How to turn a passion project into a growth machine

I launched Glow Global Events in New York as a four-person store in 1998 and gradually developed it into a solid, well-equipped business. I was proud of it, but in 2005 I could see that things had to change. My business was profitable and we had worked on world-class events, but I was still an event planner. I wasn’t CEO… not really. I was limiting my potential, but how?

I couldn’t shake the question after that. It’s funny. I never thought about changing the trajectory of my business – getting into live streaming and original programming, for example – until I did; so that was all i thought about.

I am someone who does a lot of research; data and milestones help me see around the corners. So I started by researching my biggest competitors, understanding what they were doing, how their businesses were created. I made appointments with clients who were not typical of my business. I started entertaining different product lines, which in turn led to organizing internal events and meetings for companies focused on engaging with their own employees.

It turns out that my timing was perfect. Ten years after we started our business, before the 2008 financial crisis, I noticed that large organizations were no longer hosting big, high-profile events. But they still needed to hire their employees and were ready to bring in consultants. So it supported us and gave me more confidence in my path. This is when I decided to grow up. I just had to make it.

I signed up for a business accelerator through the New York City Economic Development Corporation. For me, it was a crash course in running a business as a CEO. There I learned to think of everything in terms of growth – by mastering the strategy. Concretely, I learned to build a corporate culture and even to rethink my team in terms of growth. I also revamped my website for SEO and moved my contacts and workflow to a proper CRM tool.

Years later, the pandemic offered a similar inflection point. Four days after New York City shut down non-essential services, I sent a Zoom link to probably five event groups I belong to on Facebook and registered about 100 planners. There were plenty of small event agencies and solo entrepreneurs on the call who just didn’t know what to do with their clients.

I also didn’t know what conversation to have; Covid has been uncharted territory for everyone. But I did what I could. We talked about business interruption insurance, and a few planners said they encountered resistance from sites to collect deposits or negotiate cancellation fees. That’s when I knew we had to take advantage of this community. On the Zoom, I was literally like, “Who did an event at this venue? Well, let’s all call together.” Despite this effort, many planners did not hold virtual events or were simply looking for an exit. I hung up after the call with five new event clients.

From there, virtual events multiplied. We started to see more and more customers interested in growing their community or spreading their good deeds. Some clients had no content; they didn’t know how to get that message across. So we started creating content, like hosting virtual fireside chats or producing documentaries. We have expanded our video production team. We hired someone dedicated to curating music because we didn’t want people attending an event as if they were just logging into Zoom; we were basically producing a television show.

Again, this led to growth. We hadn’t exactly pivoted, however; what we had really done was pivot. We had tried all of these things before – virtual events, personalized content, testing the waters, seeing what worked – so in the end, it all came down to action. As an entrepreneur, you can’t pass up opportunities. We have to pay attention to what is happening. See the signs and be ready to act.

But also plan and plan hard. When I started thinking about how I could grow my business and doing all this research, I came across the story of George P. Johnson, a marketing legend from Detroit who started hosting car shows and commercial before his eponymous company expanded into all sorts of areas. directions. Today it is over 100 years old.

I thought, why can’t Glow be the George P. Johnson of events? We can also be there for a hundred years. I just have to decide and make it that way.


Excerpt from the September 2022 issue of Inc. Magazine

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