Special Events

The Last Word: Steve Kemble

HIS YEAR, STEVE KEMBLE CELEBRATES HIS 20TH year in the special event industry. As of Jan. 12, he's also been celebrating his Gala Award for Lifetime Achievement from Special Events Magazine, which he took home from The Special Event 2002, held in Phoenix.

But Kemble, who has won multiple awards from organizations including ISES, MPI and NACE, says his greatest satisfaction comes from having the opportunity to produce events all over the world, “which enables me to interact with so many varied cultures.” He adds, “I learn something new and I am challenged every single day of my life.”

Kemble's event career, which started with the organization of his high school prom, led to the founding of Dallas-based Steve Kemble Event Design 14 years ago. Today, the company takes in $1.5 million to $2 million in gross revenue a year, and handles 15 to 20 events annually. Among these was the 1,000-guest, black-tie dinner Kemble produced for former president George Bush — a gala he calls “one of the most memorable events I have done.” At the evening's end, the Bush family left before the rest of the guests for security reasons. “Former President Bush was halfway down the hall, and much to the dismay of the Secret Service made his way back down the hallway, found me, shook my hand, and said, ‘Steve, I just want to tell you that was a wonderful event. Thank you,’” Kemble recalls. “Of course, it probably helped that I had the broccoli [a vegetable that Bush is famous for disliking] removed from his entree plate prior to it being served.”

Kemble, who once employed seven staff members, says his need to concentrate on events rather than human resources eventually convinced him to go it alone. “Don't get me wrong — I love people,” he explains. “But managing them was beginning to stifle my creativity. This is when I discovered I needed to be an independent.” Despite the downside of being a one-man operation — “I can only be in one place at a time, which forces me to say no to potential clients a whole lot” — Kemble says the freedom is well worth the cost.

While he's no longer responsible for in-house staff, Kemble says handling the demands of vendor relationships keeps him busy. He admits, “Sometimes managing all of my suppliers, which can be in excess of 20 on a major event, makes my head spin!” But such intense responsibility also has a sweeter side. “I stop and think of [my] dad, and realize that raising me was probably like managing in excess of 30 suppliers,” Kemble says. “He's the inspiration for every event of my life.”

Steve Kemble Event Design
715 N. Oak Cliff Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75208
214/943-5949

FINE FUTURE

“I foresee a greater appreciation for sophistication through simplicity. I predict to achieve this we will use more floral, linen, creative tableware, designer chairs and lighting, and a lot less glitz and glamour. Oh, what will I do!”

EVENTS THAT MAKE SENSE

“Over 95 percent of my work is with marketing departments — I'm not usually dealing with the corporate event planner, I'm dealing with the V.P. of marketing. I look for events that reach way down into all different aspects of the corporation — that type of marketing challenge. If more of us begin to do that, I think that's where we as an industry become stronger, because people start to understand our value more. I think the days of the corporate party have gone away, but the days of the corporate marketing event are becoming more and more prevalent out there.”

I WISH I'D KNOWN SOONER …

“I am here to produce events, not finance them. Any and all clients should pay for their event in full before the doors open. It is our job to educate our clients that we are not the bank!”

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