By Davide Frau, EO South Florida
It was midnight on a Saturday when my phone rang. It was one of my business partners, Barnabas Carrega. After the previous 72 hours—which were beyond grueling—I didn’t really feel like talking to anyone.
That Thursday, we decided to pull the plug on our first promotional event set to take place during the Sony Open in Miami, Florida, USA. The event we had created failed us in several ways: not enough people had RSVP’d; no high-profile celebrities were confirmed to appear; and most of the budget was allocated for PR. Reluctant and beyond tired, I picked up the phone anyway … and I froze in my tracks. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing:
“Nadal and Djokovic’s publicist called and wants them, respectively the number one and number two tennis players in the world, to participate in our event.”
“You can’t be serious,” I replied. Hadn’t we failed on Thursday night?
Joseph Whitner, Barnabas Carrega and I founded GR8 almost eight months prior, building on the idea of helping people to realize their own dreams and channel their passion into once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We had been working from our apartment and wanted to create an event to promote the inception of our company. We wanted to express our idea, but we had simply failed our mission statement. It felt like our dream was over.
In business, there is always a moment when you think you have lost everything. Right after that moment, there is an instance of clarity where you see things from another perspective and you act on it. That Thursday night, I had sent a motivational email to my partners trying to elevate the troop’s morale. I wanted to make sure we weren’t going to give up on our dream of entrepreneurship.
On Friday, as I walked into my apartment, Joseph and Barnabas approached me with an idea: “Why don’t we make our event into a charity initiative to support those affected by the recent Japanese tsunami. Nobody has done anything around it yet.” That idea made the phone ring on Saturday night…
I will never forget it. The three of us, all in our early twenties, gathered to figure out how to execute an event for 250+ people; one where celebrities of the tennis world would be in attendance and we would have potential exposure to 150 countries through international television networks. Oh, and we had 72 hours to plan it.
We needed to convince everyone that we were GR8, the world’s leading experience agency. We needed a clear plan, and we needed to execute. With no event-planning experience, and the realization that to pull this off the minimum cost would be US$50,000, we had a long road ahead of us.
That being said, 20 seconds of courage can change your life … and we needed as much courage as we could muster. I sold my only remaining asset, my car, to support the event and contribute to my part of the investment. Even though our sacrifice only covered a portion of the budget needed, we were ready to go. We hoped we could find potential investors after the event that could cover the final tab.
We decided to focus on our strengths. My responsibility was to keep the machine excited, disciplined and running, while Barnabas convinced everybody we were a multinational company (and not three kids working from home). Joseph, meanwhile, was focused on the execution of the event and the collaboration with industry professionals for execution. Before long, “GR8 Friends for Japan” was born!
All in all, the event was a success and a pivotal moment for GR8. Not only were we able to communicate our purpose, but we inspired invitees to realize their dreams by working with our company. Best of all, guests mingled with stars and clients played tennis with the best players in the world. We even found an investor, Luca Pavanelli, who would partner with us to help shape our future.
There are moments in business where you have your back against the wall; you feel beat up and are ready to throw in the towel. However, the way you react in those moments will define you not only as an entrepreneur, but also as a human being. It was our reaction as a company and team that pushed us to become great.
Davide Frau is a passionate entrepreneur who helps other young entrepreneurs and early-stage enterprises to align their teams’ passion and purpose, in order to scale. He is also a mentor for several non-profit associations that focus on helping talented individuals achieve their potential. Check out his latest venture, Start Up Your Passion.