In­tense about tents

One of SA’s big­gest event­ing com­pa­nies con­trols its en­vi­ron­ment

Finweek English Edition - - Advertising & marketing - BY TONY KOEN­DER­MAN tonyk@fin­

WHEN BRUCE VAN HALDEREN dropped out of univer­sity, where he was study­ing con­struc­tion en­gi­neer­ing, to give full at­ten­tion to the bar busi­ness at which he was moon­light­ing, his par­ents were hor­ri­fied. “Do you want to be a glo­ri­fied bar­man all your life?” his an­guished mum asked.

To­day, 13 years later, the busi­ness has grown into one of the big­gest event man­age­ment com­pa­nies in South Africa, turn­ing over R36m/year from clients in SA and over­seas. And grow­ing. Jan­uary turnover was five times big­ger than last year’s.

Loud­fire is strongly iden­ti­fied with the dis­tinc­tive Be­douin-style “FreeStyle” tents it de­signs and man­u­fac­tures, but it’s more than a renter of tents. It’s a de­signer en­ter­tain­ment com­pany, spe­cial­is­ing in func­tions re­quir­ing food and bar ex­pe­ri­en­tial, as well as a trend­set­ter in event ar­chi­tec­ture.

“Our big­gest com­peti­tors are trendy bou­tique ho­tels and stylish restau­rants,” says Van Halderen. “But the use of our tents gives us con­trol over un­usual and dy­namic venues and the flex­i­bil­ity to be creative with the ex­pe­ri­ences we can of­fer. Cor­po­rate head of­fices can use their own space, such as car parks and fields, and pub­lic spa­ces be­come de­signer en­vi­ron­ments. You can even eas­ily erect our tents on a beach, un­like a mar­quee.”

The tents of­fer size, flex­i­bil­ity and speed of erec­tion. “For a func­tion in Sun City’s Val­ley of the Waves, we had to wait un­til the end of the day be­fore set­ting up. Then we set up the tents, cus­tom din­ing area, sound, light­ing, stage and cock­tail bars in un­der two-and-a-half hours.”

In a fairly typ­i­cal re­cent week, Loud­fire man­aged 20 events, in­clud­ing a cock­tail re­cep­tion on a boat for del­e­gates of the Min­ing Ind­aba in Cape Town, a din­ner for 800 dig­ni­taries for the open­ing of Par­lia­ment, a 1 000-guest din­ner for a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional min­ing com­pany at Vergele­gen Wine Es­tate, a din­ner for for­eign guests at the Pres­i­dent’s res­i­dence, Groote Schuur, an awards evening for 500 staff of a ma­jor bank at At­las Stu­dios, as well as an all-day out­door exclusive VIP event at the Pak­istan ver­sus Proteas cricket match.

The tents are de­signed and man­u­fac­tured in Cape Town by Loud­fire’s man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany Tentra us­ing so­phis­ti­cated stretch fab­ric, with im­ported yarn from Ger­many.

“We started the busi­ness us­ing con­ven­tional mar­quees. Then we dis­cov­ered the small stretch freestyle tents, which led us to de­velop ver­sions ca­pa­ble of with­stand­ing gale-force winds. With patented wa­ter­proof­ing and King Pole sys­tems we’ve de­vel­oped gi­gan­tic tents up to 10m high.”

Loud­fire has a stock of well over 150 tents, rang­ing from 3m x 3m to 20m x 50m. In pro­duc­tion is a mon­ster al­most the size of a rugby field ca­pa­ble of ac­com­mo­dat­ing 3 000 peo­ple for din­ner and 4 500 stand­ing.

It all started for Van Halderen at UCT, when he used to run a bar ser­vice for stu­dent func­tions and 21st birth­days.

“Then I re­alised I could make money out of this. I set up a busi­ness called Bar Corp. Our first table­cloths were bed­sheets. We were a bunch of ruf­fi­ans. It was a ma­jor in­no­va­tion to have flow­ers on the ta­ble.”

The use of tents gives us con­trol over un­usual and dy­namic venues. Bruce van Halderen

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