Monica Gomez started her career modelling at events. Now, she runs the damn events herself.
The Vancouver native is the founder and director of one of Canada’s premiere event production agencies, The Concierge Club. With a client list that includes Ciroc, GUESS, and even the Bieber family, her forte is what she likes to call “premium” service — whether that’s organizing all the logistics for a high-profile event or staffing that event with a huge range of specialized talent.
And I’m not kidding around with this “huge range” talk — her website lists “fire performances,” “Chinese dragon performers,” and “magicians” as part of their staffing shortlist. Does that not sound like the best birthday party of all time to you? (It certainly does to me, but, hey, I’m partial to folkloric dragons.)
Ultimately, Concierge Club’s success comes down to one person: Monica, and that passionate, no-nonsense, impossible-is-nothing attitude of hers. We spoke to the ultimate #girlboss about her business, how she took over Canada’s event planning market, and what it was like throwing Justin Bieber’s dad’s batshit insane engagement party.
What made you want to go into the industry you’re in now?
I’ve always loved doing events. They’ve always been a passion of mine, but I didn’t go to school or anything — I just started up my own company. I didn’t go to university for event planning. I just decided I was going to make the move [from Vancouver] to Toronto, which is where all the head offices are, and I feel like if there’s anywhere you’re going to do this in Canada, Toronto is kind of the best place to do it, which I’m happy I did now.
Starting a company with no experience sounds scary! What was that like?
Actually, when I moved to Toronto, I was working with an event planner. I was helping her with her events. She had her company at the time I think for over 25 years. She took me under her wing out here; I was assisting her with her events, and she kind of mentored me. She was the one that talked me into setting up the staffing side of the business, so I would basically staff for her events. It’s funny because it’s kind of gone full circle and she’s my Director of Events now. She was really instrumental in giving me that push to start my own thing.
Being new to Toronto, what kind of crazy networking did it take to find such a wide range of people to work your events?
I’ve always been good at meeting the right people and putting myself out there, so on the staffing side, I’d just ask people that I knew if they knew anybody that would be interested in doing this. Slowly, that’s how I started building the roster. On the client side of things, I’ve always just been very good at networking, so it’s just putting myself in the right place at the right time. I already had a really good network, so I just worked up to that. Now, obviously we’re at a place where the staff will come to us, so we don’t have to devote too much time to staff, and our client list is pretty robust.
Is the idea of ‘premium’ what is setting Concierge Club apart from other event planners?
Yes, I think so. I think there are premium event planners out there, but it’s not just in providing premium quality, it’s also the service that we give to our clients, and our clients tell us this all the time. We call ourselves The House of Yes, and we’ll do anything to go above and beyond for our clients just to make sure that they’re happy at the end of the day. Even if it means we have to take a bit of a hit somewhere to fix a problem, we’ll do it to make sure the job gets done, and I just feel that other agencies have kind of lost that. They’ll try to nickel and dime for every little thing, and we just don’t operate like that.
When did you first realize this was going to become something big? What was the turning point?
I would probably say when we did Justin Bieber’s dad’s engagement party. When that event went viral the next day, that was kind of like, “Okay, now we’re on the map.” For me, I’m one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason and I believe that things will work out, so I always just kind of knew. I knew that if I kept doing what I was doing, it was going to be successful. I actually thought it would happen a little bit later! I didn’t imagine we were going to be where we were within five years, and probably where we are now, we wanted to be in eight years, which is a great thing and a great problem to have. The company’s growing really, really quickly, we’re growing our in office staff rapidly, and I think by the end of 2018, we’re probably going to be double in revenue.
When were you reached out to by the Biebers to throw his father’s engagement party?
The event was in April of 2015, but when we first started talking about it, it was probably January or February and that it was going to be something small. But then it turned into this huge event. I think we had something like 700 people come through the door.
What was it like being contacted to handle something like that?
It was pretty amazing. With somebody as big of a celebrity as Justin, you never know if he’s actually going to show up to the event, even if it’s his dad’s engagement. You don’t really know because he could just decide he doesn’t feel like going. We had reached out to a bunch of the clients that we work with to sponsor the event, so it was nerve wracking up until the moment he stepped foot on the property because we had so much coverage on it and so many people that were invested in it. So when he actually showed up, we were like, “Okay, this is amazing.” He ended up actually doing a performance on the piano, he ended up dancing with some people. It was an incredible event.
What kind attention have you been getting since then from potential clients and the press?
We made sure we kind of rode that train for as long as possible. Obviously, having that event under our belts and having it featured in People and GQ and Esquire, it was about maximizing that as much as possible. So doing a bunch of PR stuff, and then from there people started to recognize who we were, and that is one of the reasons Cadillac Fairview found us, just by doing a Google search of “top event planners in Toronto” and we ended up popping up.
What’s your relationship with Cadillac Fairview?
We do their experiences in the mall. During the holidays we did their gift wrap valet, where basically we built these giant presents that went to 13 malls across Canada, and that is where the gift wrapping services happen. But we changed things up for them this year from what they normally do. Usually they just have volunteers, but this year we actually did our gift wrapping off-site, so the experience became where the present was. We had food and snacks and more premium wrapping paper, and then we actually developed an app for them. The app would track the present from check-in until it got back, and it would allow the consumer to go through the process of deciding what wrapping paper they wanted, what ribbon they wanted, just something more personalized than what they’d done in years previous. I think we ended up wrapping over 30,000 gifts.
I get the sense Concierge Club can handle just about any kind of event people throw at you.
Yeah, we’ve always operated like that. It was one of those things where I’ll say yes now, and I’ll figure it out later, and because I’ve done that since day one. That’s what worked in our benefit. I think a lot of people are scared to take something on, they’re scared to take a risk, but I’m just not like that. I’ll take a risk, I’ll say yes, and I’m going to figure it out.
Has anyone ever proposed something to you where you said, “No, we can’t do that”?
No, I honestly can’t think of a time. The only thing now that we might say no to are some of the smaller jobs when it comes to shopping, just because we don’t have the capacity to do that right now – everyone is slammed in the office, and we just have to be selective of what we’re taking on. The other time I might have said no would be something that didn’t align with our brand. I make sure that whatever events we take on, for staffing especially, that it aligns with our brand, that it’s premium.
What do you see on the horizon for Concierge Club? What’s coming up next?
Definitely 2018 is going to be all about experiential marketing – that is going to be a part of the business that is really going to grow over the next year, and an expansion into the US is on our horizon as well.