CRYSTAL Kasselman, co-owner of Centeq Events and chairperson of SAACI Western Cape, started in the events industry in 1992 working for Global Conferences as PA to Brian McDonald.
“I was lucky enough to be given lots of opportunities to grow in the business and before I knew it, I was running major international events nationwide. I have always been close to SAACI and have been the treasurer, secretary and a member so there is no role I don’t know about.
“I am currently chairperson of SAACI for Western Cape and thoroughly enjoying this voluntary position and all its challenges.”
“After 17 years with Global Conferences, my partner (Juanita de Lange) and I made the decision to break away and start our own company: Centeq Events in 2009. We saw this as a major opportunity to use our experience and knowledge to further ourselves. Coming from PCO background we made the decision to buy events pro database management system to run all our events and that was the best investment we could have made at the time.
“IT plays a major role in the company and we are the only PCO in Africa that uses fingerprint technology for access control successfully for over three years now.”
How do you see the business events industry at present and where do you see it heading in the future?
There is one thing that does not change in our industry and that is growth – we continue to learn with each conference, each event, each supplier and each client. I do believe that with technology always advancing and our constant desire to stay ahead of the pack, we are going to become more and more competitive. I believe that mobile technology is going to dominate our way of doing business and we will need to adapt accordingly.
How long have you been in the business events industry?
For just over 21 years and the thing I enjoy most about events industry is the rush of stress and having to perform miracles in short timeframes as clients always change their minds at the last minute!
What has been the biggest change you’ve seen in this sector?
I would have to say legislation and technology. Not only does one have to run the company but you have to keep up with what’s happening in government legislations as well as stay ahead of the pack and be innovative using technology to its max.
What role does your family play in your life?
I never got around to doing the marrying thing but have a gorgeous son, Damien, who is 26 and in the IT industry. When you come from a family of six siblings, family is very important. Without their support, I would not have been able to start Centeq Events and together we all look out for each other. The family motto is “Live, Love and Laugh”.
What would you change in your life if you could when looking back?
I think personally to perhaps not to have dedicated so much time to work when my son was younger. I think new moms should be able to stay with their kids and be more flexible with working hours. It was tough being young with a child and I only regret not being able to spend more time with him back then.
Do you have any hobbies?
It’s very difficult when you are running a business, a household and a budget to pin down a hobby as you have little time enough as it is. I did however do skydiving for 10 jumps and after a broken ankle decided that I should stay on terra firma. It was no fun hobbling around Sun City!
What is your favourite sport?
I enjoy rugby and cricket but have no favourites
What is your secret to success?
Hard work and believing in what I do.
What has been your biggest challenge in the business events industry?
Keeping up with technology has to be my number one. However balancing emails versus one on one contact is another. People at the end of the day still enjoy buying from people. Our product or services are all quite similar and similarly priced and sometimes a client chooses you because they enjoy your personality and want to work with you. We must never forget the human element in this “technology” driven industry we are in.
What is your pet hate?
Playing the corporate games and just being a number in the system. I also don’t enjoy false people, I find small talk exhausting in these instances and would prefer to spend time with people who enjoy life.
What is the most memorable place you have ever been to?
Victoria Falls has to be one of the most amazing places and has a special place in my heart.
If you could be anyone for the day who would you be and why?
Richard Branson – you can dress up in a flight attendants uniform, serve your staff and still be respected the next day. I just find the man to be inspiring and almost human for a celebrity.
What is your favourite city?
Cape Town – it’s just no wonder…or maybe seven wonders.
What is your favourite book, film, TV programme?
Books – nothing worth mentioning.
Films – loving the 3D stuff.
TV – just about everything from Bold and Beautiful to Dexter, Vampire Diaries, Tech report, Games of Thrones, Greys Anatomy….oh gosh the list could go on and on. Sunday is catch-up PVR day!
How do you relax?
Spending time with my family – cooking, drinking wine, laughing, little bit of golf and anything that is not too much effort.
What is your favourite food?
Has to be Thai style or anything that is hot and spicy
Who is your favourite movie star?
What advice do you have for anyone starting out in this industry and hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Enjoy what you do and don’t go looking for the glory and recognition – believe in yourself. Work hard, take part in the industry and get to know the players as you never know when you need to know someone. That saying of not what you know but who you know definitely helps when you are looking for a band for the next day at 3am in the morning.
What is your dream for the future?
Sharing is caring – I believe that our industry is very small and we all need to co-exist and support each other so I would really like to see the industry working together to be successful and passing on our wealth of knowledge as a caring community of hard working individuals. I am also quite a green queen and would really like more people to be aware and participate.