both vendors and clients, answering questions and tweaking elements such as head count, décor changes or even floor plan changes. It would be wonderful from a planner perspective to manage our clients through an app that gives them all the information they ask about or notifications to important details such as payments. Also simplifying the information that we give our vendors, sending them what they need and not the information that is being sent to all vendors pertaining to one event has never been accomplished by a platform before. This is exactly what ORO does and solves for planners to make their life easier. We also offer a concierge service for our subscribers. We have experienced planners on our team that will review your event and offer a different perspective, we want to bring hospitality back to the hospitality industry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Just one mistake? Event planners are detailed and meticulous people! We have no room for errors and my joke is that if you make a mistake, then its easily relatable to public shaming because everyone knows. It’s like the mic dropping in a silent room or having your zipper break on your dress while you’re already at the event. We have all heard these horror stories. My first wedding to ever sign with me, asked if I thought they should have their first look before the ceremony or after, and I said based on the timing with a five-course seated dinner for 225 people, we needed to do the pictures before. So, this couple happened to have one of the biggest wedding budgets I have had the pleasure of working with up to this point in my career and we even had a vintage Porsche Turbo shipped from upstate New York to Beaver Creek, Colorado to kick things off. I had to work on permitting with the national forest service and Vail Resorts to have permission to drive this Porsche onto the mountain for their “16 Candles” style first look pictures. The Porsche was hard enough to drive on the dirt roads to get it into position but somehow, during this time, the bridesmaids had fallen behind my rigorous timeline to get ready and the photographer was slow, so instead of having just the happy couple for their grand photoshoot, I had to bring the entire wedding party and family outside for these pictures in order to stay on schedule. Not my finest moment and in hindsight, we should have split the pictures and had the family taken to the venue and let the couple have their moment, but we all learn from our mistakes! Luckily the rest of the wedding was a huge success, and I am still friends with the couple. I started to budget extra time for hiccups in my timeline afterwards.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

One of my favorite mentors is a girl named Sam. We met working for the same DMC but she was based in one of our other offices. When I transitioned from just sales to also operating some of the events, she was such a huge help and would look over my events and offer tweaks to the timeline or other helpful advice. We left the company within a year of each other and she moved to California to work for another event company and I would visit her and ask her questions about my software and about some of my events as a planner. It was always well worth it to catch up and learn something new from her. She helped my confidence in my own ability to plan bigger and bigger events on my own. She is so creative; I really admired her work and her ability to make it look effortless. She had a huge impact on my career, and I am grateful we are so close.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Being disruptive in the events industry have been a necessary change. I always described my industry as operating in the dark ages! We meet with clients and take notes on paper, send emails to vendors for quotes and have to piece all these emails and pieces of papers together in excel or word to organize everything not only for our clients to understand how their event will shape up but also so we can keep track of the event details. My excel timelines would be anywhere from 3–20 pages long and have separate sheets for the budget but if one little thing changed, I had to remember where that one item was everywhere and make sure it was changed too, and make sure my client was aware of the changes. I also had to ask vendors for invoices to send to my clients to make sure we didn’t fall behind on payments, but I had to double check the invoices with prior emails, if there were changes, with my timeline, and the budget. I felt like I was constantly checking and rechecking event details instead of focusing on my favorite part which is coming up with the theme or using my creativity to make the event memorable for all that attend. The events industry has needed a platform that is all in one, can be accessed anywhere in the world, and streamlines the communication process between planner, vendors and clients.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“Fake it ’til you make it”: There have never been truer words! My parents would joke when I was growing up that I could sell ice to Eskimos because I had full confidence in my abilities. I was terrible at foreign language; party planning should have been a class when I was in growing up. My parents would ask how I did on any test I took and I, without fail, said I did amazing! Sometimes I actually did, other times, well let’s just say I was not at the top of my class. When I started my own company, it was hard to get those first few signatures on contracts because of my “newness” so I had to talk about past experience and start to push clients to sign because there was an imaginary person that was also looking at that date. It worked! I quickly adapted and never lost confidence in who I am and what I could do for this client.

“Never stop dreaming”: A lot of people are told to grow up at some point but there are some really creative people that work best with dreams and ideas that are constantly evolving and changing. The creativity involved in overcoming event logistics has been the most exciting part of my job. Clients dream big and I am told no by either venues or vendors. That’s when I take a few days to really think through how this could be possible and go back to these vendor partners and present solutions to the problems presented. I am by no means an engineer when it comes to solving real problems; however, being in such a creative industry, it is fun to put on the designer hat to accomplish the clients end goal even if it’s a little different from the initial discussion.

