Sophie Bogdis, an Australian, moved to Dubai in 2004 after being headhunted for a job in luxury retail. She set up Special Occasions, an events planning company, in 2010. At the SMEinfo Awards 2012, she was a finalist for Small Business of the Year and was highly commended in the Entrepreneur of the Year category. She was nominated in the Most Admirable Woman of the Year category at the small and medium enterprise Stars of Business Awards.
Luxury retailer to party planner is a big jump. What propelled you?
I had moved up as far as I could go and didn't really know what to do next. I can't really explain this but the idea just sort of popped into my head. Friends were always asking for ideas to celebrate birthday and anniversaries so I thought, let me try it and see what happens.
What did happen?
It's been a dream. I worked night and day and didn't really have a plan. I got my licence and tried to network and use social media to get the word out. Three weeks after launching I got my first booking - a kids' party. It was just me for the first nine months; I didn't have any profit. But I became busier and busier and there was no way I could handle all the bookings by myself. I began searching for people - not people in the industry, but people who didn't have experience so we could learn and build together. Now, including me, there are seven full-time employees.
I guess December is a very busy time of year for you?
November, December and January are purely corporate events, end-of-year parties. Then kids tend to be more outside parties so we are busy up to May. Our business is 40 per cent corporate and 40 per cent kids. The rest is bridal showers, baby showers and different little events.
Do you have to keep coming up with new ideas?
You have to. We are getting repeat clients and we don't want to give them exactly the same as the year before. But there is always something new happening in the market. Last year photo booths were not that big. This year, you can use them at almost every event.
Is there a lot of competition in your line of business?
There is. And as time goes on there is more and more. When we started there were no companies that did the entire range - they did only corporate or only kids. But we try to work closely with some other companies. You never want to say 'no' to a client and if you are busy it's good to have back-up, to know there is another company there you can rely on. And there is plenty of work to go around.
You have had quite a lot of professional recognition this year. What does that mean to you?
My team and I work so hard and sometimes we forget to take a step back and look at what we have achieved. [Being] nominated makes you stop and realise your work has been appreciated. It's really nice to get that recognition.