Hi, Tell us your name, what you do, and about your business
My name is Megan McIlrath. I am the owner of Event Affairs, an event and wedding planning company based in Cape Town, South Africa. My monthly revenue is completely different every month as my business is seasonal but my annual revenue is approx. R3 million or around $200K a year.
What’s your own background. Were you always proficient in this business, or did it just strike your mind one fine day?
I have an honors degree in Psychology and always planned to pursue this career path and complete my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. I decided to take a break from the Psychology world after completing my honors degree to try out my other passion – events planning.
I only planned to do this for a year and then go back to studying but it sucked me in, and here I am 11 years later. I have a love for people, and how they tick; and a passion for organization and creating a solution so I think these characteristics work well in both careers.
What went into designing the initial product? Can you take us through the actual process?
I started the business with a partner, we both had a similar background in event logistics servicing private events, corporate events, and weddings. We both had a passion for all three types of events so we chose to offer all services as opposed to focusing on only one aspect.
I have no regrets for choosing this route as I really love events and weddings, each for different reasons and it keeps things interesting.
Talk us through the process of the launch of your business
We launched the business slowly, over about 7 months, during which we registered the business, coined the name, created our website and developed the CI. Every couple of months or years, we would re-look the overall look and feel and re-fresh it to stay relevant.
How is your repeat customer rate like? Can you take us through how you attract and retain customers?
Getting return business in this industry is tough and it’s taken many, many years of working hard and putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We’re finally seeing clients returning for repeat business. Obviously, with weddings and private events, you don’t find return business however we rely on word of mouth from these clients.
What is the current situation? How do you see yourself in the next 12 months?
The business is in a very good space. I scaled the business down in 2018 and it was a hard but good decision. I’d like to keep up an excellent service delivery over the next 12 months and steadily grow the business.
As a woman founder, do you see this as only financially uplifting? Or otherwise too? If yes, then how?
The choice to start my own business was not a financial maneuver, it was a choice based on the lack of available jobs at the time and feeling a strong passion for high-quality customer service and delivery in the events realm.
It certainly helps that the financial reward is much greater than what I would potentially be getting from an employer but I feel uplifted by the independence to make my own business decisions, to offer a great service to clients and deliver a high-quality product that clients can see the value of.
What tools or services did you use?
Our accountant and lawyer played a significant role when starting the business in terms of drawing up terms and conditions, registering the business and making sure everything was correctly structured.
What are your key challenges today? How are you planning to tackle those?
The economy is a big challenge, Event Affairs falls within a niche market, and with everyone watching every penny, the client pool is getting smaller year on year.
Even the international clientele that comes out to South Africa for their events/weddings are very aware of every cent spent. The best way to tackle this is to ensure that your clients are getting value for money but also making sure you charge what you’re worth.
You also need to make sure that what you’re charging is market-related and competitive.
Another major challenge is that the events industry is incredibly saturated with wedding and event planners. Luckily, I have years of experience on my side so I just maintain a high-quality service delivery that I’ve focused on since day one.
Clients that prefer experience and skill, over (lower) prices, choose Event Affairs for their weddings and events.
Which are some resources, books, articles or podcasts that have been useful to you, and would share with your readers
I used to read the Entrepreneur magazine regularly, the success stories of entrepreneurs inspired me and I always gained some knowledge or had some kind of ‘aha’ moment after reading their monthly magazine. I also used Eric Parkers’ Road Map to Business Success to re-structure my business – it’s an excellent book!
Many times, women feel that businesses are for only for men. What’s your take?
Absolutely not, I’m surrounded by very successful, very clever women in the events industry. It’s incredible to watch them grow awesome brands and really stand out.
Business ownership is not gender-related, it’s whoever has the drive and the ability to pick up when the going gets tough and push through.
Looking to kick start your own venture?
Hi ! This is Misha.
I interview women founders in building profitable businesses
My idea is for other women to get inspired by these actionable tell-all stories and start their own profitable enterprises.
I am hugely inspired by inspirational interview series starters like IndieHackers, StarterStory by Pat Walls, Failory, SpaceBandits and have put significant efforts in reaching out to women founders in order to get started.