Working in events requires the ultimate mixed bag of skills and talents. Any producer or stylist would tell you it ain’t all pretty flower arrangements, leisurely hand lettering and candle scent decisions: it’s an industry that requires a rare blend of right and left-brain to make ‘pretty’ possible.
Of course there’s plenty of room for the wonderful and whimsical, but never without considering the logistical. After all, what’s the point of sourcing the country’s largest vintage mirror if you can’t get it on a truck or through a door? Or adorning a tipi with only the twinkliest of fairy lights, but they happen to blow the AV?
In short, you can always assume there’s a high level of behind-the-scenes thought (and blood and sweat tears) involved to ensure things look like seamless magic on the front end. Just ask Tassie based duo, Gabbi and Joe Murrell, co-founders of Event Avenue, a couple who have found their perfect business (and life) partner match. Joe, a former airport fire station manager and Gabbi, an event hire whiz kid (with a psychology degree) combined their love of the creative with their organisational know-how to build a thriving Tasmanian business. And the payoff is much more than the pay check.
“When we did our first large scale complete setup, including a full drape-out of a room, it was a dream come true to see what was in my head come to fruition,” Gabbi tells us. “The bride arrived on their wedding eve, and burst into tears of joy (and we all started crying!). On the night, the guests one by one, literally gasped when we opened the doors and did not want to leave at the end of the night. That was when I knew we had created something really special and I just wanted to do more of it.”
We asked Gabbi what it really takes to pull together a polished affair and how working from the Apple Isle takes a little more creativity than us mainland folk.
1. Doing things a little differently always pays off.
If you’ve got a great idea, it’s probably made better by the fact that you’re the only one around that’s doing it.
“In the Tasmanian market at the time, styling a wedding or corporate event was largely either a DIY job (sourcing everything you could yourself) or just about hiring the basics – tables, chairs, white linen and the occasional AV requirement. Investing money into transforming a space with other elements was not very common – only ever at major scale events where they’d hire from mainland companies.” That’s where Event Avenue stepped in.
2. First impressions count (but you have to be in it for the long haul).
Like any new business, Event Avenue had to figure out how to get new clients on board and it took time – even now, the company still has to continue growing in the same way the market does.
“Gaining our brand and reputation – getting people to know who we were, that we could do what we said we were going to do, and that our styling was worth spending money on.
Building the trust with clientele that they could have something incredible with our services took time.”
But the work doesn’t stop once they’ve got clients in the bag.
“While our reputation today is far more established than it was in 2011, it is an ongoing process,” Gabbi says. “Our products evolve, our competition changes, and our point-of-difference has to stay fresh. Each client brings a new opportunity to grow our brand. In many ways, we are only as good as our last event.”
3. Research works wonders when it comes to pricing your product.
Don’t know how much you should charge for something?
“I am a strong believer that you need to charge what you are worth, but this can often be hard to determine from a creative perspective. There are many brands who start out by undercutting everyone just to get the work, but having already had previous business experience I knew this is not a viable model of continued success.”
Instead of pulling a number from nowhere, the pair did some financial groundwork.
“We did some research on mainland and overseas costings and found it was a lot harder for clients to accept these costs here in our market. We had to find a middle ground and get some runs on the board first, then the quality of the work spoke for itself and people experienced the impact of investing in events expertise.”
4. Developing a good client relationship requires three key elements.
According to Gabbi, you’ll need these key things:
* Honesty. “This needs to be in place internally in the business, as well as in every interaction with clients. There are plenty of factors that people can hide behind when it comes to a creative product, but keeping your conscience and product honest means a strong reputation in the long run.”
* A positive attitude. “There’s no need to be negative – about anything, especially when dealing with your clientele. Focus on the positives and the solutions.”
* Reliability. “Deliver what you promise. Absolutely aim to surpass expectations but if you meet them at the least, it’ll make it easy for them to come back to you next time.”
5. Know what you’re good at – but keep trying to get out of your comfort zone.
You’ll be tempted to stick to what is tried and tested but what will set you apart is being able to evolve and pivot your product and offerings when you can.
“It can be challenging to bring new ideas into a job when a client is set on and excited about having exactly the same styling as another event they’ve seen. Even though it is a huge compliment that someone would want to replicate a styling project we’ve done before, it is just as much of an honour for someone to trust us with a brand new design. We endeavour give every job its own unique look and character through a range of elements.”
When your bread and butter is pushing the envelope, you’ve got to stay true to that.
“Our true strength lies in being able to work in the same venue and do a traditional classic wedding one day, rustic bohemian the next day and then create a Mexican-themed corporate event the following week.”