Joanne Cruz, Creative Twist Events {Our #NJMOMpreneur of the Week}

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Our NJMOMPreneur of the week Joanne Cruz has always loved creating unique celebrations—and that was the brainchild for Creative Twist Events, her event planning boutique in Metuchen. She loves coming up with imaginative themes for birthdays, weddings and special life moments that make her clients happy. But then COVID-19 happened, and she had to quickly transition from putting on events to becoming virtual. Now, she’s still making people feel special and celebrated, with balloon door decor and maker kits for kids that bring smiles to this bleak time. We sat down with her to talk about how she changed her business model in a matter of days, how birthdays are no less festive now and the genius DIY box idea to keep your kids occupied while we’re all indoors.

featured image via Maria Manjelo

Joanne Cruz is the face behind Creative Twist Events via Maria Manjelo

Can you tell me about your business—what inspired you to create it and your background in doing it?
I have always loved to host. Every party, no matter whether it was mine or a friend’s, would become super elaborate if I was involved. I would spend days hand-making invitations, researching the perfect games and poring over details. A friend reached out to me to start a side business, and even though I work in the city full time (I’m the business manager for the Atelier Cologne at Bloomingdales Soho) I wanted something more creative. We both love hosting parties and wanted to do events that involved hands-on experiences where everyone would learn while having fun. We opened Creative Twist Events in 2016 and hosted different themed events at local venues to highlight our events. Two years later, I went out on my own and found a permanent location in Metuchen near the train station. I share the space with Chef John Manzo that owns Be My Guest Personal Chef—we do a lot of events together like cooking classes and parties but still have our own spaces in the building.

Times like this define you and make you stronger. As a business owner, big or small, this is the time that you have to pivot quickly and try everything and anything without missing the core values of your company. “

Joanne with her loving husband and 13-year-old son.

Where do you live in NJ and what do you like about living there? Tell me about your family as well.
My husband, son and I moved to Metuchen 13 years ago. We lived in upstate New York and our friend suggested we look into Metuchen because it was an easy commute to the city and we both worked in the city at the time. We loved the town from the first time we came. With a small child (at that time 7 months) and no family near, we thought we were going to be lonely but the sense of community here is something I’ve never experienced before—from neighbors to all the volunteers in the downtown events, to our clients and our circle of friends that we consider our family. Our son is now in 7th grade and goes to school right across our home. I walk to the train station, to Creative Twist and anywhere I need to go, I don’t even drive LOL.

Joanne in her element, conducting a class at Creative Twist Events.

How are you adapting Creative Twist events during the COVID-19 crisis? 
Creative Twist is all about the experience but with everyone at home 24/7, I quickly had to think of how to bring the experience to them. It’s been extremely challenging because I just opened our brick and mortar a year ago and are finally seeing all the hard work and late nights pay off—I had to change our whole business model in a few days. Times like this define you and make you stronger. As a business owner, big or small, this is the time that you have to pivot quickly and try everything and anything without missing the core values of your company.
I started offering our clients themed craft boxes to do at home. My focus is to create something that isn’t just a craft, it’s a themed experience with several crafts and surprises of hand-picked items that I find and make for our clients. We make a limited amount of each theme to guarantee the quality and have been extremely careful about how we handle all items during this time. We use gloves and all necessary gear to make sure there is no contamination. We will be shipping in the tri-state area and have them available online.

Joanne and her son having artsy fun at Metuchen Art Fest.

Any tips for helping moms deal with kids at home and what to do to beat boredom?

One of our clients had an amazing idea of creating “themed days” one or two days a week. The kids do crafts related to the theme (she used our boxes for this), the food they eat is related to the theme and they end the day watching a movie related to them, for example, Harry Potter but you can adjust this for any age or interest.

Everybody is obsessed with our paleontologist boxes. That one is almost impossible to ship because it is so delicate but I’ll tell you how to make it at home: All you need is a bowl, a strong cardboard box or plastic square container, cornstarch, water, and whatever stones or items you want to dig. Mix the cornstarch in your bowl with water and you’ll create a thick paste. Place your items in your box or plastic container (could be dinosaurs, gems, rocks, necklaces, really anything!) and pour the cornstarch mix on top covering all the hidden items. Leave to dry for 24-48 hours and dig with a little toothpick or lollipop stick when is fully dried. The craft is messy but hours of fun.

During the quarantine, we don’t want to play down celebrations—what can we do to help kids celebrate a birthday without their friends and other family members? How can you still make it super special?
I like to think that even though the parties are canceled, the celebration isn’t. Birthday mornings have always been a big deal, and this is the time to make them bigger. Maybe it’s baking a cake and decorating together, a scavenger hunt to find the birthday gift, FaceTime the family members that are not with you to sing happy birthday together, anything that will involve the whole family. Right now, locally we’re doing a “Pimp My Porch” no contact balloon garlands for special occasions and can drop off a balloon garland for your indoor decorating too. I’m also launching our virtual birthdays very soon, so stay tuned for that.

The festive exterior of Creative Twist Events’ location in Metuchen.

What inspires you daily?
Community and its power—I would have not been able to run my business without my family and the community around me. I love seeing the joy in the eyes of the kids and their families’ faces when they arrive at their birthday party. I also feel inspired by the appreciation of all the hard work and long hours I put into creating these experiences. I love that feeling of satisfaction when an event is finished, and everything went smoothly—that feeling keeps me going.
For more about Creative Twist Events and what they’re doing now, follow them on Instagram.


 
 
     

About Author

Athena is a former nursery school teacher turned marketing wizard at NJMOM, who lives for fashion and globetrotting. As an aunt to 9 little humans, she loves finding cool new activities to do together that will keep everyone smiling. On any given weekend day, you can find Athena eating all the Greek food at her fave local NJ restaurant, Local Greek, in Princeton. Which, not so ironically, is owned by her big fat Greek family.

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