By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – When Denise Kennedy-Brown was just a teenager, she knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.
At age 15, she took a job at All Animal Hospital in Tupelo as a kennel worker, assistant, receptionist – whatever needed to be done.
“It was a good foundation, because I was going to be a veterinarian,” said Kennedy-Brown, 40. “That’s all I wanted to be. That was the goal.”
After graduating from Tupelo High in 1992, she went on to Mississippi State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science. She put in her application for vet school and was about to realize her dream when her husband got a terrific job offer in Jackson.
“So I gave it up and followed him,” she said.
When she got to Jackson, she put in her application at several veterinary clinics, but no one was hiring. So she turned to something familiar.
“While I was a student at MSU, I worked in the floral department at a grocery store. I liked it and I was good at it,” she said. “In Jackson, there was this very posh floral store looking for a designer and I got the job. It was there that I was exposed to weddings, parties and home holiday decorating.”
It wasn’t a stretch for Kennedy-Brown to be working as a party planner.
“I planned everything about my own wedding,” she said. “I did the flowers, the decorating, the hospitality gifts – it was all my vision. I did everything but the food. I was always Miss Organizer. I was the go-to person for things like that. For me, multi-tasking was a breeze.”
She eventually got a job at a vet clinic in Jackson and resigned herself to the fact that she was never going to become a veterinarian. So she did the next best thing – she became a certified veterinary technician.
In 2002, Kennedy-Brown and her husband, Jason, got the opportunity to move home to Tupelo. She went back to work at All Animal for a bit and then landed a job at Tupelo Small Animal Hospital that fall.
“I loved working there and eventually became the hospital manager, but I always wanted more,” said Kennedy-Brown, who has nine four-legged children – three dogs and six cats. “In 2013, I decided I was ready for something different. I told the clinic it was time for a change.”
That change became Special Occasions by Denise Kennedy-Brown.
“I call myself an event coordinator and wedding planner,” she said. “For a wedding, I can do invitations and wedding favors, rent the event space, order the flowers, hire the caterer, reserve the church, arrange for music and hire the photographer,” she said. “Or I can step in on the day of the wedding and execute the event so the bride can let go at the end.”
In addition to weddings, Kennedy-Brown coordinates parties, showers, ribbon-cuttings, grand-openings, conventions and even gender-reveal parties.
“If it’s an occasion, I can make something of it,” she said. “And I try to make it fun. At the end of the day – the end of the job – it’s all about making smiles and knowing I did that.”