Back of House Guest Posts feature some of our favorite people from across the industry sharing their expertise. If you would like to be featured in a future issue or know someone who would, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week Alex Tatem, the founder of the San Francisco based event production company Escape The Routine, shared how seeing the pandemic as an opportunity allowed him to expand his clientele and grow his business.
In 2015 I created Escape The Routine (ETR) as a way to create a life filled with adventure while helping other people do the same. Since its humble beginnings it has grown to be a number of things - the annual camping festival Solaura Fest deep in the woods of Mendocino, the concert series Blank Cassette that happens in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and even an opportunity to travel the world as a tour manager for slenderbodies.
Last year ETR had its biggest year yet and while I was excited, I was ready to hone in on the focus of the company. I took a step back from tour management to prioritize our homegrown events. I was pumped to launch the Blank Cassette tours, and oversee the fourth year of Solaura.
Naturally, it all came to a halt when COVID-19 hit.
I quickly realized I was in a compromised position - being able to operate my business as it was, had spun entirely out of my control. I was eager to find a way where I could both pay my rent, and take the future of my business back into my own hands.
Before the pandemic I had started to dabble in private event production for conference afterparties, summits, and corporate holiday parties. When everything shut down I noticed that most of my corporate clients weren’t as drastically affected as the events industry. Some were actually thriving - people working remotely needed their technology now more than ever.
I started asking myself how I could best service them. I landed on the fact that though live events were on hold, nothing could replace the power of a good shared experience. I launched a virtual events business EscapeTheRoutine.Live, which made it easier for corporate managers to keep their team morale high, and provided a place where companies could purchase a gateway to fun and stress-free shared experiences for their teams.
Our virtual events include concerts, cooking and mixology classes, magic shows, woodworking, tea blending, and my personal favorites, songwriting and creative workshops with the amazing artists we were booking before the pandemic. Of course I still miss live events, nothing can replace the serendipity of bringing people together in person. I am currently focusing on building out our virtual private events programming and planning concepts for small, outdoor public events when it is safe to do so.
One thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised by during this time is how people have been more willing to take a chance on vendors they hadn’t previously worked with. One of my biggest pain points with the industry was that most people were risk averse, stuck in their ways, and more concerned about a “good look” instead of the creativity and art of a production. In times of chaos I’ve noticed that it’s no longer about doing business as usual, it’s all about what actionable solutions I can implement today.
Due to this mindset people have been open to new collaborations, so much so that we’ve added twenty brand new clients to our roster in the past five months, and just surpassed our 100th virtual booking. Clients from all sorts of industries, with employee headcounts from 20 to 10,000+ worldwide. Before the pandemic I would’ve never been able to work with clients internationally, or onboard so many of them at the same time. It makes me confident that when we get back to live events, ETR will have a broader network and client base. I see it as a blessing forged out of a difficult time.
I encourage you to use this time to get a foothold in the world you want to be a part of when things get back to normal, because I believe when you get through the tough times with these people you are only going to create more magic when the world opens back up.
JOB ALERT I am looking to hire someone part-time, to help with booking livestream events. I am also always happy to meet new people and be a resource for anyone interested in learning more about what I do. Feel free to get in touch at Alex@EscapeTheRoutine.com.