Entrepreneurship can be the outcome of opportunity.
This week, we are working with a locals, Nick Nevares and Kirk Gagnon to launch, The Eventualizers, a full service event design firm. Coming from unique backgrounds Nick and Kirk are teaming up to leverage their professional expertise and create the structures that will enable The Eventualizers to become synonymous with experiences people want to relive.
Nick – has spent the last 10 years Designing events and experiences for groups ranging from 100 – 50,000. He has interfaced with the event world through the eyes of a Designer, as the Creative Director, and Social Event Designer for the South’s largest event decor company, Mardi Gras Productions; as a site producer as the Creative Director and Senior Sales Executive for the Destination Management Company and Global Events Partner affiliate Bonnie Boyd and Co; and, most recently, as Director of Event Experiences for Solomon Group – one of the fastest growing event production and design companies in the country.
With a finger to the pulse of the latest trends in design, both in the event and music festival industry and outside of it, he creates spaces that immerse the attendees in a progressive story tailored for each client’s specific objectives, thus maximizing the ROI of the event. Through 3D visualization and animation, he brings the event to life weeks prior to the first day of load in, minimizing the chance for error and enhancing everyone’s understanding of the exact look and feel of the space. Nick specializes in Space Optimization, wherein every permutation of an attendee’s experience is a strategic balance of maneuverability and brand interaction.
Kirk – has a diverse background ranging from dance to finance. Mr Gagnon graduated from Jesuit High School in New Orleans and holds a BFA from Marymount Manhattan College. Beginning his career as a modern dancer (Martha Graham Dance Ensemble, American Dance Company), Kirk performed, toured, choreographed and taught in the US and Europe. He maintained a presence on screen and stage in such films as Lolita, National Lampoon’s Dirty Movie 1&2 and the musical Hair. Kirk then spent 5 years with the Wall Street financial services giant Guggenheim Partners and as a Product Specialist, helped make Guggenheim Global Investments one of the top asset managers in the industry with over $130 billion in assets under management.
Kirk has also held roles in Jamba Juice (New Orleans, Brand Manager), Sleeve A Message (Los Angeles, Director), The Corcoran Group (New York, Rental Listings Coordinator), Fontainebleau Consulting Associates (New York, Associate) and Bayou, Land & Marine Contractors (New Orleans, Project Manager). Also, Kirk is a relatively decent bartender (Shag Bar, NYC), a minor project general contractor, and an acclaimed Gyro-tonic instructor (Romney Pilates, New Orleans; Studio Riverside, New York). Stay tuned for more to come from this dynamic duo.
So for the past decade, I’ve been involved in one way or another in the Special Events industry. Right out of college, I worked for Blaine Kern Jr’s Mardi Gras Productions. As a fluke find/recommendation by a local event mainstay, I found myself planning other-worldly social functions for some of the wealthiest people in New Orleans and the South. This, after scrounging for 4 1/2 years in college, was the incentive I needed to convince me that there are in fact other jobs in the world OTHER than doctors and lawyers (the professions that both my high school back in Houston, Strake Jesuit, as well as my parents, would have me believe are the only noteworthy options). Having entered Tulane on the Pre Med track with 2/3 of my tuition paid, and quickly ending that course the following year by a transfer to Loyola (with no scholarship) with Majors in World Religions and English Literature, my parents were beyond nonplussed at the sudden “Liberal” move (my correction of “Liberal Arts” always garnered a scoff and change in subject) that had suddenly removed their hopes of having a successful son.
Fast forward to the months and years after graduation, when I wasn’t making a dream salary by any stretch of the imagination, but, at the very least, I could pay a modest rent (assuming I had a roommate) and not eat cereal for every meal. Through the four years at Mardi Gras Productions, though, I consistently interacted with event professionals who did seem to make a decent living in the industry, and who seemed well put together and actually happy. My parents even used to refer to my job as a hobby, akin to something a bored housewife might do for shopping money while the kids are at school. Meanwhile, I was working 50 – 60 hours a week.
