Clara’s enthusiasm for the events management industry has been her flame into business
By Amos Wachira
The event management industry in Kenya seems crowded to the untrained eye. But away from the many players jostling for space, there is an unmet gap. With the rising commercialization of the industry, it is harder to get personalized services today compared to ten years ago.
This is what Clara Mutongi realized in 2015 when she started Dream Reality Company, an events management firm. Her idea started as a dream which quickly turned to reality when one of her friends requested her to do outdoor décor for her party. “I conceived this idea back in 2015, when a friend was planning a late lunch, and asked me to arrange the outdoor set-up for her with a bit of exterior décor and when I did it, I felt like this was something I can do for money,” tells Clara.
Before she came onto the scene, she had tried other things which failed to give her the adrenaline rush. For instance, she had tried her hands in baking cakes, a hobby that she passionately loves and practices today, but it was events management that gave her the thrill to make it a business.
On starting dream reality works, Clara says that it was not easy, but her drive to make a difference in the fast changing industry inspired her. When her firm opened doors to its clients in February 2016, Clara was already a few miles ahead.
She had done her homework well to know that people wanted their events to turn out as glamorous as they could imagine. Even with her wide range of services on offer, there is always that sinking feeling that entrepreneurs have regarding how their products and services would be received in the market.
“Even though I was upbeat starting up, I still had fear due to uncertainty and the fact that there are several other events management companies out there, I just didn’t know how my new company would be received,” she says. Fortunately for her, the market was ready for her services. “After the first gig word spread that Clara was doing this and word of mouth referrals started coming. With a few clients that she could get, Clara was ready to transform her idea into business.
However, as a young business owner, Clara says that not many youthful entrepreneurs have the right mindset for business. “As young people, we struggle with impatience so much that it sometimes halts a dream that could have turned lucrative. Young people start businesses imagining that they will break even very fast often in unrealistic timelines, not realizing that an investment requires time to fruit,” she observes.
So, what exactly does it take to start and run a profitable business?
Indeed as she asserts, it takes patience to run a business. This must be accompanied by financial discipline. “Entrepreneurs need to separate their business finances from their personal; finances and that is why having an accountant is highly beneficial to an entrepreneur.”
Clara has done events for different clients since she started. She says that her target market is anyone with a penchant for quality event management services.
“We have done parties for luncheons, birthdays for toddlers and for octogenarians, weddings among others.”
Interestingly, Clara has been in events management space since she was a little girl. I always found myself preparing stuff for other people even within family. For instance I’d plan on washing utensils, cooking, cleaning, making the room neat especially when we had guests coming but little did I know that this was event management,” she recalls. She however realized that she could manage events for a fee while she was in college, where she studied information technology.
“I could host events for a fee while still in school studying totally different thing.” In school, Clara wanted to pursue a career in hospitality, but the slow pace of the industry kept her away.
As an IT professional, she has managed more events and projects than she has developed codes for IT programs. This is the reason she was employed in the events management industry for the bigger part of her working life.
“I don’t at all regret beginning as an employee because employment has taught me skills I need to run my business. Skills such as how to work with people towards achieving a goal. Starting her own events company remains one of her biggest milestones.
Running an events management company
In events management, Clara says that the most important thing is how many events do you get, and this has to do with how one manages her staff, so that they can deliver well, and leave the customers satisfied. “Customers bring in new customers and so how well meets the needs of the customer determines how many more come for your services.”
She therefore advises business owners doing this business of events management to walk their customers. Clara mostly markets her business through social media and word of mouth.
Even though once established, events management is a well-paying job, Clara says that it has its own challenges. “Like any other business, there are challenges. The first one is the difficulty in getting good customer service representatives considering that these are the ones that keep the business going.
Secondly, she says, is getting the items for the event set up to the venue. This of course requires logistics and can be expensive. However, these are surmountable. The most demoralizing of them is having served a client who declines to pay for the services offered.
“Some clients disappear with the money but it comes a situation where you thank God for the opportunity and move on with life, letting go ill-feelings towards such customers.”
Financing the business, she says, is a hurdle that many young entrepreneurs face. However, they should not keep away from starting businesses because of such challenges.
Sometimes, she says, it takes more than capital to start a business. “With good working relationship with suppliers one can manage financial crisis at the start.”
But with all the challenges, she soldiers on, doing her best and hoping for the best.
With her simple mantra: ‘patience pays’, she is raring to fight for a bigger piece of the events management pie.