“Go big or go home” is the slogan for my home state of Texas but has really become a life motto of mine. In 2015 I quit my planning job with no prospects of another job and wasn’t even thinking of starting my own company, I just wanted a change. My mom and my favorite florist saw me a few days after this and I was thinking I really messed up and just quit my dream job. My mom and Kam, the florist, say, no you got this! You plan great events, start your own company! It really didn’t take too much more convincing after that and the next day I was printing business cards and doing research on how to make a great website. I knew failure wasn’t an option, so I was going big! I feel like I did the same thing diving into the tech space, in an unknown, uncharted area but I have no regrets and plan on continuing to go big.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We plan on expanding outside of the North American continent and ultimately globally. We chose to name our company ORO, because we fully intend to be the gold standard for event planning in dozens of countries.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

In my opinion the biggest challenges faced by women disruptors is that we have to work twice as hard as men to achieve the same results. The best analogy to this is when women go to purchase a car, the salesmen look at us like we haven’t done our research or know anything about the brand of the dealership we just walked into, even if we drove up in a same brand car. Now, if we go with a man, we are cut out of the conversation altogether and it’s not even our car anymore somehow, it’s the man’s car even if we want it in hot pink. My experience has been that women are friendly when you meet someone new, but we are all cautious, whether its male or female, we pay attention to someone’s body language, what they are saying, and how they represent themselves overall. When men talk to these same women that are confident and own their own companies, I feel like they automatically dismiss you as inferior until they get to know you. I have faced this time and time again based on my age and sex. I started my own company at 27 and people wanted to pat me on the head like a little dog and say “good girl” instead of listening to what I did for work and how I could help them or partner with them. Even some men that I have gotten to know over the years still think of me specifically as a young wedding planner instead of asking for help with their holiday parties or the nonprofits that are apparently so close to their hearts. If I was a man, I wouldn’t have to work twice as hard to prove the same point.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I read the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Issacson and it influenced me. While I was already going down the road developing ORO, Steve Job’s story really helped push me to push the envelope of my own tech platform. He might not have been well liked but he always wanted to get everything right. This I can relate to, but I am also southern, so I feel I do it with a bit more charm and a smile. While there might be a pandemic that has taken a huge hit on the events industry, I think back to Steve selling computers out of his garage! I work from home, my business partner also works from home, and while our platform is all online, we are essentially selling this out of our garages as well. Apple wasn’t built in a day and they faced many challenges and failed computers (LISA), but somehow, we all have an Apple product that we wear, carry or watch. We look forward to growth and being the platform that everyone looks to as the gold standard in event planning.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I never thought of myself playing on the world stage. I was motivated by an article I read a year or two ago talking about all the men in the tech world and these apps that we all use on a regular basis. When I was scrolling through all of them, I was baffled how there wasn’t one single female listed. I went to an all-girls school growing up, and we would do projects on influential women throughout history. I truly hope I can inspire future women to also enter male dominated fields and break through the barriers set forth by men.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Know your worth and stop giving people discounts.” My father died when I was 25. This had a profound impact on my life. I was numb for a while afterwards because I was so close to my father, but I wanted to support my family and I went to a wedding with my mom a few months afterwards for one of my dad’s golf buddies’ daughter. I thought to myself, this is going to be such a welcome relief! Weddings are such happy occasions, and it will give me a break from my sadness. My mom and I were introduced to other attendees as the woman who just lost her husband or the girl who just lost her father. How do you even respond to something like that? My mom and I grew to be so pissed at this whole weekend’s worth of activities that we got up really early on Sunday and blew out of this tiny town like our pants were on fire. It was almost comic relief for both of us with our laughing and outright anger for what happened. We at that moment realized that life is too short to put up with people labeling you moving forward.

In my own business, I had to learn how to fire clients that were too demanding or just were too much of a strain on my time and resources. It’s a hard decision to make but ultimately, it is better for everyone. I have people tell me what they would do, or what they think I should do, and I just nod my head and smile and think in the back of my mind, what are these people talking about and why do they feel the need to impose this particular idea onto me when I didn’t ask for it? Know your worth, with personal and business ventures.

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