CEO & partner, Shiraz Creative
Describe your job.
I oversee the growth and image of the brand, along with creative for selected projects and upper management decisions.
How did you get started, and what got you from there to today?
Over 20 years ago, I was helping a friend create a model bartender service in New York. My friend moved on, but I took full ownership and turned it into a catering and event services company. In 2005, Yaniv Cohen joined me as a partner, and we opened our first Shiraz Creative office in Miami. In 2010, Jason Harder became our third partner and opened our second office in Los Angeles. Eventually, we expanded into event design, production, and most recently, digital and experiential marketing. In 2014, we opened an office in London with Tom Arendas as our managing director, who is now our fourth partner.
With the pandemic in 2020, we closed our catering department to focus on growing and developing in the digital world and safely producing IRL events. We designed a customizable in-house virtual platform called ATTND.live, enabling us to host a mix of hybrid and virtual events for some of our clients.
Do you have a favorite type, size, or style of event to plan or do you like variety?
I enjoy all types, whether they’re IRL, virtual, or hybrid. What’s most important is to have a happy client who is open to allowing us to get creative to make their dreams come true. I also appreciate the positive vibe of working with clients who let us know they appreciate our efforts.
What’s your best experience of turning lemons into lemonade?
We were hired to do a press event for a new client. Unfortunately, the budget was limited and not quite enough for doing an impressive display. We brainstormed ideas for smart, efficient, and aesthetically satisfying solutions. We found one: Using strips of half-inch tape in different colors, we created an impressive architectural design for the event set. It was a big success.
What’s your proudest moment so far in your career?
It’s right now. The pandemic created a very tough business environment, but we are doing well. Our dedicated, talented team has worked well with our clients. I am also proud of my partners, our creations, and where we are headed.
How has your business adapted to the ongoing uncertainties and challenges of the pandemic?
We built a virtual broadcast platform to continue providing our clients with the level of detail, creativity, and standards they expected from us. We also became COVID compliance experts, which allowed us to continue supporting our clients with IRL and virtual programs. None of it would have been possible without our team’s resourcefulness, focus, and determination.
How do you keep up with industry trends and cutting-edge developments in the convention and meeting business? What new event industry trends are you excited about?
I always try learning more about multi-disciplinary arts and design and try to experience new technology. Trends I find exciting include the lower cost of technology and screening elements, as well as the current opportunities that enable us to try new things and “mold” the way we do hybrid events. I’m also glad to see the increased environmental mindfulness and calls to action.
What are the essential skills that every newcomer into the industry should possess?
Newcomers should have a real thirst to learn about the industry and its players. Be prepared for periods of long workdays. It’s important to stay focused and think quickly on your feet. Last but not least: Never forget good manners and kindness.
What’s the oddest or funniest thing that ever happened to you during one of your events?
At a luxury watch brand boutique opening, the brand spokesperson—a well-known actor from the ’70s or ’80s—came to the event without security. I was his bodyguard for the whole evening.
When you are not creating events for your clients, what do you like to do?
I live in North Miami with my partner and four rescue dogs. I love going to the beach, competing in equestrian show jumping, and traveling to experience new places and cultures. I also support children and dog rescue organizations.