Fresh approach to tradition for events planner

Basma al Fahim, from the UAE, runs her own events agency

Dubai , United Arab Emirates- February, 22 , 2011:  Basma Abdullah Al Fahim, Founder & Managing Director, Eventra pose duirng the interview at her office  in Dubai.   ( Satish Kumar / The National )
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DUBAI // The minute you walk into Basma al Fahim's events boutique, you are struck by her aura of creativity. Dangling flowers, elaborate centrepieces and funky linens are only a few of the items on offer.

Ms al Fahim's colourful personality is reflected in what she does. From wedding arrangements to graduation ceremonies, the young Emirati has always managed to dazzle her clients with her fresh approach to traditional events. Adding her delicate, but noticeable, touch to everything she does, Ms al Fahim, 26, built a reputation as an event planner when she was still in university.

She said she fell in love with event planning the moment she joined her friends freelancing for events in Abu Dhabi.

"I then decided I wanted to see what it would be like to work for someone," she said. "So I came to Dubai and worked for Nakheel in digital and brand marketing. It was a great opportunity."

Ms al Fahim stayed at Nakheel for slightly more than a year before she decided that she could not let go of her dream to own an events agency.

"I wanted to do something with my life; I wanted to go somewhere," she said. "I was talking to my husband, to my parents and to my in-laws and they all supported me. They said, if it's events you want to do, then start your own business."

Despite her natural talent and attention to detail, Ms al Fahim wanted to authenticate her skills.

She travelled to the UK in 2009 and enrolled in a wedding planning course.

"I want to show everyone that I'm capable of exploring different kinds of events," she said. "I wanted to be certified in something I love doing, and I also wanted to see how its done [in the West] and compare the different styles."

In 2010, as a newlywed, Ms al Fahim decided to take the plunge and open her agency, Eventra Events.

"It's a scary step," she said. "I'm not going to tell you its not."

Her biggest fear was starting out alone. "I knew I had done it before, but that was different because I was with my partners. You know you're good at something, but all that investment and all that risk gets to you."

Ms al Fahim said that launching in a competitive market like Dubai only made her endeavour more challenging. But like any successful entrepreneur, she decided to offer her clients something different - an event rental showroom: "A place where people can actually walk in and pick and choose what they want."

Her strategy proved successful. To date, Ms al Fahim has not relied on any source of marketing yet she planned 35 events her first year on the job.

"It's all word of mouth and I've worked hard for it," she said. "To get those first few clients to trust you and your work without a portfolio is very difficult. It was tough but I proved myself and I'm thankful for those people who gave me that opportunity."

The first project Ms al Fahim handled under the name of Eventra Events was the shop launch of an abaya boutique called Rouje Couture.

Sara al Madani entrusted her friend with the launch of the third branch of her shop because of Ms al Fahim's work ethic.

"I've always believed in her talent, regardless of our friendship," Ms al Madani said. "She's always very down to earth, and she adds her touch without forcing it on her clients.

"She kept checking the details until the very end. Even if we needed something at the very last minute, Basma would run out and get it."

And Ms al Fahim's service did not stop at the launch.

"During the event she'd make sure that everything was in order, from the décor to the food, lights and music," Ms al Madani said. "She was able come up with something rare and different yet keep it suitable for the event. For something that's normally very traditional, it ended up being an exciting party."

Within a year, Ms al Fahim's portfolio grew from shop launches to ramadan fairs, corporate conferences and graduation ceremonies. She has worked with clients ranging from SEHA to the European International College.

Ms al Fahim's ambition and optimism strikes her clients, friends and family alike. She attributes her success to the ongoing support of her loved ones.

"Sometimes you work overnight, until six or seven in the morning," she said. "But thank God, I've been blessed with an understanding husband and a supportive family. If it wasn't for their support, I wouldn't have had the courage to take this step."