Post-K, I worked for the Kerns for a year more, but was approached by a Destination Management firm, Bonnie Boyd and Company, to help them re-grow their business after the storm. Rather than focusing on the elements necessary to decorate a great event, the DMC world consisted of streamlining the location specific services of a (mostly) corporate client base. Tours, airport and daily city transportation, custom dining excursions for hundreds, and special events and concerts all fell within the realm of the DMC. Five years and hundreds of clients later, I finally realized how the special event world could, and should, be profitable. And making money no longer had to defined by a grueling, monotonous job. Grueling, at times, but never monotonous.
That was still not enough. As I reached my 5th year within this second company, and had operated as both their Sr. Sales Executive as well as Creative Director, I still found myself wanting something that would allow me to truly push the limits of creativity that my overactive imagination was itching to achieve. Then a friend approached me, and asked me to have a few lunches with his business partner. These three guys, whom I had known in different iterations of the industry throughout the years, had created a startup that had successfully produced show-stopping permanent installations around the city. They approached me to help them bring this technology to live events. Up until this point, impressive AV, custom fabrication and automation was only seen via huge producers in town for rotating events, such as city wide conferences or national sporting events. Three years later, and the Solomon Group grew from a modest group of 7 to a giant company producing shows throughout North America.
As Director of Event Experiences, I worked with hundreds of the country’s most talented event and design professionals. CBS, the NFL, and the NBA all were clients that we directly interfaced with during this time. I thrived on the design elements, but hesitated on the technology aspects, because as quickly as I learned the technology, its luster dulled and the new shiny gadget would take over. While I can effectively understand and communicate these subtle differences in technology, I could never truly care about them. When there are 200 moving lights and 2000 sq. ft of video wall, is anyone in the crowd REALLY going to care about whether the lights are more compact or have a incredibly focused beam, or that the modular LED screens have 1MM more density? Or are they going to instead care that the Lighting Designer knows how to use what he or she is given, and can create a show that compliments the artist? A difference of opinion, and vision forward, and now I find myself in a place I’ve been working towards for over a decade.
During my last two weeks with Solomon Group, a colleague and former coworker from the MGP days, who also happened to have made a name for herself as both an accomplished Meeting Planner for a Fortune 500 company, as well as preside as President of the local chapter of an association geared to such planners, noted that there is almost no one in the events industry, especially at my age (33), that has the experience and perspective of a Event Decorator, Show Producer, and an AV/Production Company. In every iteration, I’ve seen exceptional cases for what NOT to do, as well as what to ABSOLUTELY, UNEQUIVOCALLY do to be successful. Throughout the country, there are industry professionals who are exceptional at one, or even many elements within the industry, but few who have a firm grasp of both the true functionality of each piece of the event, as well as the aesthetic and detail.
What we have begun to build with The Eventualizers–our own little piece of startup heaven–is something that allows producers, vendors, and even venues, to use as a sounding board and reference, not necessarily to create an event in every instance, but instead to re-think and re-create an event for every type of person who will interact with it.
For concerts, this means something as simple as expanding the aisles out to the restroom areas a few feet bigger to accommodate the intermission rush. For a special event it means lighting the paths to the entrances and the signage pointing to them, to help those who entered sober, but are leaving inebriated, find their way out. We are not the reason that the attendees come to the event; but we might just be the reason they come back next year.
Funny story, then I’ll let you off this stream of consciousness. A few years back, a couple of months after the break up of a long term relationship (and engagement), my therapist fired me. I had only begun therapy after the break up, and felt it a necessary component to the process. My therapist disagreed. In my second break up in two months, he said, and I quote: “This is our last session. You don’t need me. You come in here and tell me about some of the most stunning events I’ve ever heard of, and really don’t have anything to lament about your past relationship. I think you are, and will be, fine. But (to which I definitely gasped….what therapist leaves their soon-to-be-dismissed patient with a ‘You are sane, EXCEPT WHEN…????) you need to realize, you have severe OCD. If not for this job, which allows you to channel that otherwise negative and destructive energy of minute details into something constructive, you would be scrubbing baseboards with a toothbrush to ensure their perfect cleanliness. You have a gift for this mind-numbingly meticulous job, and one day you will help people well beyond this city realize the potential in their events.” So I left, a bit non-plussed for being excused, but somewhat gratified as well. Three years later, and my baseboards are still in need of a good scrubbing, but I still love what I do.
Oh yeah, and my parents are happy I no longer have a hobby.
Looking forward to Eventualizing the Future with many of you,