At just 20 years old, while still in college, Ocala native Carlie DeLuca is carving out a distinct space for herself in the event planning industry.
There is an oft repeated piece of advice, subscribed to by the likes of Steve Jobs, who said, “Start small, think big.” Confucius is credited with issuing a similar sentiment: “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
So, it begs the question as to whether Carlie DeLuca was of the same mindset when shebegan her micro-event business Not The Playground. Of course, in that case, the “he” was a she and she was carrying pillows not stones. DeLuca says she was inspired to step into the event planning arena because she wanted a new challenge and saw an opportunity created by the pandemic.
“I was looking for a fun side hustle to start during college. I had seen other picnic companies in diﬀerent states, but there weren’t any in Ocala or Gainesville, where I attend college. So, I started one,” she explains. “Within 30 minutes of launching my picnic business Instagram account in January, I had already booked my ﬁrst client. I found my creative outlet in tablescaping and event design. Because these picnics were outdoors and intimate in size, they were the perfect pandemic activity.”
Her stylishly produced picnics, set in locations surrounded by lots of natural beauty, like Sholom Park in Ocala, were defined by her ability to create on-trend events that allowed her to stand out from the crowd. Beyond tablescaping, which refers to the art of beautiful and intricately decorated tables, DeLuca’s picnics were more an exercise in eventscaping (Yes, it’s a real thing!). In addition to producing artfully curated
picnics for couples or groups celebrating events such as Mother’s Day, DeLuca also offered elaborate teepee slumber parties for girls.
“People have been looking for something fun and special to do during the pandemic, while still respecting social distancing,” she notes. “Being outdoors in small groups has made people feel more comfortable gathering, yet still allows them to experience some social normalcy.”
As quickly as her business took oﬀ, it has expanded to the point where she is now being engaged for bigger events averaging about 125 to 150 guests and that has led her to focus on more traditional social gatherings.
“It just kind of took over my life. Within months, planning
picnics turned into planning baby showers, birthday celebrations, housewarmings, bridal showers,” she recalls.
“By May, I was planning two weddings and now, nine months later, I am planning and designing ﬁve weddings.”
The change in direction inspired DeLuca to reinvent her business under the banner Events By Carlie Deluca. She has already stopped booking slumber parties and her last picnic is scheduled for December.
“I’m so thankful to everyone who has supported me,” she oﬀers. “While I plan on focusing my attention on larger events, I will still be oﬀering my tablescaping service for smaller events. I will also continue bringing unique and thoughtfully curated tablescapes and design elements to my events as they grow in size. I want to oﬀer quality designs that go above my client’s expectations.”
She says her typical client is usually someone in their 20s or 30s.
“I deﬁnitely think younger clients decide to hire me because I am more boho chic than classic and traditional, which is appealing to younger people,” she shares. “I also use lots of bright, fun colors. I think that is something younger clients look for.”
As busy as she is with her business and academic studies, she ﬁnds time to give back. In August, she created a Girl Power donation drive.
“I saw lots of ﬂyers for back-to-school drives collecting the essentials for students but there wasn’t one collecting non-essentials,” she explains. “I remember how it felt to go back to school shopping with my mom and get new makeup, nail polish, hair products and jewelry. I wanted to help other girls experience this feeling before the new school year too. There is more to life than just surviving and, with the help of everyone who came to bring donations, we donated an entire truck full of beauty and hygiene products to teenage girls through The Rock Program (A program of the Ocala Outreach Foundation created by Rondo and Toby Fernandez, which provides clothes, food, school supplies and counseling to local schools).
She credits her parents for inspiring her love of community service.
“My parents taught me to be aware of the suﬀerings in our world, to recognize my privilege,” she shares. “Every Christmas, we would create a list of gifts I would like to receive myself and then they would purchase the items for children who wouldn’t get to open presents otherwise. I cherished doing this, knowing another kid was going to experience the joy of unwrapping something exciting and unexpected. I loved knowing my parents were behind making a stranger feel special.”
And now its DeLuca’s moment to make others feel special, which she is excelling at through both her creative event execution and service to the community.
For more information, email eventsbycarliedeluca@ gmail.com