We’re All That: Event 1 Has Conventions Covered

Event 1 Inc. founders Kelly McElroy and Corbin Potter love being able to say to clients, “We’ve got you covered.”
Event 1 Inc. provides meeting planning services. The company also offers trade show coordination, complete with audio-visual and graphic services. The goal is to make the client look like a rock star, and for convention and trade show attendees to “experience perfection.”
“We are one of the only models like this in the Midwest,” McElroy said.
McElroy founded Event 1 Inc., 7202 E. 38th St., in 1998. During her work as a meeting planner, she worked often with trade show specialist Potter. By 2003, the two partnered.
Each year since 2004, Event 1 sales more than doubled. With accounts like the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Commission, the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, McElroy and Potter anticipate still more growth.
The Tulsa Business Journal took a trip to the small but snazzy Event 1 office to find out what the founders see in the future for the convention business, as well as how the company found its niche.

TBJ: How did Event 1 get its start?
Potter: We were working out of Kelly’s garage apartment. We went out and got $150,000 worth of contracts the second week.
McElroy: Our first show was in 30 days, and we did not own one piece of equipment.
Potter: So we went and bought all the tables, the pipe and drape, the carpet. We leased the warehouse we’re in now and started up. At first it was just Kelly and me.
McElroy: We’re up to 10 employees now, after three and a half years.

TBJ: What allowed Event 1 to take root?
Potter: One of our initial goals was to develop a strong market share in Tulsa. I think we’ve achieved that. We haven’t achieved that in Oklahoma City, though. We don’t have a physical presence there yet.
Kelly: We’re not just Tulsa. We are statewide. We have to be. We’re keeping the turnpike hot and heavy between Oklahoma City and Tulsa because of the size of the shows that we do.

TBJ: What’s it like to grow so quickly?
Potter: It’s been wild and crazy – I mean, much more than we expected. Our clients realized very quickly that they could utilize us for multiple things. When you walk into a trade show, you see all the signs, projectors, screens and speakers – all of that can be done in-house, by Event 1. In the past, you’d have to go to a party supply place, and then a trade show place, then a meeting planner, then an audio-visual company. We have it all under one roof.

TBJ: What is your marketing strategy?
McElroy: Right now, we don’t market ourselves. Most of our clients come to us by word of mouth. We may have the Association of Manufacturers one week, and a golf show the next week. Those organizations aren’t vying for the same audiences, so they trade notes on convention planning. We don’t have an ad campaign right now, or anything on the Web that drives visitors to our site – not that we’re happy about that. We do realize that things are going to change. But I think that because of our significant growth, we’re doing good to hold our own right now.

TBJ: What else is in the future for Event 1?
McElroy: We want to get a toehold in Oklahoma City now and get some 2007 and 2008 contracts. A lot of business will be in Oklahoma City during those years because everything here will be under construction. Once Oklahoma City revamped its convention facilities, it put itself on the field with first-tier cities. I look for the same thing to happen here. We’re going to raise the bar.
Potter: For the state, it will be great. You’ll have those groups that are always here – the Oklahoma-based associations. But now, there will be national and regional groups that can fill in those dead times. Overall, the convention business in Oklahoma should increase a great deal over the next five to 10 years. ?

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