NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka
AFTER almost losing business as a disc jockey when he did not have all services sought after by a client under one roof, Andrew Zuluâ€™s eyes were opened to opportunities in event planning.
With a passion for music, Andrew who would provide services as a disc jockey (DJ) then, realised there was need for him to diversify his business into events planning as there seemed to be a growing need for it on the market.
DJ Andre, as he is popularly known, started off in business 15 years ago by providing musical equipment and deejaying at various events all over Lusaka.
He deejayed at weddings, birthday parties, and high level functions among others.
But a day came when one of his clients who had hired him to provide music and his services as a DJ also wanted him to deliver other services such as dÃ©cor, braai stands, chaffing dishes and others.
Andre realised because he did not have them he was on the verge of losing business. He, therefore, quickly called some people he knew in the industry who helped him supply what his client wanted.
This is how his brand as Andre Entertainments was born.
It involves planning and organising funerals, corporate functions, weddings, kitchen parties and also providing dÃ©cor among other services.
With time, Andre says, â€œI began to invest in marquees, tables, chairs, linen, chaffing dishes, cutlery and crockery. I also began to design and print cards among others.â€
And now Andre is busy all over town planning events and providing other services as well.
He provides marquees for his clients, supplies tables and chairs and also dresses them creatively.
Andre also provides dÃ©cor and sets tables with cutlery and crockery to befit a particular event.
He provides the music system and should his clients request, he also will be the DJ of the function.
Some of his clients have been Access Bank, Barclays Bank, Zambia Air Force, Zambia Body Building Association, and notwithstanding, ordinary Zambians without which his business would not be what it is today.
Andre says events planning requires one to be energetic as he sometimes juggles among three or more functions in an event to ensure his clients are satisfied.
He explains that events planning in Zambia is a growing business as people have now come to appreciate it.
â€œZambians are opening up to this industry but one thing Iâ€™ve observed in this business is that people donâ€™t want to take advice until something goes wrong at their function,â€ he says.
He narrates that a client had an outdoor event at a big venue, adding that he had advised them on what equipment they needed to use. However, that client did not heed his advice and proceeded to use a home theatre system whose sound output was poor.
The client then called Andre and when he got to the venue, he told them the problem was as a result of the small musical system they used. They needed bigger equipment for that kind of event.
He said had they listened to him, their function would not have been disturbed.
But Andre takes such issues in his stride and believes this is one of the reasons people need an events planner.
He, however, says he does not go straight into planning events for his clients, adding that it all begins with consultation.
Andre says he first meets with potential clients during which they lay out their needs for the event and ask him questions.
After understanding his clientsâ€™ needs, Andre discusses details including preferred dates, venue and other specifics.
He also explains his role to his clients during the planning phase and the day of the event.
It is also at this stage where he also tells the client anything they need to do during this process and what costs will be involved.
When all has been agreed on, Andre checks on the venue to see what kind of tables and chairs would be needed and the decor.
Small venues require rectangular tables while bigger venues require round tables, Andre says.
â€œA lot goes into planning an event. Different accessories will be required to decorate an event depending on whether it is indoor or outdoor, formal or informal and any other. I have to see where I will set up the high table if it is a wedding, colour of flowers and others,â€ he says.
Sometimes clients leave all the planning to him therefore, he has the job of hiring a master of ceremonies (MC) for the function, caterer, florists and others.
Andre says there are various reasons why it is important to hire an events planner.
He says individuals often find they lack the expertise and time to plan events themselves.
Therefore, independent planners can step in and give these special events the attention they deserve.
He says people need a stress-free event and the only one who can run around in different directions and bear the stress is an event planner.
â€œDuring your function, all you need is sit and enjoy the occasion. An event planner enables you take the stress off by hiring a caterer, looking for a suitable musical system, an MC and others,â€ he says.
According to Andre, an events planner coordinates everything at once and saves clients the trouble of hiring services from different suppliers.
He also says clients are saved from the trouble of negotiating costs for services which the events planner can do on their behalf â€œwith no sweatâ€.
â€œIt is actually cheaper for a client when an events planner negotiates certain costs because we have good working relations with various service providers,â€ he says.
And to become a successful events planner, Andre says good communication and â€œpeopleâ€ skills are required.
He also says good problem-solving skills, determination, excellent organisation skills and the ability to carry out a number of tasks at the same time are necessary attributes of a successful event planner.
Others are paying a high level of attention to detail, the ability to work under pressure and good negotiation, sales and marketing skills.
Andre says a good events planner will also take time to understand what the client wants from the venue, number of guests, meals, invitation cards to dÃ©cor.
To those wanting to engage in events planning, Andre says, on-the-job training and actual event experience are the best ways to learn. He says nothing will prepare you the way real event experiences will.
Andre also says, â€œSurround yourself with a quality team of vendors who share a similar philosophy and work ethic as youâ€.
â€œTreat each event with the same amount of care and passion as if it were your own wedding or special occasion, and youâ€™ll have a great recipe for a successful event,â€ he adds.
NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka