Canton native Nicole Samolis didn’t set out to become a successful small businesswoman, but her firm The Events Company is tangible evidence of her passion and persistence on the path of entrepreneurship. Samolis earned her degree in fashion design and business and spent her early career years at national retailers in Rhode Island and New York. When Samolis hit the management ceiling at Lord & Taylor in the mid 1990’s, she researched which small business industries were rapidly growing and found the event planning field a good match for her design skills and creativity.
Before Google was a household name, researching information required a significant amount of time. Samolis spent many hours in libraries reading about the event planning industry and developing a business plan. The Samolis family had moved to Syracuse only 18 months before and she found the local Chamber of Commerce a tremendous networking tool to help launch her startup business. With a listing in the Yellow Pages and two successful events quickly under her belt, Samolis made the leap of faith by quitting her corporate career and taking her business full-time into her home. “I’m a highly optimistic person, and I figured if I could get two clients, I could probably get more,” recounts Samolis. More clients did hire Samolis and Samolis was able to achieve profitability in just three months’ time.
Samolis joined International Special Events Society, the worldwide event planning trade group, and set her company apart from the local competition by bringing fresh new trends to the Syracuse market. “Bringing those elements that aren’t here locally means shipping things in, shipping things out. It’s my job as an event professional to know what’s out there and what we can provide to our clients,” says Samolis. “We really raise the bar for what people expect from events by bringing that “wow” factor. We help clients achieve their objectives as the architect and general contractor of the event.”
Samolis describes how her startup reached critical mass in 1999: “I never wanted to jeopardize the integrity of the product for the client, so when I became overwhelmed and started to have two events on the same day, I knew I needed help. I couldn’t stay just a one-person shop.” After connecting with another small business to share rented office space in downtown Syracuse, Samolis had both the workspace and workload needed to hire her first employee.
The Events Company outmatches competitors by offering complete event management services, from table settings and custom lighting to branded corporate events and red-carpet product launches. Atypical event themes cemented The Events Company’s reputation as a creative force-instead of traditional, overused luau and Mardi Gras events, Samolis creates unique experiences such as a Superhero concept or Markets of Marrakesh theme. Steady growth in both event planning and event production divisions have resulted in three more full-time employees joining the payroll, including her husband Kevin.
Fast forward to 2011 and you’ll find The Events Company still in downtown Syracuse, just a few blocks away from their first rented space. Staying downtown remains a priority for the business since many clients and popular event venues are located within its confines. Samolis now partners with a Rochester-based rental equipment company to share expenses in the 2,000 square foot suite, double the size of the previous space. Exhibiting a sampling of their rental wares is a win-win situation for Somalis, who doesn’t have pay to maintain expensive inventory, and her clients, who can see what the event style will look like. As the company’s wedding market share grew, Samolis teamed up with other popular wedding vendors to create The Wedding Studio, a chic environment next door where every wedding resource is at the bridal couple’s disposal.
This year has been pivotal for Samolis. In November, she graduated from SBA’s newest executive management training program, e200. By the numbers, the free MBA-level program was a demanding commitment: 100 hours of training, nine months of classes, and one Strategic Growth Action Plan. To Samolis, the time was well worth the effort: “When I first started the business 15 years ago, I saw myself as a business owner. Now I see myself as an entrepreneur, which I really like. Based on the strategic plan I developed in e200, we’ve made the decision to invest in a fifth full-time person. This will allow me to back away from the day-to-day operations to focus on business development and new opportunities for our company.”