‘Take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that arises – don’t be fear­ful’

Sharon Grif­fin Frog Prince, Grif­fin & Grey Events

The Irish Times - Business - - WORLD OF WORK - In­side Track RUTH O’CON­NOR

What sets your busi­ness apart from the com­pe­ti­tion?

We are a de­sign-led event pro­duc­tion com­pany. We de­sign, pro­duce and we cre­ate – there are no third-party sup­pli­ers. We do all of our own linens, ac­ces­sories, fur­ni­ture, cut­lery etc. We have our own de­sign­ers and in­stal­la­tion team.

An event-man­age­ment com­pany typ­i­cally works with third-party sup­pli­ers whereas, as a pro­duc­tion com­pany, we re­ally care about the aes­thetic of the event and, be­cause ev­ery­thing is done in­house, we can cre­ate great ex­pe­ri­ences whilst man­ag­ing the client’s bud­get well.

What’s the best piece of ad­vice you’ve ever re­ceived in busi­ness?

Take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity that arises; don’t be fear­ful and just do it. My fa­ther al­ways said to me: “You’re only as good as your last job.” The wed­ding you pro­duced last year for €200,000 doesn’t mat­ter any more – the wed­ding you’re pro­duc­ing to­day for €2,000 is what mat­ters. Ev­ery job, no mat­ter what the bud­get, mat­ters be­cause it is the job you’re do­ing to­day that you’ll be judged on.

What’s the big­gest mis­take you’ve made in busi­ness?

On a project in the early days of my busi­ness, I to­tally un­der­es­ti­mated the scope of works and left my­self ex­tremely short on time. I will never for­get it. I still re­mem­ber it like it was yes­ter­day – the stress on the morn­ing. It was all done and the bride never knew, but I can still feel it; I can still re­mem­ber the church, the event, the venue. It was all down to lack of ex­pe­ri­ence and I never let it hap­pen again.

What is your ma­jor suc­cess to date?

To me, suc­cess is cre­at­ing the won­der and magic that we cre­ate with ev­ery job. Mov­ing into launch­ing our new cor­po­rate busi­ness is fur­ther ev­i­dence of that. It’s all about the “ex­pe­ri­ence” now and we are bring­ing the ex­per­tise from our bridal busi­ness to our cor­po­rate clients with Grif­fin & Grey Events. I’m also proud that the busi­ness has grown or­gan­i­cally through­out the re­ces­sion and that I em­ploy 12 peo­ple with two more on the way.

Who do you most ad­mire in busi­ness and why?

Pre­ston Bai­ley – a lux­ury event pro­ducer in the United States. He is hugely open and hon­est about the mis­takes he’s made and has been cre­at­ing work­shops and talk­ing about the back-end of his busi­ness for the past 10 years – long be­fore it was a “trend” to be ed­u­ca­tional. His hon­esty and abil­ity to rein­vent him­self is very in­spir­ing.

In your ex­pe­ri­ence, are the banks in Ire­land open for busi­ness to SMEs?

We’ve not had any deal­ings with the banks. For me, crowd­fund­ing is a sim­ple way to cre­ate cash within your busi­ness. We did it this year through a fi­nance com­pany and we found it very easy – peo­ple in­vest­ing small amounts in our busi­ness. It is an easy way to raise cap­i­tal with a smaller re­turn on in­vest­ment than a bank loan. We raised about €50,000 which we have in­vested in adding 5,000sq ft to our busi­ness, as well as pur­chas­ing new ma­chin­ery to stream­line our work­flow.

What one piece of ad­vice would you give to the Govern­ment to help stim­u­late the econ­omy?

Stop pe­nal­is­ing busi­ness own­ers. I think it is such a huge risk to set up your own busi­ness. Peo­ple have big mort­gages, they have fam­i­lies, and there is no in­cen­tive to do so. If they choose to set up a busi­ness there are zero al­lowances – you’ve re­stricted ben­e­fits, no ma­ter­nity ben­e­fit; if you are sick or have a di­ag­no­sis of ill­ness you are left with noth­ing. It’s as though you’re pe­nalised for cre­at­ing jobs and pay­ing tax.

What is the big­gest chal­lenge you’ve had to face in busi­ness?

Our job is an­ti­so­cial. We work from 5am to 2am some days. We work week­ends, we are hugely busy all sum­mer long ... so staffing is a chal­lenge. But, on the flip side, we of­fer peo­ple an amaz­ing job. Our team adores what they do – they are so proud to come to work and pro­duce these events and know that they’ve played a part in such an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. No­body has ever called in sick on an event day in 11 years. We need com­mit­ted, ded­i­cated peo­ple and the peo­ple on our team un­der­stand that.

My fa­ther al­ways said to me: ‘You’re only as good as your last job.’ The wed­ding you pro­duced last year for €200,000 doesn’t mat­ter any more – the wed­ding you’re pro­duc­ing to­day for €2,000 is what mat­ters

How do you see the short-term fu­ture for your busi­ness? Our wed­ding busi­ness, Frog Prince, looks re­ally good and it’s some­thing that we love do­ing. I’ve also just launched a new part­ner com­pany, Grif­fin & Grey Events, spe­cial­is­ing in cor­po­rate events. This is in re­sponse to re­quests from peo­ple who had come across us in the wed­ding sphere and wanted us to do some­thing sim­i­lar for them but in the cor­po­rate space, with­out the con­fu­sion of it be­ing a wed­ding events com­pany pro­duc­ing their event.

What’s your busi­ness worth and would you sell it? My busi­ness is not for sale. I want to build a re­ally beau­ti­ful brand and am de­ter­mined to grow the busi­ness. We love what we are do­ing, are very busy, and are pas­sion­ate about what we do.

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