THE BLOG
12/11/2014 09:10 am ET Updated Feb 10, 2015

Women in Business Q&A: Andrea Correale, Founder and President of Elegant Affairs

Growing up on Long Island, Andrea Correale loved to play waitress. Although her family was of modest means, holidays and family dinners were always elaborate affairs made special by personal touches and creative decorating ideas her mother brought to the table. Andrea loved helping her mom make each occasion unique and realized that making a beautiful dinner or a fabulous party had more to do with ideas and creativity than money.

Andrea took her love of entertaining and entrepreneurial spirit outside her home at 16 by working as a server and hostess at a large Long Island catering facility. While she was busy waiting tables, her mind was absorbing all the elements of what it took to put together big parties, weddings, proms and Bar Mitzvahs. In just a year, she was promoted to organizing entire events. Despite going on to a college degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, it was during those high school years that her real education in the business of event planning and catering took place.

It was at the high school job where Andrea's friend asked her to help out at a private catered affair in the Gold Coast of Old Westbury. The opulence of the house floored her. The staff, the chef, the food and the décor were all the best of the best. She then decided to start her first business called Rent-a-Waitress geared to serving private parties. Andrea advertised locally and by the end of college, she already had a staff of 25 working for her.

Andrea wanted more than just servicing the front of the house, she wanted to take on responsibility for the entire event and Elegant Affairs was born and quickly grew with a home base in Glen Cove. Before long, Andrea business acumen and keen sense of style put her company on the map. They started catering wedding and gala events from the Hamptons, to New York City.

Elegant Affairs has now been in business for over a decade serving delicious meals to some of the world's most discriminating palates. With clients like L.A. Reid, Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon, Brooke Shields, Kim Raver, Billy Joel, Russell Simmons, Hillary Clinton, Ivana Trump, Gucci, Versace, HBO and American Express, Andrea has worked with budgets big and small to plan fetes ranging from million dollar weddings to intimate dinner parties for fifteen. Elegant Affairs has been featured on VH1's The Fabulous Life, Real Housewives of New York City, Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker, Fox & Friends, Good Day New York and Martha Stewart Living Radio. Additionally, Andrea writes contributing articles for Elements Magazine and is the entertainment expert on Celebrations.com.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing my company was no easy feat. I did it alone with no financial support from others. Along the way many difficult obstacles and challenges entered my path. Although I felt fear when they were upon me , I buckled down going through the fear ,not running from it , which in turn resulted in triumph and personal growth.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at the helm of Elegant Affairs Caterers?
As a kid , starting at the age of 15 years old I threw myself in this industry. I worked all positions well preparing me for what I was about to do on my own. Waitress, Bridal Hostess, Bartender, Banquet Captain, chefs assistant ... you name it I did it! Its in the trenches learning all parts of your trade where you gain the power. Knowledge is power!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Elegant Affairs Caterers?
The greatest challenge for the first 10 or 12 years was gaining consistency in sales in order to build a proper infrastructure . When you start your own business in the beginning you are wearing all the hats, thus wearing yourself thin. Its not until you reach a certain sales level and keep it consistently you can hire management and create a structure. Highlights, Catering the tall ships festival in the New York area for thousands of people. Doing events and working with celebrities like Kevin Kostner, Jimmy Fallon, P Diddy, Kevin Spacey etc.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Like having a child, be prepared to give up a big part of yourself. Have a business plan before you begin. Check out the market thoroughly before you jump in and know ahead of time what your niche will be.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Don't micro manage everything . Don't try to do everything on your own. A true leader is at the helm with a master plan and delegates well.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
You have to learn to say no . For many years I had no balance in my life. Everything was work and it had consequences. A happy entrepreneur is a more successful entrepreneur, so make sure you make time for friends and family.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
If you are young , it is hands down to be taken seriously. I battled this for years and lost jobs to a more seasoned "man" ... just because. It's important to exude confidence and be passionate when you are bidding for an account. Those two qualities are very powerful and if exuded properly will be your best friend.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship is important. Asking the advice from seasoned business professionals when needed is a smart way to move forward when you need to make a decision. You don't know it all so don't pretend you do. When you aren't sure of your best next move be smart and reach out for advice.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Oprah is still my all time favorite. She is self made and powerful . Yet at the same time she allows her humanness and open heart to be seen. That is impressive!

What do you want Elegant Affairs Caterers to accomplish in the next year?
My Goal is to increase current business by 20 percent. Look to purchase an onsite catering venue of my own, and pursue my relationship with Lenox china and other outlets as their entertaining expert.