How to start an event business with just 100 dollars? Experience of Aleksey Akimov
Aleksey Akimov, founder of the event agency and technical company IDEALSECRETS, has been CEO of the business for 7 years and feels well in his element in the world of events. Aleksey usually takes part in various educational events as a visiting coach and he told us how to set up a company having only 100 dollars, why it is difficult to find a worker for the salary of 30 thousand hryvnas and why fuck-ups can do some good.
«Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.. Because every fuck-up is an opportunity to do your work better. And it’s even more useful if you get this lesson not for free. In this way you’ll learn it better».
Aleksey tell us how did you get an idea of starting a company?
Everything is simple. Seven years ago I headed a technical company. I don’t want to name it out of respect for its owners. Even at that time, I suggested to the management that we should organize events. I had a very powerful argument – the availability of all the necessary equipment and a good team capable of operating it professionally. However, the answer was always the same, “let’s not mix apples and oranges; if you want to hold events, open your own company.
I gave it some thought and decided to do it. I started literally with a hundred dollars of budget, but eventually this figure changed. I can say that we are the only event agency on the market with our own large stock of equipment. This is our USP. Because we are an event agency and a technical company rolled into one. This is how we get advantages over the competitors.
What business is more profitable for you: event organization or a technical company and equipment rental?
Today, equipment rental provides us with a greater income.
Can you evaluate in percentage terms?
Thirty to seventy. Events are really popular but still equipment makes us more money. But for me it’s not critical. In my company I am a founder, CEO and a «player-coach», I have over 20 years of experience in organization and technical support of events. I live for my business. Recently, I have given a lecture for beginner event-makers and my point was that you need to live for your profession, your eyes should sparkle, the work should bring excitement, otherwise you’ll never succeed. I know that the world of sounds and events is my element, I feel completely at ease there, so it doesn’t matter for me if I hold events or help organizers choose proper equipment.
What do you think of the equipment market in Ukraine? Is it a competitive business and how has it changed over the last 10 years?
Today, the competition in the market is really stiff. There’s definitely more equipment than events in the market. Supply exceeds demand.
How do you assess the annual turnover of equipment in terms of money?
It is hard to say. There’s no exact statistics, because no one collects it. In Ukraine, there is no technical community, because the competition is tough, closed and not always fair. I assume that it might be about $ 50,000,000.
What is your market share in percentage terms?
The thing is the market is highly segmented. We work in corporate business. We hold at least 10% of this market.
What other sectors exist?
There is a private sector – these are birthdays. Also, a weddings market, it is very large and profitable. A sector of children’s activities. Sports events that have become very popular recently. Sometimes we organize weddings but it’s not really up our street. However, we were considering whether to make weddings a separate business. There’s no final decision on the matter yet.
How many employees do you have?
About thirty people. But it’s an approximate figure, we have about 20 permanent employees.
You mentioned your USP, that your business is an event agency and a technical company at the same time. Maybe you have other advantages under your belt in addition to having a large equipment stock and 7 years of existence?
We can organize turnkey-ready events of any complexity. We do everything from the choice of an event presenter to the sound set-up with our own equipment. This provides a financial advantage. At any other agency it takes a considerable sum because they work with vendors. We don’t need to negotiate with other firms and go to great lengths to fit within a client’s budget. We are more flexible and efficient due to our good equipment; we propose our clients a variety of options relying exclusively on ourselves. This includes our discounts. All decisions are made inside the company at the round table.
What are your plans for the next 5 years? For example, what about increasing your market share?
We have quite ambitious plans. Now I won’t unveil them but we want to become one of the most popular company in the market. I deliberately avoid saying “the best” because it’s a very vague notion. We have two slogans, the first: «We make life brighter» and the second one is «Our mission is success of your business». We want to develop in tune with our mission embodied in these two mottos. We love what we do and we enjoy it when a client is satisfied with the result even if it is not too profitable for us.
Do you organize some educational seminars for your clients? In the West it is very popular to shape the market by educating the clients, introducing them to a certain level of quality.
We don’t want to enter the educational area. Because this business bears a certain amount of responsibility. Some of our partner agencies have chosen this path and launched several good, high-quality educational programs. I am often invited to these trainings as a speaker. Twenty years in business is twenty years of daily solving some problems; this is a valuable experience, which I readily share with beginner event-makers.
Tell us about your technical park, how often do you modernize it, what percentage of income do you invest in that?
Actually, those who are a little aware of the notion “technical park” will smile. Because every month something new appears: new devices, consoles, new sound, software – this is a never-ending process. If you do not renovate the park, very soon you will find yourself “behind the curve”, good orders will go to another agency. The market of technical equipment can be compared with the market of mobile phones and other gadgets. We are now talking about the equipment that involves software. It needs to be renovated every month. This is the only way to remain competitive.
