As I stepped into the doors of The Event Company in the heart of downtown Sioux Falls, I was immediately welcomed by the company’s happiness coordinator, Kendra DeBoer.   

Following DeBoer through the chic suite overlooking Phillips Avenue, I couldn’t help but notice a space that typically serves as a conference room had been transformed for a birthday party, complete with colorful party hats and flower arrangements gracing the table.   

With an infectious smile, the happiness coordinator told me that the team was celebrating a coworker’s birthday, mentioning that the room was decorated with “Friends” themed décor and asking that I keep the theme a secret.  

The birthday surprise didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary in the office. In fact, every employee at The Event Company is celebrated with a themed surprise party on their birthday – a tradition reflective of the vibrant workplace culture at the internationally recognized and award-winning event and design production company.    

This culture, characterized by collaboration, connectedness and respect, has been cultivated by founder and CEO Addie Graham-Kramer ‘07 since the inception of The Event Company over a decade ago.    

“Being purposeful and intentional about how we build each other up through culture has been the same since the first day of our doors opening,” said Graham-Kramer. “The ‘culture’ buzzword has been around for about five years or so, but we have truly practiced it from day one.”   

Surprise birthday parties are just one way the team at The Event Company fosters a positive and empowering work environment. Placed prominently on each employee’s desk – which are strategically arranged in pods to promote collaboration – is a picture frame with their top five Gallup CliftonStrengths.    

Graham-Kramer's top five – competition, futuristic, significance, achiever and activator – are indicative of the CEO’s bold and confident leadership style. 

By understanding her team members’ talents and how they show up for work, Graham-Kramer is better able to communicate and collaborate with each individual, meeting them where they are and leveraging their greatest strengths.    

“We always practice this kind of top-down leadership,” said Graham-Kramer. “We serve our team; they don’t serve us.”  

The energetic and supportive culture at The Event Company isn’t just something the all-female team talks about or posts on social media – they live it, every single day. Except for Fridays, that is, because Thursdays are Fridays at The Event Company.   

Given the nature of their work, employees at The Event Company often find themselves working outside of traditional office hours throughout the year. Because of that, The Event Company closes its doors on Fridays to give team members time to relax, recharge, and spend quality time with friends and family.   

“What happens in these four walls is easily extended outside,” said Graham-Kramer. “Whatever we’re practicing and doing here, from our attitudes and how we walk in for the first day to our conversations internally and how we respect each other – that’s exactly what you see out there.”   

Within the walls of The Event Company is a team of “dream builders.” Each member of Graham-Kramer’s team plays a vital role in bringing clients’ visions to life, covering all aspects of event planning – including design, management, fundraising, graphic design, communications, strategy and more.  

“We’re building people’s dreams,” explained Graham-Kramer. “Whether it’s a conference they’ve dreamed about for years, a new product launch, or a big celebration, that’s someone’s dream, and we’re here to build that dream and execute it as flawlessly as we can. Everyone on our team is a part of someone’s dream.”   

The most important part of effectively building dreams? “Communication, communication, communication,” answered Graham-Kramer.   

Between planning all the event logistics and coordinating with the dozens of vendors required to pull off a client's vision, effective communication is critical in orchestrating a flawless event, said The Event Company’s leader.   

Addie stands over one of her employees shoulders and looks at a computer screen while smiling.“Communication is important to everything that we do, from how we’re talking to each other to how we’re talking to clients and vendors,” said Graham-Kramer. “We’re very transparent and very honest with our conversations, and we’re at a point where our team members feel empowered to make decisions and have sometimes difficult conversations.”    

For Graham-Kramer, the daughter of two entrepreneurs, event planning isn’t just her career – it’s a passion deeply rooted in her upbringing.   

“When I was younger, my mother used to plan so many fun events for us: fun birthday parties, dinner parties, celebrations,” said Graham-Kramer. “It was just kind of in my blood.”  

Driven by her inherited love and skill for event planning, Graham-Kramer found a way to turn her passion into a purposeful career.   

Before starting The Event Company, Graham-Kramer earned her degree in criminal justice from the University of South Dakota. With her sights set on her career, she traded in the typical college experience and dedicated her free time to working in Sioux Falls. Throughout her years at USD, Graham-Kramer attended classes on campus in Vermillion Monday through Friday, then commuted to Sioux Falls every day and clocked in from 3 p.m. to midnight.    

In every role leading to becoming an entrepreneur, Graham-Kramer found herself serving as a coordinator of events, even if it wasn’t in her job description. Whether it was organizing kickoffs and employee parties at Wells Fargo, hosting events nationwide for the marketing team at Argus Leader Media/Gannett Co. Inc., or planning fundraisers for the American Heart Association, event planning became a central theme in her professional journey.   

