A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to the launch party of a startup modeling agency. They were holding their event at Bootsy Bellows, a club located in Hollywood, founded by David Arquette.
I arrived around 15 minutes after the set start time of the event, and the place was already half full. Within an hour, the place had hit capacity.
The audience was full of buyers from Nordstrom, Hautelook, Revolve Clothing, MAC Cosmetics, Guess, and Hurley. Top industry partners and service providers were there including top L.A.-based photographers and stylists. Even a few celebrities had made their way to the event. The room was filled with current and future clients who were ready to start signing deals with the agency.
But how was the agency able to pack a room full of exactly the people it needed when it was a brand-new startup that had bootstrapped its way to launch?
I was curious, so I took a few moments to discuss the event with Francis Arden, one of the partners of Aston Models, the boutique model agency hosting the night.
Francis shared these tips for ensuring you hit capacity at any event you host, whether it be a launch party or anything else.
Beyond the event you're planning or the company you work for, the type of person you are matters. Francis is one of the most genuine and honest people I have met. That genuineness allows people to gain trust in him. His company is part of a service-driven industry, and strong relationships are the basis of its foundation.
Build a solid reputation.
It's hard to build a reputation from scratch in an industry you aren't familiar with, especially if you are starting a brand new company. Francis spent more than a decade working in the industry and delivered solid results for his clients at L.A. Models and Industry Model Group before starting his own venture.
Build your list.
Francis put in 13 years as an agent in his industry before he went out on his own. Within that timeframe, he had built a list of everyone from service providers to celebrities to buyers. That list of contacts is what makes him money and is able to create his success.
Invest in your relationships.
You can't just build a list and expect things to work. A lot of people who network just meet people once, store their card and never contact them again. Francis takes time out of his busy schedule to call, meet with, and spend time with each person in his network. He makes them feel special and appreciated.
Be a person people enjoy being around.
I've met a lot of business owners in my day who have either kept trying to sell me their product, drained the life out of me, or weren't able to connect with me on an emotional level. Francis is different. He shows interest in who you are, what you do, what your interests are, and he wants to make sure you are happy. He invests heavily into each client that is in his book of contacts.
Make sure no other major events conflict with yours.
Every major modeling agency in the world did their summer parties earlier in the season. He could have made his event at the same time as everyone else's, but instead he decided to do it at the end of July. He didn't have to compete to get his clients to his event because everyone had a free schedule that month.
Do your event at a unique location.
Most companies hold events at bars, hotels, or during conferences. But people have been to many of these places. They get used to them and know what to expect. Because of that, people lose interest in attending. Francis decided to think outside of the box and do his event at a Hollywood club. He's doing his next event at the beach. By having events at locations people aren't expecting them to be at, it creates a sense of curiosity.
In order to attend the event, you had to be a direct contact of the company founders or models. Each person who attended was allowed to bring only a single guest. If you weren't associated with someone from the company, there was no way you could get in. This made the event much more exclusive, as his guests were able to imagine and predict the type of audience that would be in attendance.
Keep your invite simple.
Most people think you need to write a ton of copy for your guest list. Or that you need to make it sound fancy. For the launch event, Francis kept it simple. He used a picture of one of his models, added his logo to the top, and wrote:
INVITES YOU AND A GUEST
Tuesday July 28
Open Bar 9:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Please RSVP by Friday, July 24 to email address.
It really doesn't get much simpler than that.
Offer something for free.
Even if you don’t have money to put up the costs for a freebie, you can still get creative. Francis pulled strings and used his company resources to have costs for the event covered by sponsors, including the bar for the first two hours. He advised that the bar would be open for a limited time. This helped drive traffic to show up at the event on time.
Since the event, Francis' phone won't stop ringing. His clients were able to see and mingle with his team, and now they are booking his models left and right. His launch was a success and has put him on the map as a real competitor to Ford, Wilhelmina, and the other top agencies in Los Angeles.
Do you have a story where you were able to distinguish your startup to become a true competitor to the industry leaders in your field? I'd love to hear more. Comment below.