The events planning and designing business in the GCC region is expanding. Why, and what does it take to go into it? We meet with Zainab Alsalih, the Iraqi owner of Dubai-based Carousel Weddings and Events, who has spent more than nine years creating some of the UAE’s most breath-taking weddings and events, to give us insight.
The story behind Carousel:
I always knew that whatever I chose to do needed to give me the opportunity to make people happy and to have a positive impact on their lives.
With time, I also began to better understand and appreciate what my natural strengths are: an artistic flair, a gift for communicating, and an obsessive attention to detail. I was also lucky to have people around me, my husband, friends, and mother, who recognized these talents in me and encouraged me to develop them and apply them.
How do you think the industry in the GCC region has evolved since you started in 2008?
The event industry has become much more specialized and sophisticated, especially in relation to weddings. A decade or more ago, weddings were traditionally managed by the family, with assistance from the hotel staff where the wedding was held. The idea of a hiring a professional wedding planning and design firm was not thought of for most people, but today it is very much the norm.
Where do you seek inspiration for the different events you plan?
When it comes to weddings, my brides are my single greatest source of inspiration. Once I get to know them and learn more about who they are and what makes them unique and beautiful individuals, I can then design their weddings around their colourful personalities. It’s what makes each and every Carousel wedding as unique as a snowflake. No two Carousel weddings are the same.
For corporate events, we are always inspired by our client’s companies, the products, the offer, and the success they have achieved.
How has social media helped your business?
Just like word of mouth, social media can be a double-edged sword. If you do a great job, people hear about it, and if you do a bad job, even more people hear about it!
However, we have been blessed and privileged to have planned great weddings and events, so for us, social media is a great platform for us to showcase these events and weddings and for people to share them with others. It has made advertising in the traditional sense completely unnecessary and has given us a direct connection with our clients, friends, and partners.
If you could go back to your business beginnings, what would you do differently?
I know it’s a cliché, but I would not change a thing! That is not to say that I did not make mistakes along the way. However, they were all part of a journey of learning and growing, a journey that I have loved and learned so much from and a journey that continues.
Examples of challenging requests you have received from clients:
One that comes to mind was a wedding for 1,000 guests that took place in a purpose-built glass tent erected on the beach next to Burj Al Arab. Besides the massive work scope that had to go into building a complete venue in less than a week, we faced the problem of the greenhouse effect, which meant working under extreme temperatures. We were unable to set up the flowers ahead of time, because we could not risk the high temperatures destroying them. We had nearly 33,000 orchids that we had to set up in under 3 hours to be ready in time. It was literally a race against time, but we did it—of course!
There are many aspiring event designers in the region. What is your advice for someone who wants to embark in this field?
Do it with passion or not at all! This is one of my mantras, which I think applies to any business you wish to start. You must be passionate about what you do. Only then can you do it well. This is a high-pressure field, and there is a tremendous amount of responsibility on your shoulders. If you are not meticulous, hard-working, and deeply passionate about it, you will not do well.
Things they should not be doing:
Believing that this industry and field of work is ‘fun’. Yes, you should enjoy what you do and do it well, but not because it is fun, but because it is important, and you are passionate about it, and about those you do it for.
Some mistakes that event-planning agencies fall for:
Cutting corners and trying to maximize profit at the expense of their events and their clients. It is a short-term and short-sighted approach that will not serve them in the long run. You build your reputation and your success one small step at a time.
Things to consider when choosing team members:
Attitude. It is the single most important quality. Hard work, experience, skill, and talent all matter but would be nothing without the right attitude.
Your tips for dealing with copycats:
We take great pride in knowing that we have inspired many other planners and designers out there, not just in the region but globally. I choose to see it as an endorsement of what we do and I do believe in the old adage that ‘imitation is the greatest form of flattery’. We continue to reinvent ourselves and hopefully will always be on the leading edge of creativity.
Finally, a dream-wedding venue you would love to work with:
Italy and many of its beautiful venues, be it a piazza in a beautiful historic town, a country house, or a seaside village. There is an abundance of beauty, history, and authentic charm.