We spend at least twenty percent of our income on equipment modernization. It’s a considerable amount. But this should be done, because financial amortization is high. Equipment is made smaller, smarter, more productive. If in the past you needed a remote control that occupied a half of the room, now a third of the operations can be done using a tablet. Therefore, what used to cost $ 100 thousand 10 years ago, will hardly be even $ 10,000 worth. Without timely renewal of the technical park, there will be no business.
By the way, business. How much money is needed to start a similar company? To what extent is the market saturated?
Despite the fact that competition in the market is very high, it is worth doing this business. People with shining eyes can always bite a chunk of the market. As for the money, you need at least $ 100,000 to launch something. But in order to get noticed in the market, you need a million American dollars, not hryvnas.
In your area of work people who operate equipment during events matter a lot. What about turnover? What salary is enough to make a good specialist continue working for a company?
Competition for employees is intense. Older specialists leave, and new ones are not very numerous. Because young people do not want to work physically, they want to make a living intellectually. In addition, the turnover is very high. Event business is stressful, sometimes there are several events in one day. Some people cannot cope with such pace and leave to related businesses. In terms of salary, I can say that it might be difficult for us to fill some vacancies even with a salary of thirty thousand hryvnias. I’m talking about installers, light engineers, and sound engineers.
What significant events have you organized recently that you are proud of?
Besides BAROMETER?) There are events that I lived through from beginning to end. The first is 26 May, the Champions League final. Our company was fully responsible for organizational and technical side of the two fan zones. The first one is Arsenal club’s zone, it was located in Shevchenko Park, and the second one near the Palace Ukraine – Real’s zone. Working with UEFA, with the management of these two great teams and the very involvement in such an event is incredible. At the venues we did a lot of complex work with six thousand fans. We were fully responsible for everything and controlled the entire process of fans’ visit to Ukraine. Starting with their arrival at the airport, accommodation at the hotel, meals and boarding on the return flight.
The second event is also a sports one – 7-8 October, Odessa, Langeron Beach, 785 people in the massive Ocean’sMan swimming competition. We were organizers and contractors. This is the Spanish franchise bought by Vlasta Shovkovskaya. Recently we have received a confirmation that we’ll be organizing the next year’s event as well.
Would you tell us about fuck-ups? What was really interesting or funny?
We had many fuck-ups. Personally, I believe that practice is the best teacher. At my lectures I always say that you shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes because:
- There are no events without minor mistakes. Any event always has some nuances. There is always something that doesn’t work out as it was planned. But consider the fact that what an agency and a client is preparing for visitors is nobody’s guess. Guests do not know ideas and details. Sometimes, what you consider to be a fuck-up might play into your hands. Because guests might like this fuck-up. They may well say: “Wow, so cool.” But they also might dislike it, and then you will have to learn a serious lesson from the situation;
- Your anxiety is perceptible energetically. You worry that something went wrong, and guests feel your effort and sincerity and will reciprocate. Often, a fuck-up turns into such a powerful energy that will save the situation and make a truly hearty event.
Let’s go back a little. With regard to equipment, are you planning to bring some unusual appliances to Ukraine?
Yes. It will be brand-new lighting equipment. Due to innovative lighting developments, the decorations go to the background, but the show does not lose its quality. And we are also thinning of a large sound package.
You have lighting and sound. Why haven’t you opted for LED equipment development?
We feel comfortable with the field we’re professionals in. LED equipment market is quite large and there are serious players, for example, our partner “RentalMedia” and a number of other good, interesting projects that I would readily recommend to a client.
By the way, as for giants. Let’s consider BAROMETЕR in the technical perspective. What would you like to change in BAROMETЕR next year?
I’ll start with compliments. The first thing we liked is that we have always been on the same wavelength with a client. We had complete freedom of action, which allowed us to realize our full potential. The second is European approach. It was easy to notice that the level of the event is already higher than we are used to in Ukraine. What I would like to do the following year is to make a brighter opening in order to energize people for the next three days. I’d like to create a beautiful, correct intro. This can be achieved by highlighting the stage bar (LED strips). Moreover, it will be nice music to set the tone for a three-day flight.
Who worked with lighting and sound at BAROMETЕR?
I’d like to single out a few people from our company. Lighting – Nikolay Kuzmenko, a very talented light engineer, sound – Bogdan Romanovsky and Stanislav Lubich, the head of our agency. Stanislav even devoted some time to taste a couple of drinks at several bars on the second day. The event went smoothly because these guys spent there at least seventy-two hours doing their best. The same as all our employees do. A strong team is also a part of our USP.
Aleksey thank you for an interesting conversation and honesty. Thank you for making time to come here and share so many amazing things. See you at BAROMETЕR.