By Muhammad Riaz Usman Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Natalie Crampton didn't set out to be an entrepreneur however her success in the event planning industry was so rapid, before she knew it she was her own boss. Her company, TEC, is one of the leading event management agencies throughout the Middle East and Europe. Crampton's advice to other women in business is to work hard at building genuine relationships with clients and suppliers.
In 2008, after graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK, Natalie Crampton founded TEC, one of the leading corporate event management agencies in the region, with offices in Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar.
"I initially thought I would be an event freelancer. Things quickly snowballed and before I knew it, I needed staff, offices and later on a warehouse," Natalie, founder and managing director of TEC, said.
TEC (formally known as 'The Event Company') executes events in more than 10 countries throughout the Middle East and Europe.
"Today our Dubai office has a team of over 25 event managers, producers and operations specialists. We also have offices in Kuwait, Qatar, Singapore and London," Natalie said.
She realized her passion for events at a young age while working part time alongside her high school education at a conference and wedding venue and hasn't looked back. The only funding TEC has ever had was from her grandparents in the very early days when she just starting out.
"That money was a huge help in getting TEC off the ground and I'm proud to say I paid the full amount back to them within four months," she recalled.
As an ambitious individual with a passion for excellent client servicing Natalie has led to TEC securing a very impressive client portfolio including leading Global brands such as HSBC, Cisco, Toyota, Disney and Estee Lauder.
TEC recently opened an office in Singapore, which is its first office in East Asia.
"I would like to continue to grow TEC in Asia as this region really excites me. The ultimate goal is for TEC to have the reach to be able to execute a project anywhere in the world," she said.
Natalie said that she admired Richard Branson and Allen Sugar as a role as role model. "But the entrepreneurs that I relate most to are ones that I can have a cup of tea with and have been through the same highs and lows of starting a business as I have."
"I remember being at university and used to regularly meet up with my uncle who at the time was on his way to building a very successful advertising agency in Leeds. He became an inspiration to me. I was fascinated with the stories he used to share and he is still one of the people I would speak to now if I need some business advice or a fresh perspective," Natalie said.
Natalie said the UAE is a fantastic place for entrepreneurs with endless opportunities.
"I often wonder how different my business would be if I had started it in the UK and I can confidently say that I do not think that I would have had the same successes," she said.
Natalie's career highlights include working with a host of well-known personalities including Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Formula One Champion Lewis Hamilton, former Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg and International band The Rolling Stones.
"I've been extremely fortunate to be able to work with the world's leading brands at some of the most high profile events in the world," she said.
Natalie is passionate and knowledgeable about the events industry and has lectured at various universities and colleges throughout the UAE including EMDI, AUS and Jumeirah College.
She advised entrepreneurs to take their work seriously and surround themselves by positive like-minded people.
"It's also important to work hard at building genuine relationships with your clients and suppliers. At TEC, we are very fortunate that over 70 per cent of our clients have been working with us for five years or more and those types of relationships are invaluable," she said.
Natalie's husband joined TEC a year after she started it in 2008 and her sister joined two years after that.
"Both Aron and Verity are integral to the success of the business and a lot of the big decisions that have to be made about TEC's short and long term plans are discussed and agreed between the three of us. I feel very lucky that I get to work every day with two of the most important people in my life," she said.
She said in the last couple of years she put a lot of focus into developing her company culture.
"We strive to make TEC one of the best places to work with opportunities for growth and development for all employees. We work hard at maintaining our family business identity which can be difficult when a business is expanding quickly. Since looking at this two years ago our staff retention rate has increased significantly," she said.
What's not to love?
In her spare time Natalie enjoys traveling to less traditional holiday destinations (her last trip was to Romania and Serbia), discovering new food and walking her dog, Tipi.
"In the little spare time I have, I usually spend time with my niece exploring new parks, beaches or lunch spots in the UAE. I am a big fan of the cinema especially the new ThEATre by Gary Rhodes in Mall of the Emirates. Good food, reclining seats, comfy blankets and the latest movies -- what's not to love?!
"The cinema is the place where I can escape, where I have to put phone on silent and can't be interrupted by emails and phone calls for the length of the film. Bliss!"