Caroline Kay is a conference and event planning consultant with boundless energy and more than 15 years of event and operations management experience. Her globe-spanning events are meticulously managed and engineered with ingenuity, with a constant eye to ROI for her clients. In producing corporate and private events, she blends strong leadership and creativity with the extensive experience in business development, operations, account management, and communications she gained in startup and large enterprise environments in the U.S and U.K. Read our interview with the lovely Caroline below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve always wanted to own my business. (I would say “be in control of my own destiny,” but that’s a tall order as an entrepreneur who provides a service that’s all about client needs.) I’m inspired and motivated by the female entrepreneurs I’ve known and have studied. And bottom line, I felt that having my own business would enable me to do what I ultimately want to do: do great work, have fun, and travel.
Tell us about your business.
KAY International provides the creativity, know-how, and specialized resources required to achieve stellar results from conferences and events. We’ve helped powerhouses such as Microsoft, Siemens, Avanade, GSK, HP and American Express engage, inspire and energize stakeholders around the globe.
We’ve produce one-of-a-kind conferences and events – always with an eye to flawless executive, the business results required, and the memorable experience our clients are after. We draw on an extensive international network of colleagues and experts in their respective fields to compose the event team as required for results.
Where is your business based?
I’m based in Seattle, Washington, but I travel the world to produce events for clients. The world is my “office.”
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The most important step I took was to make a commitment to myself to build a successful business regardless of the challenges and obstacles. I worked with my Business Coach on my plan of action and reached out to some strong connections about potential work. But I didn’t go too crazy – I nailed down some client engagements before creating my website or logo.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
- Past and repeat clients
- Social media
- Strong support system of colleagues and advocates
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Just about every part of starting and running the business has been challenging, but it has been a great challenge! It can be tough to get the word out and stay front-of-mind with prospective clients when it comes to event planning (prospects can be a bit fickle when it comes to procuring event management resources). And as with every small business, getting the right business resources, like a book keeper, IT help, etc., can be tough. But it’s critical to have top-notch support resources.
How did you overcome these challenges?
For the support resources, I worked hard to get clear and definite about what assistance I needed and what I didn’t. Then I relied on my network to refer me to their trusted colleagues. And as with all the resources I work with in the event management business, I find people who are better at their jobs than I am!
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I have some wonderful, close friends that I rely on to keep me sane – my own personal cheer-leading squad! I also spend a lot of time with my godchildren (I have eight!), depending where I am around the world. I get outdoors to hike whenever I can and go see my family in the U.K. as often as possible.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
My knowledge and history in the event management industry and my diverse business experience are what make up my brand, who I am and what I do. Those attributes enable to me to offer a distinctive approach and capability to the events I produce for clients.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
A wise advisor suggested that I focus on my niche and my strengths; that I don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades. Another wise advisor reminded me to look after myself while doing the fun, but relentless, work of an entrepreneur.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur is hard, all-consuming work, so be sure to look after yourself. And don’t go it alone – get a business coach.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
Microsoft OneNote and Excel. I live in this these tools. Also, my “rolodex” – having experts in various specialized event management disciplines to call upon all over the world is essential.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Hashtags #ckayinternational #entrepreneur #womensupportingwomen
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons In Life” by Richard Branson.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m looking to expand my client base beyond Seattle with companies located across the U.S. and the globe. Also, I’m looking for opportunities to work with and support non-profits organizations that serve veterans and the military. My brother serves in the military and veteran/military services are an important issue to me. It will be my focused area of giving back.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I manage and develop my business by focusing on 90-day plans. As we come into the second quarter of 2017, I’m working to secure two more substantial, long-term corporate clients. And as always, I’m working hard and fast to serve my current clients and to stay connected to my network of colleagues around the world.