It is no secret that we often end up working in an industry that may not seem an obvious choice based on the degree we’ve studied. Kate Stewart, BCom (2005), shares her journey from studying business to being one of Melbourne’s leading events specialists.
Most people would think long and hard before resigning from a coveted graduation role at Grant Thornton two weeks prior to commencing. But then again, many people wouldn’t consider closing a successful business, selling their inventory, and setting up a brand new business, going from 10 full-time employees and 180 casual staff to a team of 2 either! In business, it takes a talented type of person to recognise that you must remain fluid in order to see continued success. We found one.
Meet Kate Stewart of En Pointe Events. In her first year of business, she is on target to hit a $2million turnover. Impressive? Yes. Hard work? Yes. A Bachelor of Commerce graduate, Kate’s journey to success began at the young age of 14, at the Armadale Provender, then starting Kate Stewart Catering from home at 17 to fund her way through university, while also juggling casual work at catering companies Peter Rowland and Damn Fine Food stuffing 20 chickens, packing trucks overnight, and developing menus.
These days, her client portfolio includes big names such Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, renowned Australian chef and author, but it is obvious that one thing hasn’t changed – her passion. Kate’s business journey has been unconventional. After developing her experience in the catering world, Kate decided to venture into business ownership and set up catering company Bright Young Things. Her reason? The creative challenge. “I wanted to do something that would give me the opportunity to continue to learn – but faster. I was, and still am, intensely passionate about delicious food presented with style… things that are worth eating, and items that make an adult light up! I wanted to create memories,” she explained. She felt she could only truly deliver this with her own vision.
Bright Young Things was highly successful, so why did she pivot?
I sat down with Kate to take a look at some of her recent achievements with the newly formed En Pointe Events, find out more about the excitement and theatrics behind the events management industry and how she managed the change in her business.
I imagine this isn’t where you pictured yourself when you took on the Bachelor of Commerce at 17 – what are your key takeaways from completing the degree?
I’ve always loved numbers, and focused on accounting, management and business law whilst studying commerce. Whilst I’m no expert, my studies have helped me ensure I run my businesses strategically and can manage costs which is so important in this industry. The Commerce foundations also mean that I know now when I need assistance – be it from our accountant, lawyer or tax adviser. I practise what I preach – your event needs an event expert and I will often need a business expert!
I’m curious, why the move to En Pointe from what seemed like an extremely successful business in Bright Young Things?
At Bright Young Things, we wanted to make sure our clients enjoyed not only delicious food, but also a seamless event experience.
We ended up being more and more involved in event planning, location sourcing and creative support as well as catering. This developed our reputation for gorgeously styled dessert tables, lovingly crafted weddings and intelligently articulated brand experiences.
We were often asked to manage events in venues already tied to a specific chef. I had wanted to set up a separate business to celebrate this growing opportunity for some time, but the time wasn’t right. In August 2015, a long time employee of mine at Bright Young Things, Rocco Trimboli, and I decided we couldn’t wait a minute longer and created En Pointe Events.
Kudos for making the switch! But don’t you miss the catering business?
Most of it, no. It’s a hard gig ! I appreciate every minute I had running Bright Young Things – and all the people I had the fortune of working with along the way, but I feel so lucky to have been able to pivot our business and be working now in what I think is a smarter business – and a business that lets me celebrate my strengths (event creative, logistics and hospitality!) I had gotten lost in admin, logistics, hr, accounts and the stresses as Bright Young Things grew –in hindsight, I should have brought in a general manager.
Clearly, you’ve highlighted the world needs event specialists. Why do you think this is?
Events often means using a space in a way that it hasn’t been designed for and they cost money. Money which should be spent strategically. That is what the best events specialists will help you with. At En Pointe Events, we plan out the elements that need to be considered (so that there aren’t any last-minute surprises), advising on everything from the menu, to kids activities, furniture, floor plans and invitations; even ways to dampen sound – from the big picture to the detail. Ultimately, we want to make sure your event is En Pointe. That it connects with what your business is trying to communicate, celebrate or launch – or from a personal point, if a guest walks in to a wedding, it celebrates the couple and their personalities.
What are your proudest achievements with En Pointe so far?
Of course, hitting our sales targets has been one. Being selected as the exclusive stylist for the 2017 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival hub has been another major win, too! Finally, I think our work with Woodlea – Australia’s fastest-growing suburban community is a standout. They have been a client since 2014 when they launched the name of the new development in a grassy paddock. We have worked with Woodlea on over 20 events and love that we have been able to grow with them. Working with them on ministerial launches, resident events for thousands, amazing family days and strategic activations has been a joy – stay tuned for what we have in store for next April!
The Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne is a flexible degree offering seven Commerce majors as well as elective options from across the University’s undergraduate subject range including Property, Law and Languages. Learn more.