LEARNING CURVE | Though started during lockdown, Nelson Mandela Bay events company has soared to success
Award-winning duo already have plans to expand to Western Cape
Event organisers Niel Mouton and Cameron Gale have lots to boast about. The dynamic duo started Boast Events about three years ago during the pandemic, which since then has achieved substantial growth.
In 2023, they won the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Event Awards Events Organiser of the Year title.
Mouton, the owner and director of Boast Events, along with his partner Gale, who is head of marketing and lead creative director, were born and bred in the Eastern Cape and aim to put the province on the map with their high-end events.
Mouton said: “I have been in the events industry in one way or another for just over a decade now. Starting out my journey leaning more towards the technical side of things, as a lighting technician, working with various companies across South Africa, then making the jump into the world of weddings for a brief time [side note: definitely not for the faint of heart].
“And then finally seeing a gap in the market and taking the leap of faith in starting my own business, Boast Events.”
What is your core service?
The core of our business is event co-ordination and management for high-end corporates and luxury brands.
What makes your business unique?
Personally, we think what makes Boast Events unique is that we’ve put in the time in other related industries.
We didn’t start at the top and work our way down. We started at the root of what eventing really is, the service industry, and worked our way up from there.
This has allowed us to approach event management and eventing in general from a holistic point of view. Understanding the whole, rather than just the individual parts.
We believe if you are able to understand how the complete system works, only then are you able to bring magic to the individual parts that make a truly successful event.
We focus on creating an experience for our clients rather than just an event.
At our core, we are storytellers and we believe any experience we provide should tell that story from the moment you walk in the door.
How did you navigate your business during the pandemic and load-shedding?
Funny story actually, Boast Events was born slap bang in the middle of lockdown.
Obviously with the restrictions on people gathering, this made putting together any sort of conferencing or event near impossible ... But, where there is a will, there is a way.
I think this sums up how we approach our business, essentially Boast Events was born out of necessity — a necessity for finding new and innovative ways to achieve things that previously everyone had taken for granted.
Finding those spaces that did allow for large groups of people to gather, whether that was an expo in a shopping centre or a conference in a movie theatre and exploiting those spaces that normally would not have been considered.
Load-shedding, however, was around long before the pandemic and has been something that most South Africans, ones who own businesses as well as those who don’t, have had to problem-solve around.
Personally, we think it is about being proactive, we have apps that allow us to check schedules and work around them, if not, a trusty generator rental always comes in handy.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
Our biggest piece of advice we could give would be to change your mindset from one of simply doing work “for” a client. Rather to imagine yourself working “at” the company that has made use of your services.
If you see yourself as part of them, it will allow you to deliver a much higher level of service — understanding each person/business you work with has an individual identity and should be treated as such, there is no such thing as one size fits all.
To focus on really cementing the relationships you have with service providers — at the end of the day they are your bread and butter.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
Honestly, finding the right accountant. Because we started out in the corporate sphere we had to be VAT compliant from the get go.
Usually somebody starting a “small” business would be able to trade for a year or two before hitting that threshold, but because of the space we found ourselves working in, that was almost immediate for us and luckily we found the right fit.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
First, if you are thinking about starting your own business, put it on paper. Use as much as you need, write, draw mind maps, make points, whatever works best for you.
Put down every aspect of your company and how those moving parts connect down on paper.
Who are your clients, who are your suppliers, why do they need your business, what is the gap in the market you are filling?
If something doesn’t workout on paper, it probably won’t work in real life. Something we like to tell anybody who works with us is when a client has hired you for your expertise and knowledge, “no” is not in our vocabulary.
You never say no, rather say “I can definitely find out”. Always be inquisitive.
If you have questions, ask. Nobody woke up one day and knew everything about what they were doing, they had to ask someone who had been in that position before.
Your fear of looking like you don’t know something is going to hold you back.
Lastly, use the resources you have available to you, go out and speak to people who are leaders in the industry you have chosen to pursue, nine times out of ten they would love to impart some hard-earned wisdom.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
Time management is the first thing that comes to mind. Managing logistics like venue selection, supplier co-ordination, transportation and event schedules can be complex and time-consuming.
Making sure all those moving parts come together smoothly requires a lot of careful planning.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
I think the best advice anyone has ever given me came from a prominent business woman in the city — if you have a good concept, don’t overcomplicate it, let your work speak for itself.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
Success for us comes in the form of growth. If you are growing, you are doing something right.
Maintaining a positive reputation in the industry is something important to us. The relationships we foster with our clients as well as our suppliers is at the top of our list.
A huge part of success for us is represented by the fact that people actually want to work with us again.
Maintaining these positive relationships then flows down into other people recommending you to people they know. Word of mouth is everything.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Always playing open cards with a client. Never over-promise and under-deliver. If you say you can do something, you have to make sure you can back it up.
Always be transparent about what you are able to do and then go in and exceed their expectations.
What kind of advertising do you do?
In today’s landscape it is very important to take advantage of the resources available to you as a business owner.
Especially, when first starting out, social media is something you can make use of that does not cost you anything.
If you have a good product and you post on social media, somebody will end up seeing it.
Try to post real and authentic content that people can connect with. Visibility is so important.
Our vehicle is branded which is essentially an advert that moves all over the country.
Again, we want to stress, never underestimate the power of word of mouth. It can really make or break your business.
What is your company’s vision?
Our vision is to connect with like-minded and forward thinking individuals and brands. To empower the “movers and the shakers” to break barriers and embrace change.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
Witnessing the amount of growth within the business in such a short period of time is definitely a highlight for us.
Being able to see something that started out as an idea really blossom into a full-fledged successful and profitable company.
In 2023, we were honoured to win the title of NMB Business Event Awards Events Organiser of the Year. This was such an incredible recognition from people who are in the industry.
Having the opportunity to give back a little came to us early in 2023 in the form of a project that was aimed at providing a safe space for people in need. This is something that is really important to us as people, and as a company.
Given the nature of the events industry, we get to travel quite often, which is always a highlight. Though more often than not we only get to see the inside of a venue or conference room. It is still something that we take joy in.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
Social media is a critical part of our business because what we do is of such a visual nature.
Unless you were at the event and got to experience it for yourself, it can often be very difficult to put into words.
Social media allows us the opportunity to capture those moments and share them with everybody.
How many people do you employ?
Depending on the event this could range between 10 to 50 people and service providers that all have their specific role to play.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
Yes. We currently find ourselves in a period of growth and are working on opening a satellite branch in the Western Cape.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
We started out with a personal loan of R10,000 to make sure the essentials such as business cards, a website and logo design and vehicle branding were in place.
What do you believe are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Integrity and adaptability, and having a passion for what you do.
What do you feel are the key traits of a successful employer?
To have an understanding of the job you are employing someone to do. Clear and honest communication. Leading by example.
What do you wish people knew about your industry?
We love this question. Whenever we tell people we are in the events industry, their response is always something along the lines of “Oh wow! how glamorous!”
But the reality is that they only get to see the end product of often many weeks of planning and late nights.
Let’s just say office hours do not apply. Don’t get us wrong though, we love what we do and wouldn’t have it any other way.
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