Inside Track: Sharon Griffin, CEO of Frog Prince and Griffin & Grey

Design-led event production company is so busy the team works from 5am to 2am some days

Sharon Griffin. What one piece of advice would she give to the Government to help stimulate the economy? “Stop penalising business owners!”

Sharon Griffin. What one piece of advice would she give to the Government to help stimulate the economy? “Stop penalising business owners!”

 

What sets your business apart from the competition?

We are a design-led event production company. We design, produce and we create – there are no third-party suppliers. We do all of our own linens, accessories, furniture, cutlery etc. We have our own designers and installation team.

An event-management company typically works with third-party suppliers whereas, as a production company, we really care about the aesthetic of the event and, because everything is done inhouse, we can create great experiences whilst managing the client’s budget well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received in business?

Take every opportunity that arises; don’t be fearful and just do it. My father always said to me: “You’re only as good as your last job.” The wedding you produced last year for €200,000 doesn’t matter any more – the wedding you’re producing today for €2,000 is what matters. Every job, no matter what the budget, matters because it is the job you’re doing today that you’ll be judged on.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?

On a project in the early days of my business, I totally underestimated the scope of works and left myself extremely short on time. I will never forget it. I still remember it like it was yesterday – the stress on the morning. It was all done and the bride never knew, but I can still feel it; I can still remember the church, the event, the venue. It was all down to lack of experience and I never let it happen again.

What is your major success to date?

To me, success is creating the wonder and magic that we create with every job. Moving into launching our new corporate business is further evidence of that. It’s all about the “experience” now and we are bringing the expertise from our bridal business to our corporate clients with Griffin & Grey Events. I’m also proud that the business has grown organically throughout the recession and that I employ 12 people with two more on the way.

Who do you most admire in business and why?

Preston Bailey – a luxury event producer in the United States. He is hugely open and honest about the mistakes he’s made and has been creating workshops and talking about the back-end of his business for the past 10 years – long before it was a “trend” to be educational. His honesty and ability to reinvent himself is very inspiring.

In your experience, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?

We’ve not had any dealings with the banks. For me, crowdfunding is a simple way to create cash within your business. We did it this year through a finance company and we found it very easy – people investing small amounts in our business. It is an easy way to raise capital with a smaller return on investment than a bank loan. We raised about €50,000 which we have invested in adding 5,000sq ft to our business, as well as purchasing new machinery to streamline our workflow.

What one piece of advice would you give to the Government to help stimulate the economy?

Stop penalising business owners. I think it is such a huge risk to set up your own business. People have big mortgages, they have families and there is no incentive to do so. If they choose to set up a business there are zero allowances – you’ve restricted benefits, no maternity benefit; if you are sick or have a diagnosis of illness you are left with nothing. It’s as though you’re penalised for creating jobs and paying tax.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in business?

Our job is antisocial. We work from 5am to 2am some days. We work weekends, we are hugely busy all summer long… so staffing is a challenge. But, on the flip side, we offer people an amazing job. Our team adores what they do – they are so proud to come to work and produce these events and know that they’ve played a part in such an exhilarating experience. Nobody has ever called in sick on an event day in 11 years. We need committed, dedicated people and the people on our team understand that.

How do you see the short-term future for your business?

Our wedding business, Frog Prince, looks really good and it’s something that we love doing. I’ve also just launched a new partner company, Griffin & Grey Events, specialising in corporate events. This is in response to requests from people who had come across us in the wedding sphere and wanted us to do something similar for them but in the corporate space, without the confusion of it being a wedding events company producing their event.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?

My business is not for sale. I want to build a really beautiful brand and am determined to grow the business. We love what we are doing, are very busy and are passionate about what we do.