Talk to Nicole Matthews (Cardmember since 2007) about how business was last year, and you’ll be reminded of how entrepreneurs think differently. With a background in corporate events, Nicole launched The Henley Company in 2004 to work with corporate clients on client appreciation and promotional events. As business slowed last year, she saw that the decline wasn’t just with her or her clients – it was more widespread. So rather than pursue new opportunities within a lagging industry, she decided to create her own.
She created high-profile events for the public to attend, starting with her own premiere screening and after-party for the “Sex & the City” movie. “I knew a lot of women would want to attend and that this could be a fun event,” Nicole told me. “I bought out a theater, and then found partners who could provide signature cocktails and goodie bag items. Other than the theater rental, I had no up-front costs. Almost everything was partnered in exchange for promotional recognition. The venue got the cash bar, and I got the money off the ticket sales. It was a win-win partnership.”
After hosting a couple of similar events, including an Inaugural Bash, she found 40 percent of her company’s revenue was coming from these events and realized that executing four or five per year could sustain her business. In addition to providing a new source of revenue, the events helped generate awareness among corporate clients, as well as in her industry. Nicole is now selling her “handbook” on how to self-produce events to event planners in non-competing markets. “My business is now turning me into the spokesperson for the events industry.”
Based on her experience, she advises other business owners who need new avenues for growth to:
- Create an affinity group or network around yourself. “It’s incredibly important to have people to bounce ideas off of.”
- Know where your limitations are. “You can’t do everything. It’s hard to give up a piece, but you have to if you’re going to grow.”
- Look for where you can partner with non-competing companies. “I can’t champion partnerships enough. It’s about creating partnerships that are a win-win for everybody.”
And, there is, of course, thinking differently. As Nicole told me, “When I saw the revenue I could generate, I thought, ‘Why spend time chasing more business when I can create my own opportunities?’”