Animation and entertainment pioneer Walt Disney has been a creative inspiration for millions. One of his famous quotes states, “If you can dream it, you can do it. Remember this all started with a mouse and a dream.”
Kalye Beets honed in on Walt’s creative vision as a young girl, doodling and drawing Disney characters. That passion for Disney’s creativity morphed into a love of design. The TLC program “Trading Spaces” was one of her favorite childhood shows, inspiring her to rearrange the furniture in her parents’ home. Today, she is the Creative Director of Michaelis Events, a full-service, family-owned catering and event company that produces weddings, galas, parties and their own branded Christmas extravaganza. Working closely with her mother, Denise Jerome, and sister, Lauren Brown, Kalye’s creative vision has taken her on many adventures throughout the country and right here in town. Meet this week’s FACE of Louisville, Kalye Beets.
How did your artistic adventure begin?
I took a lot of art classes in middle school and high school, anything I could. My parents signed me up for private classes with one of the artists who did the murals in South Oldham High School, Natalie Westbrook, and she’s fantastic. I started the cartooning with her, then we went on to doing architectural drawings and renderings. That’s where it really hit home that’s what I wanted to do. I began attending Sullivan College in my senior year of high school and finished with an associate’s degree in interior design and interior architecture.
Your obsession with the show “Trading Spaces” gave you inspiration to start redesigning your parents’ home when you were fairly young. What was their reaction?
My mother really didn’t like it. I was always telling her what she needed to redo in our house. At the time, everything was hunter green, and we had these silk plants on top of the cabinets. I was always the one telling her what was ugly, what needed to be switched. She loves it now, but back then, having a little fifth grader tell her mother that her design style wasn’t so great, wasn’t very appreciated!
After college, what was your next step in the world of design?
I worked for Schmitt Furniture in New Albany, IN. I did a lot of their visual merchandising, which included setting up their products for better display for the customers. Instead of just setting up a sofa, I’d set up a whole living room scene. I really loved doing that. Because of my work at the store, I had a lot of clients who’d come in asking for an interior designer. About a year into working at Schmitt’s, I opened my own interior design company. I did a lot of house calls and consulting. I decided to transition and began working for Z Gallerie. That store’s style fit better with my design style. I was a visual merchandiser there, as well as a sales manager. I then continued on to become a district manager for the store in Louisville, as well as in Louisiana, Texas and Indiana.
What type of design clientele did you work with?
I worked with a lot of high-end clients. They wanted me to work in their homes, their offices and even their vacation homes. That took me to places like Texas, Florida and Colorado.
How has your family influenced your career choices?
When I was 11 years old, my parents opened EuroMarket, a wine and spirits café that also did catering, and that’s when I was introduced to the event world. At 13, I was able to see, behind the scenes, what it took to put on an event. EuroMarket eventually became The Catering Company, and just this year it was rebranded to Michaelis Events. After leaving Z Gallerie, I wanted to stay closer to home, so I reached out to my mom and sister. We had always talked about expanding the catering to a full event spectrum. I wasn’t sure, because interior design and event design are two different things, but now I have a huge passion for planning events.
What are some local events that you’ve produced?
We did the Heart Ball in 2017. We worked with the Marriott Hotel downtown and decorated for the Derby. We decorated that hotel with 4,000 roses. We were there from 4 a.m. until late at night, constantly refreshing flowers.
What is your signature style when it comes to creating an event?
A lot of it is figuring out how to transform a space without going overboard or making it cheesy. I feel like people get stuck on a theme, and then it becomes fake. For me, if I want to do a theme, it’s going to make you feel like you’re in that world and it’s a realistic experience. I like to be authentic.
What is it like working so close with family?
We complement each other. We always joke that I’m the Walt Disney and my sister and my mother are the Roy Disney. I think that’s appropriate, because when you have a creative person, you need two people to keep that person grounded.
What is it about Walt Disney that gives you such inspiration?
I have been a huge fan ever since I was in elementary school. I appreciate the lack of fear and having so much confidence in your vision — that no matter how many times you fail, you still believe in that vision. I see a lot of similarities between me and Walt. He was all about doing so much more than creating a theme park or a cartoon. There were also projects that affected the community, and he was always forward-thinking.
Michaelis has created its own signature event. Tell us about it.
It’s an event we’ve called ‘A Wizards’ Christmas Extravaganza.’ It’s a Northern American wizarding experience held in Frankfort, KY. It’s like a Disney or Universal experience. There are animatronics and actors. We cater the food and have a banquet hall, and we style the bar. There are shops where you can buy wands and other wizarding items. It’s completely immersive. It’s a Christmas event held at the Lancaster at the St. Clair, an old church that we lease.
What do you do for relaxation?
My family and I like to go to the movies. We like action movies. I get a lot of inspiration from going to the movies.
How does your immediate family support you?
My husband, John, is my rock. He’s a very blunt person, which I love. He’s great with balancing the home life and kids, work and supporting me. He’s my backbone. My 8-year-old, Ethan, is always helping me with ideas for our signature events. I always try to involve my kids in the design and make them feel as if they have a piece in it. I also use my nephew’s ideas for new creatures or other aspects of the wizarding event.
Do you have any advice?
It’s important to surround yourself with people who aren’t always going to agree with you. It’s the hardest thing to listen to criticism, but at the end of the day, it’s been the best thing to bring in people who help me grow, and the company as well.
Besides faith, family and friends, what is important to you?
I’m a huge lover of animals — I will rescue anything on the side of the road. It’s also important to me to support children who are going through difficult medical issues, and working with people who have had difficult childhoods or family life.
Thank you, Kalye! To learn more about Kalye’s work with Michaelis Events, visit mymestory.com.
And thank you to Gretchen Bell of Gretchen Bell Photography for the beautiful photos of Kalye.
To read about more inspiring women of Louisville, click here!