The Monday Interview: The events planner plans for growth

Events planner Olivia Buckley tells Pádraig Hoare about her plans to take on more international clients to expand the rebranded business outside Ireland

Whether it was as the Kerry Rose at the 2002 Rose of Tralee, or assistant to television star planner Peter Kelly of Weddings By Franc, Olivia Buckley was soaking up as much as possible on big event logistics in anticipation of starting her own firm.

The University College Cork (UCC) graduate launched Olivia Buckley Events in 2013 after 15 years in the event planning business. It has now rebranded as Olivia Buckley International as clients seek out the firm’s expertise from all over the world.

“I knew very early on that I wanted to work in a luxury brand market and gained a really good understanding of what it took to compete in that world. In that regard, I would say that my education really helped to shape the specific luxury brand route that I decided to take in my career.

“My experience as the Kerry Rose at the Rose of Tralee really allowed me to be immersed in a large-scale production and I eagerly soaked up all of the elements that went into creating a television spectacle of this level. It certainly cemented my desire to work on large-scale, custom-designed events and from there I was lucky enough to begin working within the luxury weddings sector,” Ms Buckley said.

Beginning a business specialising in luxury and glamour in 2013 before the economy recovered was a risk but one worth taking, according to Ms Buckley.

“There is never an ideal time to begin anything so you just have to go for it and trust in your ability. I wholeheartedly believed that there was very much a place for my business in the market and although Ireland may have been in a recession, I was looking to the rest of the world, aware that a significant amount of my clientele would likely be international,” she said.

At the beginning, Ms Buckley said she wasn’t in a position to hire any staff so did everything herself. The big test of whether she could cut it came when she was hired for an event on a private island, she said.

“There were certainly sleepless nights and moments of fear, there was also an unquenchable fire in my belly that spurred me on. Over the first year, I did mostly small-scale, private events. The business really took off due to referrals and word of mouth and from there we were contracted to create a beautiful luxury event on a private island.

“This was a huge undertaking with so many risk factors and challenges involved and ultimately its success was the proof that we really could produce spectacular events, anywhere, for anyone,” she said.

Being headhunted by Colin Cowie, party planner for stars such as Tom Cruise and Jennifer Lopez, was a major business breakthrough in 2015, Ms Buckley said.

“We had the opportunity to learn from the best in the world and to observe best practice. It was very much the turning point that catapulted our business into a whole other level of luxury high-end events,” she said.

Inspiring women in leadership roles in business is vital, said Ms Buckley.

“In Ireland, we can often have a very self-deprecating attitude that whilst charming, doesn’t always lend itself to promoting confidence and leadership, particularly in young women. It is essential that we nurture and promote confidence and self-belief in our young women so that they are motivated to fulfill their true potential.

“At Olivia Buckley International, all of our key team are female including and not limited to our managing director, event producer, creative manager, operations manager, graphic designer, communications executive, accountant and legal counsel.

“When we work on live events, approximately 75% of our crew are male so it is empowering to have an all-female team in leadership roles for such large-scale productions. I do feel that while it is certainly important to celebrate this, we need to get to a stage where an all-female or female-heavy team in management is not anything unusual,” she said.

After five years establishing itself as a leading Irish events planning business, Ms Buckley said the next five years would be about expanding its worldwide footing.

“Our previous clientele has come from countries such as Australia, the US and Hong Kong and we are keen to continue to develop relationships with clients from around the globe. It is a joy to promote our beautiful country as the ultimate location to hold your event and it is a great source of pride to attract business to Ireland when in competition with other beautiful destinations in the European market.

“Your strength as a business relies on the relationships that you have with the people that work with you. Our suppliers are hand-picked from Ireland and all around the world which contributes to the unique quality that all of our events have.

“We want to become the most sought-after event designers in the world, not just in Ireland and the faith and respect that I have for the teams and suppliers that we work with lead me to believe that this is absolutely possible. The sky really is the limit for us,” she said.

 

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