Introducing ESTA. A new breed

Monday, 16 January 2023 09:57
The Event Styling™ Training Academy.

It's always been my passion to raise awareness within the industry and to help clients experience the best of what we have to offer here in KZN. After all, we have some of the best "Pinterest"ocean views right here in our backyard.

The most awe-inspiring countryside exists less than an hour away from our base camp here in Umhlanga, and very often makes for a relaxing, scenic, Sunday drive for most coastal residents like myself who want to relieve some of the weeks' tensions. (Yes, as crazy as it sounds , we who work here in the tourist city of Umhlanga also work under pressure. We have deadlines to meet, goods to deliver, brides to keep happy and corporates to impress.) We have the luxury of watching the waves crash on the shores - yes, but it's no less stressful. In fact sometimes we hardly notice the does it's thing, and we do ours.

This beautiful tourist city of Umhlanga on the East Coast of South Africa, is highly regarded. It is their choice destination when megastars and celebs like Brad Pitt, The Stig, Prince Albert and our very own Charlize pop in for a visit to promote this or that, or perhaps just to sip on a cocktail. The "Nicki Minaj's"  of the world are sleeping in 5 Star resorts a mere 6 minutes from my front door.....We have to roll out the red carpet, yes?  Absolutely! Roads are closed off, restaurants are inaccessible, and locals are dismissed without an explanation. We don't mind that. We love our city and want others to love our city too. It's great for local business and brag.

Talking about the locals, (me being one of them), leads me to say this about our levels of service regarding locals and Planners alike. It is, well rather shocking! It is a gaping wound. Fact. It is painful and we get weary. The struggle is real. Service providers tend to rely on the gorgeous surroundings to make up for their sad and unapologetic sub-standard service that locals very often experience at restaurants & hotels, B&B's and convention centres. We are hearing that boring, tiring, old cliche a bit too often these days. We hear that we are "a holiday destination", "we prefer to entertain the Internationals", "there is no need to rush things along", "You're the first one that's ever complained!"

Only the very best, most cheerful and brilliant of smiles are reserved for the International high-rollers and hey, big spenders. (I love Shirley Bassey.)

Event Profs like myself who support businesses all year round seem to be dismissed, even ridiculed when a complaint is even thought of or seen approaching from a distance. It seems that a certain "look" is all that is needed for the guilty parties to go into hibernation , usually the back end of the kitchen, or some rear door that we don't have access to, gently blurring into the shadows, only briefly seen again when guests are leaving. (It's a sophisticated art, the art of avoidance - like a gentle sea breeze.) It's common practice, and totally acceptable to be unaccountable around here. This subtle , but public display of avoidance does not apply to all venues I must insist , but most. Again -  I must insist.

So eventually we stop complaining. We just walk away never to return, and we certainly don't wish to sell that venue to our future clients. As Event Profs, it's simply not in our best interests to return. Well maybe never, but yes 99% of the time.

In most instances, locals don't complain too, but for different reasons. These seaside folk just "put up" with the lack, until they go on their annual holiday and return with the most beautiful memories of Capri or Spain, Croatia or Malaysia... gushing about it on Instagram and about the immaculate service they received all week long, even whilst staying at a 3 star hotel!

Why can't we here in KZN boast the same service appeal? We can offer the same service here, surely? We can train our people to be more receptive, more thoughtful, insightful, pro-active, and more gracious, and not reserve that practice just for the Internationals and out-of-town visitors.

A rough estimate - 70% of Event Styling™ private clients reside here, in "Top Billing" styled homes driving exotic cars, sporting designer clothes with amazing stories of success in business, and wonderful family values to share. They, (or any other local paying client for that matter), deserve to be served piping hot food at the buffet, gravy that is not running dry because the chef is having a bad day and misread the function sheet, or cognac served in a sparking glass that is specifically created for cognac. Do they not deserve this, just because they happen to live here? (Sarcastic tone.)

Of course they do! And so, we decided to do something about improving and tweaking the industry and offering our clients a new (not really new, but less practiced) way of being entertained. We decided to say what needs to be said with passion and enthusiasm, without fear of rejection or isolation, we decided to stand up for our clients and ourselves. We decided take the road less travelled, to speak our truth, and what this beautiful province of KZN should be so proud of. It's people. We decided it's time we played an active role in altering perception.

We have unlimited potential when we alter perception.

This is the beginning of our journey towards making a difference in the industry. A road less travelled. To all service providers out there - from Photographers to Cinematographers, Entertainers, Chefs, Professional Speakers, Cake Designers, Deejays, Sound and Lighting Technicians, Set-up Crew, Decor Stylists, Florists, to Service Ambassadors, Event Profs, Wedding Planners and Event Co-ordinators who work the long hours you do, making the necessary sacrifices along the way, those who do it for the sheer passion and delight of witnessing the smile on a client's face when it's all over, this article is dedicated to you. 

The Event Styling™ Training Academy (ESTA) is aimed at creating a new breed of Wedding & Event Planners. Our mission is really simple. Make a positive difference.

We cannot save all the stranded starfish on the beach, but we most certainly can save the few that are within our reach.

True story.