When Jovanna Laurencin volunteered to help plan her prom at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School, little did she know that this high school rite of passage would one day lead her to start her own organizing business. of events.
“It was really fun and interesting to come up with ideas, learn how to budget, and consider what the 12th grader wanted,” she said. “It was a really fun event and everyone was so happy about it.”
After graduating from high school in 2014, Laurencin began studying for her bachelor’s degree at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which she described as a culture and climate shock. After realizing that her initial focus on psychology wasn’t for her, Laurencin moved on to major in hotel management. She joined the Center for Student Activities and Leadership Development at Marywood and was selected as Resident Assistant. Both of these opportunities have only fueled her love of working with others to plan events.
“Marywood was a predominantly white university, so when Black History Month rolled around, I hosted a whole forum on some of the hot topics in the United States at the time,” Laurencin said. “Police shooting was happening and people were in disarray. The students asked excellent questions and the forum went very well. He was very well received. »
Another event planned by Laurencin during his time at Marywood, a Catholic university, had a decidedly less serious purpose.
“Sometimes I have these crazy ideas and decided I wanted to put on a drag show at this Catholic university,” Laurencin said. “We submitted our proposals and the nuns accepted. Drew ‘Bev’ Gaver performed with a friend and a few students competed to win the title of best drag queen. It was a great success.
As she neared the end of her college career, Laurencin began asking to shadow St. John’s wedding planners during her summer and vacation breaks. Committing to a field she had come to love on the island where she was born and raised sparked a revival.
“When I left for college, I always thought I would go live somewhere else,” she said. “Observing wedding planners on the island helped me realize not only my love for weddings and events, but also for weddings and events in St. Johns.”
After a short post-college stint in Atlanta in the wedding industry and in an assisted living facility, Laurencin decided in 2019 it was time to come home. She earned a wedding planning certification from the Bridal Society and found that St. John’s event planners were happy to have her on board. Finally, in 2021, the young event organizer is ready to take the plunge and found her own company. That’s when life threw a big scary hurdle at him.
“Right after making the decision, my dad was diagnosed with cancer,” Laurencin said. “If you know me, you know I’ve always been with [my dad] Rock. Growing up, I was always under his wing. His absence for treatment took me back to when the hurricanes hit and I was in school, and I couldn’t communicate with my family and friends for months. The fact that he was sick just reminded me of a time when I was so helpless.
Laurencin thankfully reported that his father was in remission and his business, JJ Weddings & Events, had found its place. She plans to continue planning events in the Virgin Islands and also hopes to travel to offer her services.
Paradise Planning owner Michelle Cawthron, who worked on weddings with Laurencin, sang the young planner’s praises.
“She’s very nice to customers and very, very pleasant,” Cawthron said. “Everything she does is truly a benefit to those she’s involved with.”
Laurencin plans to stay rooted in the Virgin Islands community by planning community events and helping other young entrepreneurs start their own businesses. She hopes to encourage her peers to create their own opportunities.
“Look at what our ancestors created for us here,” she says. “St. John is really developed from what it was years ago, and that’s because they stayed here and invested in the house, and that’s what we have to make. Show off, network, network, let everyone see what you can do. Surprise them.
At 26, Laurencin has a clear vision of how other young island virgins can thrive in their home communities.
“I hear all the time that our house is being taken over, that we let people come and do whatever they want, but if we hadn’t allowed that to happen, it wouldn’t have happened,” she said. “If you continue to leave, who comes to receive? If we don’t receive what is ours, it will be lost.