This relentless pursuit of her passion laid the groundwork for her eventual entrepreneurial endeavor, and in October of 2013, Graham-Kramer took the bold step of launching The Event Company.   

Over the past decade, The Event Company has grown into an internationally recognized and award-winning event and design production company that organizes corporate, nonprofit and social events across the nation, including conferences, fundraisers, festivals and large-scale celebrations.   

“We started out by just doing very small events, and then we quickly grew into hosting events in 11 states, and then 12 states,” said Graham-Kramer. “Now, we host events in 22 states all over the country. It’s pretty remarkable for this small company in the middle of South Dakota, and we’re very proud of it.”   

The Event Company has designed and planned over 450 events and has worked with well-known figures such as Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski from Duke University and with prestigious clients such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The company has received several recognitions, including being honored by LUXLife Magazine as one of the Global Hospitality Award winners for Best Event Design & Production Company in the U.S.   

As the company’s vibrant leader and a successful entrepreneur, Graham-Kramer has also received her fair share of accolades including Connect Association Magazine’s 40 Under 40 award and 605 Magazine’s Leader of the Year award, among other awards.   

Despite the recognition, Graham-Kramer’s greatest source of pride lies in the company’s commitment to community service.   

Since The Event Company’s beginnings in 2013, its team of “dream builders” has donated over $1.2 million in services and has raised an impressive $11.5 million for their clients. Notably, the company spearheads the annual South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation Prime Time Gala & Concert – which raises critical funds to support Feeding South Dakota, South Dakota’s largest hunger-relief organization, in providing more beef to families facing food insecurity throughout the state.    

“All of the money raised from the auction and the sale of tickets for the gala and the concert go back to Feeding South Dakota,” said Graham-Kramer. “In the last ten years, we’ve helped raise $2.4 million, which has pushed over one million pounds of beef back into the state of South Dakota, helping support kids in our churches and schools.”   

Each year, The Event Company team is invited onstage before the country concert that attracts thousands of people to the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center to be recognized for their efforts in coordinating the event – a powerful moment that reminds Graham-Kramer of the profound impact the work of her and her team has on the community.   

“One year, I turned to my team and told them to take a moment to soak it all in,” remembered Graham-Kramer. “An audience of 10,000 people, all there because of what we helped create. All of our hard work, and all of our client’s hard work, helped to get those bodies in those seats. And we’re doing it all for a good cause.”   

The desire to engage in philanthropic work is the driving force behind all the work Graham-Kramer does.   

“One of the big reasons I launched the company was just to make the world a better place,” said Graham-Kramer. “It may sound cheesy, but it’s the absolute truth. I remember when I was younger, my mother had restaurants and businesses, and if she had extra baked goods or extra things in her bakery, she would give them out to people.  

“I saw that desire to give back, and even as a young child, I truly just wanted to make the world a better place,” she continued. “The cool part is, I get to do that every single day. We’re making the world a better place – all through events.”   

Staying Connected Through USD Events 

Event planning has also helped Graham-Kramer stay connected to her alma mater, as her team has helped plan several events for USD and the USD Foundation & Alumni Association over the years, including Calling All Coyotes, Unleash Your Legacy, Women in Philanthropy events and more.  

“I stay connected in so many different ways and there are so many people that I stay in touch with,” said Graham-Kramer. “Once you’re in it, and you’re so passionate about your university, you just live and breathe it. 

Addie and her two sons wearing Coyote gear. “Being such a sports-focused family, helping to plan the Calling All Coyotes event year after year has been one for the books,” she continued. “USD’s student-athletes have the biggest hearts, and it’s great to see so many of them come together to play an active role in the event.” 

The Event Company has also planned the annual conference for the Prairie Family Business Association – an outreach center of the Beacom School of Business – since 2016. Over the years, this conference has featured notable guests like Craig Culver, co-founder and board chairman of Culver Franchising System; Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck Commander and star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty”; and Tony Simmons, president and CEO of McIlhenny Corporation, the producer of Tabasco.  

For Graham-Kramer, one of the most memorable USD events she’s had a part in planning was the James W. Abbott Legacy Celebration in 2018. The Event Company built a custom stage with a 55-by-60-foot video wall that projected imagery of notable moments Former President Abbott was a part of and individuals he had an impact on.  

“This was an incredible event to honor such an amazing leader,” said Graham-Kramer. “Nearly 1,000 guests were in attendance, and the energy was contagious. It was quite a memorable evening.” 

Graham-Kramer, her husband Drew and her two sons, William and Calvin, are proud Coyote fans and can often be spotted in the seats of the DakotaDome and the Sanford Coyote Sports Center cheering on the football and basketball teams.

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