Prior to starting her own business, Red Carpet Events, founder Christy Bareijsza began her career as a meeting planner, transitioning through a number of financial companies for more senior opportunities. While steadily climbing the corporate ladder, she continued to educate herself in industry practices through traditional educational methods and well-respected mentors to eventually head the North American Conference and Special Event Department for an internationally recognized corporation. What began as a part-time journey in entrepreneurship turned a couple of years later into a very successful event planning business. We took a look behind the scenes and asked Christy how it was for her to build a business from scratch.
Christy, you started out doing your own events in part-time. How long did you handle it like this and when did you decide to focus completely on your own adventure as a business owner?
In 2001, I was attending a wedding in Anguilla and while enjoying the beach (and a few rum punches) I had the notion to start my own company. Although I had achieved a successful position in a Fortune 500 company, I had begun to do a lot of planning favors and came to the realization that my time and expertise had a value and should not be given away for free. Understanding that I still had a great deal to learn, I began to take on clients on a part-time basis. By 2005, I was managing both a full-time job that required long hours with travel, in addition to a decent client base. At that moment I realized I was much happier to be in a position where I could make my own decisions and have more control over my future, versus dealing with the internal politics that come with a larger company. I had finally reached my limit in December 2005 and abruptly quit my corporate job, giving myself no other choice than to take on my company full time.
What gave you the confidence that this will work out and how long did it take until your business became 100 % profitable for you?
I have always been a confident person in my profession, but I consider the transition to be an entrepreneur more of a blind leap of faith. Being a child of an entrepreneur, I was raised with the school of thought that if you work hard and think strategically, your business will flourish. Because I was able to diversify my income with social and corporate events in conjunction with the consistent revenue of representing a venue, I was fortunate to be profitable within the first year in addition to expanding my contact base and extended reputation as a planner through the venue’s clientele.
You said once in an interview: „Surviving in a “frivolous” industry during a recession became far more difficult than the pressure of producing the event itself.“ What do you mean by that?
I had made the transition to go full time with my event planning company in December of 2005. From December 2007 to June 2009, the United States experienced an economic crisis that impacted almost every professional industry. Post-crisis, individuals had been so traumatized by the initial impact of the recession, there was a ripple effect that lasted an additional two years forcing clients to be extremely apprehensive to plan any type of celebratory event. This state of the economy forced me to become more aggressive in conjunction to creative with sourcing new clients in industries that were flourishing in this time of crisis, like liquor and tobacco.
What was your main focus for building your business in your beginnings and on what are you focussing now to be seen and heard in the industry?
My original focus in building Events By Red Carpet was to grow my client list in a consistent manner while maintaining profitability. My current focus is to source projects that have both a creative and inspiring impact, supported by an enjoyable team of partners.
Nowadays you run multiple offices in New York City, Miami, San Francisco, Napa Valley and Los Angeles. What are the differences in how events get celebrated in each city? Do they have a specific style?
Each location we represent in the United States offer a completely different style and clientele. Being from NYC, I inherently have a preference for this city, as the fast-paced decision making and elevated expectations are second nature. Attendees in NYC will always arrive on time and most events will have either an educational or philanthropic focus, whereas Miami and LA are the complete opposite. Los Angeles attendees have the highest rate of late arrivals and no- shows (blaming traffic) despite having the largest request for experiential creativity and celebrity-driven impact. Furthermore, I consider Miami to have an even more carefree, almost purposeless experience filled with bacchanal activities. San Francisco is like no other city, as they have the laid back Californian mindset, but the expectations of an East Coast corporation with a heightened focus on food and wine. I feel very fortunate to have been able to produce events all over the globe, which my cultural experiences with the individuals I have encountered far exceed the fond memories of the event production.
Which events are your favorites to plan?
My absolute favorite events to plan are ones that are able to touch all five senses, ultimately creating everlasting memories that eventually become a generational tale.
We read about you, that your motivation is driven by not giving yourself a choice to do anything but focus on success. That sounds pretty easy, but how exactly are you handling difficult times and still look towards success, when things are not easy?
One of my biggest issues facing today is social media. Being from a generation that was not raised on documenting every aspect of your life, with the intention of wealth exaggeration, I find it very disappointing to see motivation being driven by materialistic achievements. Being an entrepreneur is one of the most challenging decisions one will ever make. No matter how many years you are in business, it will never be an easy ride, as your goals and expectations will continually increase as time passes. I have experienced a number of years that have been disappointing in sales, filled with excessively difficult clients, financial snowballs due to contract cancellations and waiting for what seems like an eternity for new projects. Despite all of the challenges, there is something deep down inside that reminds you to not give up. Every day can be a new opportunity for the life-changing project you have been dreaming about. Often during these times, staying positive is much easier said than done, but it is truly the key to entrepreneurial sustainability.
If you could choose to plan an event with no limits, what kind of event would it be and with whom would you love to collaborate with?
If I could choose to plan an event with no limits, it would be an intimate seaside concert with a Grammy Award Winning performer on the private French Polynesian island of Tetiaroa, at The Brando, a luxury resort once owned by Marlon Brando himself. Because I have been fortunate to make many of my production dreams a reality, my focus would be on the exquisite and custom event details in order to create a breathtaking experience, especially for the carefully chosen guest list.
It can get really hectic during an event, especially when you ́re the one who is organizing it. What is your golden rule to avoid chaos and what is your biggest fear?
I absolutely hate surprises, including the personal ones in celebration. Therefore, I have one golden rule for planning events, which is to have a detailed and effectively written production schedule. A production schedule is the skeleton to any event and can mitigate most issues in advance as well as create accountability and a team mentality with the multiple vendors and partners associated with the project.
Can you tell us about a situation at an event, where something got miserably wrong and you would ́ve wished to just disappear?
Fortunately, I have created a series of procedures for each event to protect and mitigate any potential issues that may occur pre, post or onsite. A situation I was not expecting was when my client of four years partnered with a marketing company and proceeded to share our proprietary concepts, budgets, supporting event and vendor documentation with the marketer in order for them to take over our project, without notice or dissatisfaction over our previous work. Unfortunately, the state and federal laws protect the larger companies, as a simple change in decor or document adjustment eliminates the ability to claim the original concept and strategy as our own. Furthermore, the fees for fighting the injustice legally could potentially cost more than the profits from the client itself, which the larger corporations are aware of. Therefore, I have no other choice but to wish it never happened and to let karma take her course.