Doing what comes naturally is key

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Organising her son’s first birthday in 2011 was the moment Devasha Rau, 35, realised that event planning could be her forte.
Rau believes her creative flair ensures that every event is completely unique.
Please share some background on yourself and how and when you started your business?
I have been living in Port Elizabeth since I married in 2008. I always seemed to show some unique level of creativity in everything that I did, whether it was hosting a family dinner, decorating my home, or throwing an impromptu birthday party.
I first realised my passion and desire for event planning after I planned my son’s first birthday party in 2011.
Friends and family became increasingly aware of this “hidden talent” and they became persistent in encouraging me to start a business in party planning.
It took years of exploring the idea and eventually I took a bold leap of faith and officially registered my company, A Fun Affair Events in 2016, and have been up and running since then.
What do you think makes your business unique?
I am not just a decor specialist or a caterer, I also provide a comprehensive event planning platform, from budgeting, to conceptualising, event styling, venue bookings, catering, mediating, facilitating, coordinating, set up and derigging.
I have a number of vendors who I work with, which ensures that no two events look or feel the same.
I strive to remove the painstaking, stressful task of event planning from my clients and I present them with events that always exceed their expectations.
If someone wanted to use one key lesson from your business model, what would it be?
Start small, keep your overheads low, create an awareness about your brand.
Always try to provide a service that is different from the industry standard.
Everyone in this day and age is busy, all relative to their own personal lifestyles and/or working cultures.
If you can provide a service that makes things easier for others, go for it.
What were some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced initially?
This is something that I currently still face: trying to establish my brand in an established industry of professional players, especially in a small city.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
This is not the type of industry where business readily comes to me on a daily basis.
Every day is a challenge to market myself and instill a level of trust with clients.
What is the best advice anyone gave you about success?
It’s actually my husband, Santosh, he always says I should never give up on my passion.
It is not every day that people have the opportunity to make a success of something that they truly love and are passionate about doing.
How do you measure or define success in business?
Perseverance and a continuous belief in myself to never give up no matter how difficult it gets. To start something and see it through no matter how long it takes.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Being efficient and proactive. Networking and always challenging my creativity.
What kind of advertising do you do?
I have a website www.afunaffair.co.za and have only marketed myself on Facebook (A Fun Affair Events Port Elizabeth) and Instagram (@devasharau).
Starting up a business is never easy as capital is not always available, so I used these two free platforms of marketing and advertising to showcase some of the work that I have done so far and to create an awareness about myself and my business.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
By far, the highlights of my business so far were doing events for Coca Cola Beverages Africa, PWC and Absa Islamic Banking.
I enjoy corporate event planning, there is just some level of professionalism in dealing with clients who know exactly what they want and who rely on me completely as a professional to provide them with the service of planning their event.
How many people do you employ?
I run my business day to day on my own.
When it comes to acquiring manpower at the time of setting up events, I have been fortunate enough that my husband, who is also in business, has staff who jump on board with me to lend a hand.
My husband and I work hand-in-hand and help each other in our businesses and our staff are also more than happy to be a part of our team.
How do you motivate staff?
I expose our staff to a side of creativity that they don’t know they have.
By helping me it also gives them something challenging to do and out of their norm.
It is only on these days anyway, that my entire build up of work and planning over weeks, comes to life, so it’s great having a team with me to bounce creative ideas and looks off on the big day of set up.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
My start-up costs were fairly minimal.
I used some of my savings to start up and once I started landing events, I accumulated revenue to continue.
Once you had funding, what was the first step in actually launching the business?
The first thing I did was start a website for my business with some of the content and pictures that I acquired from planning events over the years.
I then registered my business, obtained a Level 1 BEE certificate for being 100% female black-owned and I started advertising and spreading the word.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your business journey so far?
Things do not happen overnight.
It takes a lot of time, dedication, motivation, hard work and persistence to get something going and keep it going.
What are the biggest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
The biggest challenge is establishing myself in an industry that is already so established with amazingly talented professionals.
PE is also known for being a market that prefers to stick with whom and what they know, so being the “new kid on the block” can be a challenge.
In terms of advantages, it’s a great city to start in, small enough for me to try to make my mark, slowly but surely.

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