Steve Carroll is not your average special event manager; he is so much more than pulling of the perfect festival or charity event. Steve grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and began working in a restaurant as a busboy at a restaurant by the name of “Serena’s” when he was fifteen. From there he moved to work for the Windjammer, a popular bar on Isle of Palms, South Carolina, and so on. When asked what college he attended his reply was simply “none, I was on my own” and in 1991 he opened his own restaurant, “Radio Room” in the heart of downtown Charleston.
Today he is the owner of two restaurants in Charleston, and is the head of a number of event planning committees. The committees he is a part of include the Charleston Restaurant Association, College of Charleston Hospitality, and Tourism Advisory Board. Steve found himself in the event management industry because he “loves people, music, and alcohol. ” The opportunity presented itself to a dedicated and hardworking young adult who took his opportunity and ran with it.
His advice for getting a foot in the door to become an event manager is to get involved with your community, volunteer at as many festivals and charity events as you can, and lastly, do it for the love of it instead of money. Once you have got your foot in that door, Carroll says, the work does not stop there. It is necessary to work even harder to be a successful event manager. The key to success if putting the people first, and do what you say you are going to do. Empty promises are the best way to disappoint a community.
Creativity is also another key to success when hosting an event of any kind. The event managers that are prone to failure are the ones that focus on making money as opposed to pleasing the people of the community. Steve also says that success has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time, with a positive attitude, and an immense amount of both good and bad luck. The Charleston Restaurant Association that Steve a part of, hosts two major events in Charleston each year, the Taste of Charleston, and the Low Country Oyster Festival.
These festivals are filled with competitions, live music, cold beers, and a great crowd. The Low Country Oyster Festival is in “the top 20 events to attend in the Southeast” by Southeastern Tourism Society. The Taste of Charleston festival has some of the greatest Chefs of South Carolina cooking for the people of Charleston, along with live music, alcohol, and lots of fun. These two events held in Charleston are charity events that donate to a number of charities such as the Ronald McDonald House, Hospitals for Children, Hollings Cancer Center, and so on.
Steve puts a lot of hard work into planning these events that make millions of dollars, and he receives none of it. All the proceeds go to the charities listed above, and Steve hosts this event purely out of the kindness of his heart and the love of his people. Steve believes the greatest challenges facing event leaders in the next ten years will be the economy and government regulations, the tax on alcohol for example. People will always have a reason to celebrate, whether its someone’s life at a funeral, a baby being born, or a couple joining together in marriage.
Carroll believes that it competition will aid with making event management become greater, and as long as our population keeps growing, so will the amount of events. Ryan McKenzie, the other gentleman I had the pleasure of interviewing, was almost on the other side of the spectrum as compared to Steve. Ryan grew up in the small town of Turbineville, South Carolina, which is roughly thirty minutes East of Sumter, South Carolina. He studied Biology at College of Charleston, while minoring in Chemistry, quite the opposite of event management.
Ryan began working in the food and beverage industry while in school when the opportunity to become a staff manager at Culi Events and Staffing. While working under them, Ryan was also in charge of training at the Charleston Place Hotel. In 2007, he joined the Hamby Catering and Events team, where he put his blood, sweat, and tears forth in order to be promoted from event captain to one of their best Event Producers. Ryan believes he got where he is today in life by being a driven, hard-working, and organized man.
Other qualities he says are beneficial to a successful career in the special event management field is being sociable, creative, fun, and stylish! Having the ability to “adapt to different personalities,” as Ryan puts it, can only help you. Know your customer and don’t take anything personally because there is a good amount of difficult clients that you will come across from time to time in this business. “Bridezillas and Momzillas” are Ryan’s least favorite to have to please. The best way to get into event management, from Ryan’s view, is to start at the bottom.
Whether it is being an intern or simply cleaning up after events for an event planning company. Finding yourself involved with a company itself is the most helpful, and with enough hard work, you could even start your own company if you learn the ropes of how a business runs smoothly. The greatest challenges Ryan faces now and will be increasing throughout the next ten years is people believing they are an event planner solely because they successfully planned a birthday party or even an office party.
People take for granted the hard work that is put behind each extravagant event; they think planning a wedding is super simple but it’s quite the contrary. Planning weddings is extremely stressful and nothing but hard, dedicated work; it is not all “rainbows and butterflies” as one might put it. Ryan lives by a quote he cherishes dearly said by Doris King, a long time Charleston Planner, which goes: “if you’re not limpin’ and bleedin’ by the end of the night, then you didn’t work hard enough at the event. ”
These two event planners, in my opinion, have very different views when it comes to planning. Ryan is the hard-worker and follower of the “rule book,” whereas Steve is more of a laid back, go with the flow kind of guy. He just wants him and his community to have a fun time bonding with each other over music, food, and drinking. I don’t believe that either of these men are wrong, in fact, I think that both of them are completely right. I have developed a whole new view of both of these men after interviewing because of how they both lit up talking about what they love doing most.
It takes both of their personalities to pull off a successful and memorable event, the fun, laid back type and the type that gets the job done, and gets it done right. It is important to know who your clients are and the best way to make them delighted with your work. Making sure your clients are having a fun and stress-free time, all because they have put their event in your hands with the trust that you will serve them well, no matter if it is a wedding or a food festival.