Laura Potts has been planning events for 14 years, the past nine of which were in her own firm Sugar Event + Design. Along with the tide of COVID changes, Potts dove into the creativity by home delivering themed b’nai mitzvah boxes.
She recalled, “We began moving and postponing events on March 13. By April 1, we had successfully moved all events through June to dates further into 2020 and 2021. Little did we know that all of our events from then on would be further postponed, downsized or cancelled altogether.
“The concept of Zoom bar and bat mitzvah services was a hard one for many of my clients to wrap their heads and hearts around. How would they be able to connect with grandparents, cousins, college and camp friends across the country and around the world?”
Potts pitched the concept of sending guests that were only able to attend via Zoom a box of items they would have given in welcome bags or as favors to the guests along with items they had already ordered and produced, kippot, programs, branded boxes and items with logos. Some even included fresh-baked challot or monogrammed sweatpants for staying home.
Potts strove to connect and use vendors that were in her local small business circle. Nancy Joffre from Celebration Concierge and Suzanne Simkin from Imprint Theory assisted with branding. Yummy Delicious Cookies produced sweets that matched the theme and logo for each box. Poppa Corn’s provided custom flavored popcorn in bags topped with personalized logos.
Potts continued, “Boxes reached the guests amidst the joy of receiving something unexpected, coupled with the note from the child, promoted text messages and phone calls that helped the family get excited for the coming week and the service that would be shared virtually.”
The boxes range in cost from $12 to $60 depending on the size and contents. Shipping ranges from $8 to $42 and up for some of the international packages.
Here are some of the mitzvah celebrants and their boxes:
Parents Libby and Jeff Pollock
Laura’s theme was “This Girl is on Fire.” Each box included a candle, matches, Havdalah spices, kippot, gumballs, cookies, face masks, pom poms and the bat mitzvah program. The family was allowed 10 in-person guests at Temple Emanu-El. As the first family to leverage Zoom for a mitzvah there, they set up a big screen so Laura could see all of her guests. Then the same 10 guests came to the Pollock’s house afterwards for a backyard, socially distant celebration. Mom Libby said, “This was not anywhere near the celebration we had originally planned for May, but she [Potts] worked really hard to make it a wonderful and special celebration. We sent the packages to everyone on the original guest list.”
Parents Deb and Josh Perlstein
Levi’s theme was “Game On.” The Perlsteins reached out to Potts because, in “normal” times, they recalled she had done a great job with their daughter’s bat mitzvah. Levi’s party was originally scheduled for the Concourse Athletic Club basketball court. The revised version was 10 family members in October at Temple Emanu-El with 150-plus Zoomers.
A week in advance, 25 “Potts designed” boxes were delivered and another 20 were shipped. Mom Deb emoted, “We are University of Texas Longhorn fans and wanted to tie into bold orange. The box was a fun assortment of Big League Chew Bubble Gum, an orange foam number one finger, cotton candy and cookies. Kippahs and prayers importantly included.”
Parents Binay and Jonathan Curtis
Binay Curtis in Marin County, Calif., was impressed that her friend got a beautiful box all the way from Georgia. She said, “We needed a quick turnaround and we tracked down Laura Potts to whip up 100 boxes with a sports theme. Curtis’ dad is a New York Yankee’s fan, and they used a similar logo and sports theme throughout. Devin’s box scored as “Game ON!” and included stadium popcorn, chocolate baseballs, a postcard greeting, kippot, and fan finger number one.
The original bar mitzvah was scheduled for a b’nai mitzvah Israel trip with his first cousin and immediate family before the switch to the Zoom home version.