Milestone birthdays need to be celebrated. Whilst I have been saying to all of our friends and colleagues out there, if you have a birthday during Covid, you can’t really throw that event you wanted to, so skip it, postpone it or reschedule it for a few months, but don’t add that digit to your age!
Not so for Big Fish Events! Today we turn 16. For those of you who have never heard the story….this is how we started…
I left a job that I loved at the Adelaide Festival Centre as the Marketing and Corporate Communications Manager to move overseas….for the first time, in my early 30’s. Up until that stage I had not done much travel and I certainly didn’t have a gap year and I certainly didn’t go back packing. No, I finished school, gained my qualifications as a Fashion Designer, went on to finish my Marketing and Business qualifications at night whilst my career developed…I was in a hurry. I had a few fashion labels when I started – Melissa Abbott Designs and Guilt Edge….they truly were out of the garage stories. Then I shifted my career goals and ambitions and took those skills into roles that were directly involved with major sports, major events, festivals, international stage shows, small and large events, cultural events, openings, closings and some of my favourites…. opening of “envelopes”! Simply too many event types to name but when I reflect on my marketing and communications labelled career to that point, events were always at the heart.
I moved to the UK and then the US, working on international trade shows in the wine industry and then developed a global client and distribution agent communication process for one of Australia’s largest bottling and synthetic cork producers ASA. Does anyone remember the synthetic cork? Whilst there were meant to fundamentally change the industry, I feel like they ended up a little bit like a CD Walkman!
Upon returning to Australia, I did feel after working now for 20 years in high paced and profile industries, it was time to settle back into something less taxing for a while. Well, that didn’t really happen. Partly because I couldn’t find a role at the time where I wasn’t told how overqualified I was and partly because of my nature, sitting still doesn’t sit well with me.
Late one night, speaking to a former colleague and friend from the Adelaide Festival Centre days, she said if I get board I could come over and work a few country weddings and maybe some admin in a “Dallas-esque” style Country Club 45mins north of Melbourne. I took that as a job offer and within 48 hours, I packed up the car and headed across…..“I am here”!
The Country Club was right up my alley; in my early 30’s I worked behind a bar for the first time, worked reception for the first time and even did a few Sunday shifts as a first time waitress, played golf and enjoyed more than a few Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunches by the fire! I loved it at Hidden Valley.
But, hidden – I didn’t stay for long.
One Friday afternoon after the members came back to the 19th hole, I was enjoying a bit of time with some new connections at one of those Friday lunches and an old connection came waltzing through the door.
“What are you doing here?” said that well known cricketer.
“Hiding from people like you!” I replied.
What happened from that chance meeting was Dean Jones hired “my business” to produce one of the biggest Rugby League events in its history. So, from that day I needed to set up the business, I need a name, I needed an ABN, maybe a bank account – as I had a client!
The first event that Big Fish Events ever did was the celebration of 25 years of State Of Origin. Dean had the base event design, we then set it up with the pre-planning, sold in the concept to the NRL, raised sponsorship and delivered an event program from Cairns to Sydney, 37 days delivering 113 events along the way from dozens in outback pubs to thousands in city events taking 86 former greats of the game along with us whilst raising $246,000 dollars for the Make A Wish Foundation.
That was our first event!
Was it a dream of mine to start my own business? Well I had already had a couple of small businesses when I was in fashion – so I guess you could say that being an entrepreneur was just in my blood.
What I do know though is that you can have a dream, but you need to be prepared to do the hard work to make dreams come true.
Also, like anything worthwhile, I didn’t do it by myself.
When I started, it was “me, myself and I”….which quickly turned in to a real team. There are many people to thank for their support, energy and encouragement along the way. Then of course there are staff, team members, contractors that have been with me for a little bit of time or a long period of time, I say thank you to you also.
To Dean Jones and Louise Sugars who did and didn’t expect me to take up that first opportunity, to our clients today who keep believing in what we do for them makes a difference, our suppliers and magic makers that help bring our vision to life….I simply say thank you and happy birthday!