Olivia & Compañía
March 2018 | Sofia Simeonidou
I haven't met Sonia before but I've seen her work. I was a guest in a beautiful wedding that she and her team had worked for. Now I know that she's a good project manager as well. Because of this interview. She listens. She understands. And then she answers exactly to the point. A project manager with taste and client skills.
Sonia, where are you based?
I live and work in Avila, a city one hour away from Madrid. My clients come from all over the place, Spain and abroad. For example, this summer we are doing a wedding in Toledo and our clients come from Washington, D.C.
What’s your company about?
Olivia and Compañía is an event planning company for private and corporate events. We specialise in weddings as well as First Communions, private parties, and birthday celebrations. We also plan conferences, seminars, and business events. In addition, we offer lettering, calligraphy, and graphic design services.
Why your own company?
The idea to start my own business came from the need to find a work-life balance as a mother of three. The working conditions that I encountered after the birth of my third child weren’t ideal in order to be able to give my children the attention that they needed. For me, my family comes first, so I decided to make the professional change to be able to do both.
Were you an employee before?
After college, I worked for a film production company on international co-productions, and after that, I worked in the Communications and Corporate Branding Department of a large bank.
Would you become an employee again?
I don’t think that I could go back. That said if the job and the conditions seemed like a good fit for my situation, of course, I’d be open to listening to the proposal. It’s good to be open to new opportunities without losing sight of one’s priorities.
What’s the challenge being self-employed?
The only drawback for me is not having a stable income over the course of the year. This line of work is mostly seasonal, although in the last few years we’ve had several events at different times throughout the year. It's also challenging to completely disconnect from my projects while spending time with my family.
How easy is it to have your own company in Spain?
The truth is that it’s not really that easy to have a company in Spain. I'm not referring to the planning and setup of the company, this is relatively simple. I'm referring to the expenses and taxes you have to pay from the beginning, whether you're already earning money or not. I would say that you have to really give it some thought before making the decision to start your own business. However, if it’s well-planned and something that you really want, that you know it will make you happy, it’s definitely worth it to at least give it a try.
Is there any admin or financial incentives?
There are some incentives, like reduced monthly fees during the first year, loans for young entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses, and tax breaks if you work from home.
What kind of events do you prefer to organise?
The truth is that I really enjoy planning all kinds of events, but if I have to choose just one, it would be weddings. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you are working to create such a special event for your clients. The pure bliss that the couples feel on their wedding day in the environment that I’ve helped to create for them validates all of the time and effort we invested during the planning months.
Is it a bit of a trend nowadays to hire an event manager?
Absolutely. We are seeing more and more events that truly benefit from the work of service specialists. As a result, the desire and need for them have increased. In my case, I have a masters degree in Event Planning, Protocol and Business Tourism and experience organising events that date back to 1997. Today, however, many people are entering this profession without any formal training or the experience needed to plan and execute totally professional events. With weddings, for example, there are many people that think that by having planned their own wedding, they are then ready to be a wedding planner. This is not the case, just as I am not a professional decorator by the simple fact of having decorated my own house.
Do people pay a lot for a “good” event?
I believe that what people pay is justified, keeping in mind the behind-the-scene hours that go into an event to make it perfect. More and more, people regard Event Planning as a valid and respected profession, and they understand that they are being charged for a professional service.
What’s your favourite colour?
I’m not able to choose a colour, rather a tone. I like pastel colors...creamy, and nothing too bright. They produce a sense of calm and tranquility and inspire optimism.
What do you like about where you live?
I live in an amazing medieval city that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s small, which makes it very easy to raise my children here, without much stress. You can pretty much walk everywhere, and most of my family lives here. Yet, it’s so close to Madrid that we can also enjoy all that the larger city has to offer, that we might not have here in Avila.
How can the clients find you? Online? Word of mouth?
Anyone interested in learning more about what we do can find us on our webpage www.oliviaycompania.com, on social media, and on wedding planning sites. Obviously, word of mouth works really well in this line of work. Former clients’ recommendations are invaluable to growing our company. And you're welcome to get in touch with me from wherever you're in the world. We'll plan beautiful things for your events.