It was a little publication with big ideas.
In September 1982, Miramar Publishing Co. in Los Angeles included a 40-page insert with its publication Rental Equipment Register, which covers the construction equipment and tool rental industry. Dubbed “Special Events,” the fledgling magazine featured Bob and Ducky Firnberg in their state-of-the-art showroom at Ducky-Bob's Rental Center near Dallas. Editor Richard Cerilli promised that the next edition would offer party professionals plenty of news about their business of “entertainment service” — just as soon as it came out seven months later. The little insert also gave readers five pages of supplier listings.
Things have changed.
Ducky-Bob's is now part of the Classic Party Rentals network, a $170 million powerhouse in five states. “Special Events” has changed, too. As we begin our 25th year in publishing, our growth has been remarkable. We now publish the magazine 13 times a year, including a 96-page stand-alone issue of supplier listings. Our annual trade show and conference, The Special Event, brings together some 5,000 attendees to share ideas and learn about new products and services. Our Gala Awards competition draws entrants from throughout the world to showcase the finest work in special events. Our Web site, specialevents.com, archives thousands of articles, searchable by topic, and provides contact information for a host of suppliers. In 2004 we started publishing our e-newsletter, “Eventline,” which now goes to more than 40,000 subscribers every week.
ACTING OUR AGE
The “Special Events” franchise has grown purely because the special event industry has grown in both size and sophistication. What in the early 1980s was a fragmented business — mom-and-pop rental outlets with a “party” sideline, caterers working out of their home kitchen, event planners setting up shop in their home's garage — has coalesced into a united, albeit diverse, profession.
Technology — from the Velcro that replaced grommets and lace lines on tent sidewalls to smartphones that keep event team members in constant contact throughout the world — has broadened the capabilities of event professionals, enabling them to do more and to do it faster.
Thanks to lifestyle magazines such as Martha Stewart Living and InStyle, both of which debuted in the 1990s, the public got an insider's look into party planning, along with images of fabulous celebrity weddings. Web site The Knot, which launched in 1996, put scores of resources at the fingertips of brides-to-be. As a result, social event planners now court a highly sophisticated clientele. Social clients are more demanding, yet are aware of and appreciate the incredible range of event options available to them.
As for corporate event planners, the 1999 book “The Experience Economy” advanced the theory that business is shifting from selling goods and services to selling experiences, and the event profession began trumpeting the role of special events as influential experiences. As such, they are powerful tools for business purposes. Incentive events inspire top performers to continue striving; client-appreciation events help business relationships prosper; product launches generate media interest that no amount of money can buy. Special events have taken their proper place alongside other marketing tools that achieve measurable, profitable results for business.
“Special Events” reflects the rich mix of disciplines that make up our industry. We offer information on everything from bouquets to budgeting, tapas to technology.
In the end, the magazine and all the other services we offer exist for only one reason: to serve you, special event professionals. Through the course of our silver anniversary year, we will be profiling the outstanding event pros and the companies they built that have also reached milestone anniversaries. Stay with us as we celebrate this special year in special events.
— The Editors
SALUTING PATTI ROSCOE OF PRA DESTINATION MANAGEMENT
Last month, PRA Destination Management — a nationwide network of 18 destination management company franchises — celebrated its 25th anniversary in San Diego, the city where the DMC giant got its start. Founder and chairman Patti Roscoe toasted the company's success accompanied by more than 300 high-profile San Diego business and city leaders including San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders.
In 1981, armed with a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration and a little office equipped with a folding table, a chair and a telephone, Roscoe launched the company that would grow into a leader in events. “A competitor told one of my clients that I wouldn't last six months,” she told the audience. Instead, “We were constantly asked why we weren't in one city or another across the country.” Roscoe credited her background in the hotel business with teaching her to work hard to create a bond of trust directly between the client and the service provider. “Our creativity and unparalleled service, which is a result of our passion for the infinite details of our business, have given us a leg up.”
The system now comprises the 18 franchises along with marketing alliances in Mexico, Central America and Europe. PRA also plans to expand franchising into the Canadian market.
During the anniversary event, PRA franchise organization president Laura Rednour traced the growth of PRA from its modest beginnings to its current prominence in the DMC market. “From the vision of a talented and determined woman business owner now resides one of the most successful destination management companies in the industry,” she said. “The last 25 years have been marked with accomplishments, transformations and impacts, all a direct result of Patti's influence and leadership. We all walk in greatness and gratitude for her vision and hard work over the last 25 years to bring us to this level of success today.”
“I love our industry,” Roscoe said. “I love walking into a spectacular venue my company helped create and then watching the faces of our clients when they walk in, knowing it was designed for them. I still get a thrill out of the ‘wow’ factor. We have the opportunity to deal with people from all over the world in every type of business or association. I can't wait to see what the next 25 years bring.”
PRA Destination Management 1903 Wright Place, Suite 320, Carlsbad, CA 92008; 760/496-0540; www.pra.com