CEDAR FALLS – “You can do it.” “Smile.” “Be a leader.”
These are some of the words and advice that inspired Catherine Mayfield to embark on a solo business adventure three years ago and to keep going when it got tough.
EventConnect, an event-planning business, will mark its third anniversary Monday, and to celebrate Mayfield decided to return these messages back to the Cedar Valley as “kindness rocks.”
Mayfield and her intern, Alex Potzner, spent a good portion of the last month washing, painting and writing encouraging words and sayings on more than 1,095 stones — one for each day she has been in business. Last week, the two placed the stones all over the Cedar Valley.
The project has been a secret, and will be announced on social media Monday, the anniversary date for EventConnect.
“As a business owner you have to kind of tell yourself those things. You have to learn how to tell yourself, ‘Don’t give up. Keep going. Believe in your dreams.’ The rocks are meant to empower the receiver.
“It’s been great. It’s been challenging. Doing the rock project kind of showed how many days it’s been, and it was just very sentimental for me.”
Each rock also contains a hashtag for the unsuspecting finders to put on social media, #spreadkindnesscv. The idea is to show how small acts of thoughtfulness add up to make a big difference.
“It’s just fun, and it’s a scavenger hunt. I think it’s fun finding something meant for you that you weren’t looking for,” she said.
Mayfield, a Cedar Falls native and 2009 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, said owning her own business has always been a dream of hers.
“Growing up, I was always starting my own entrepreneurship adventures like a cleaning business or a neighborhood newspaper. I event tried to host a neighborhood Olympics in elementary,” she said.
Since receiving a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, Mayfield has worked in marketing and event planning at several companies in the Cedar Valley. She said event planning was always a “dream job” for her.
The event-planning business fits her personality well. With a think-outside-the-box mentality, a curious attention to detail and a bubbly personality, Mayfield, now 33, is living her dream.
EventConnect has helped with corporate events and weddings, sometimes up to five events in a month.
“It’s awesome and I love it, but it’s really hard. I definitely feel like a changed person,” she said. And in regard to spending hours driving around town and placing rocks anywhere she can, “This is just so me, and unconventional. “
Mayfield, who uses the community space at Mill Race in downtown Cedar Falls for meetings, runs her business mainly from her home.
She enjoys seeing the result after each project is complete.
“My favorite part is just to stand back and take in the atmosphere for a second, and see people laughing, being happy, drinking and eating.”
Last year, she hosted a New Year’s Eve Moonlight Gala at the Rotary Reserve in Cedar Falls, where she transformed the space into a dramatic atmosphere with drapery, candles and thousands of lights.
“People who had been there before said they didn’t even recognize it,” she said.
And last year she was hired to put on a dinner in a workspace at Terex, the Waverly crane manufacturer. She used industrial elements for decorations, including metal material from the cranes, nuts and bolts from the shop were put in vases and a wild wire candelabra to really set the stage.
For Potzner, a senior marketing major at UNI from Earlham, the internship with EventConnect also is a “dream job.”
“She’s giving me a lot of freedom ... working with clients ... create PowerPoints, create presentations and Pinterest, it’s awesome. It’s really good experience for me,” Potzner said, who wants to own her own wedding venue.
“I think the rock project is really creative. It really makes a difference to people,” she said.
Mayfield hopes her personalized pebbles will help people to also follow their dreams and not give up.
“I never just go with the easiest answer, a lot of times I go with the hardest, so it’s more work physically, but it’s going to make it better.”