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Keeping a firm grip on events

Claire Kivedo finds her inner entrepreneur after stint in corporate sector

Her entrepreneurial journey started by selling popcorn from her backyard, but after nearly 10 years as the owner of Overall Events, Claire Kivedo has learned first-hand that overnight success takes time, consistent work and piles of patience.
Can you give me some background on yourself and how and when the business was started?
I think I was a born entrepreneur.
I was selling popcorn and bompies and muffins in my school years.
I liked being independent and buying my own things.
Growing up, I was a very shy person and I thought about what I could do to break out of my shell.
I thought about studying medicine, but when I thought about where I would be in 10 years’ time, I couldn’t see myself wearing any kind of uniform.
I came upon public relations and it was a perfect fit for me.
I started working and gained experience organising events within the corporate field.
Then the walls started talking to me, saying “what am I waiting for?”.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I thought about coming back to work after having him and decided it was now or never.
That was around the end of 2010. I created the company in 2009, just to get the paperwork done, and then officially started working in my business in 2011.
What is your core service?
We are professional event organisers that help our clients create platforms to engage and connect with their stakeholders.
We’re selling an experience with each event.
What makes your business unique?
I think it’s me in my business.
We have many event organisers in Port Elizabeth, very professional ones with long-standing companies, and I always say the difference is you in your organisation.
We all offer the same kind of service, but how you do it and what your relationships are with your clients is what makes your business unique.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they do that?
I would ask them not to do that, because we are so different.
Don’t copy anybody.
You can have principles and business practices that you want to copy in terms of paperwork, but don’t copy anybody.
What works for me might not work for somebody else. To copy my model, I would say just make sure your paperwork is in order.
How would a typical day in your profession look?
No two days are the same.
I normally have a guide for my day.
We work with a lot of suppliers and subcontractors.
The clients might not know exactly what they want, so we would make suggestions and make sure they’ve considered everything.
It’s also our job to make sure there are no surprises. We have to be one step ahead of our clients.
What has been your approach in coping with the constant change and pace of your industry?
My years of experience help, as well as my strong relationships with my suppliers.
I’ve tried to keep these relationships intact because it helps your business to grow.
If I can’t rely on a supplier to do something for me quickly, it’s going to be a struggle.
I also have a great team, we’re just ready for anything and we try to stay calm.
How many people do you employ?
We have four permanent staff members and about four contract employees.
My team grows depending on projects.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
There are people who know you while you work for a company and say they will support you when you go out on your own.
Don’t rely on that, because it doesn’t happen.
You really have to work hard on your connections.
The challenge was getting work and becoming known and trusted.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you about success?
Someone said to me once that overnight success takes 10 years.
People don’t realise it; they want overnight success and you get frustrated, because you’ve worked hard to [be successful].
Who I’ve become, through struggling and building my business, has been the best part of the business.
What kind of advertising do you do?
Most of it has been through word-of-mouth.
We do have a website and use social media a lot, but our clients have been our advertising as well.
It’s important to be visible and social media is about consistency – the more potential clients see you, the more naturally they will think of your name.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business?
I do, but it is very long-term.
I am toying with the idea of having my own conference venue, one that could be self-sufficient.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far?
Surround yourself with great people.
If you know who you are, you also know who you aren’t.
If you know what you want to achieve it’s good to surround yourself with people who share your values.
Don’t compromise on that.
Stick to your principles.
I learn something new every day.
I’m always hungry for knowledge and there are some things you just learn through experience.
I say to my staff they should panic slowly, unless there’s a fire and you see the flames.
Rather go into solutions mode. Never drop the ball and keep smiling.
What are the greatest advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
People are very helpful in Port Elizabeth.
My industry peers are so helpful and they’re just a WhatsApp away.

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