Setting up a business: Craig Colligan, co-founder of Cardamom Events on Ibiza on the ins and outs of event planning

JC: When did you first come to Ibiza and what prompted the decision to relocate to the White Isle permanently?

CC: We first came to Ibiza in 2001 for a week’s holiday and never left. We were looking to relocate to Santander in the north but found it a little old fashioned and so we travelled south to Denía on our search for the perfect place to live. Disheartened at what we found, we decided to take a week off and go to Ibiza. The rest is history and we never left!

JC: How did you find the relocation process? What were the main challenges involved?

CC: We only had what we could fit into the roof top box and boot of our Citroen Saxo, so transporting possessions was not a problem! I spoke a little Spanish from Uni days but my wife did not, so I think the language barrier was a bit of a problem and also information was difficult to come by until we took on a good Gestor/accountant where they specialised in expats and all the required information you need when relocating to a new business culture.

JC: What do you think the main benefits for you and your family have been relocating to Spain?

CC: Apart from the obvious weather improvement, the stunning countryside and the infinite coves and beaches, there is definitely a more village feel to the culture here. You feel you are part of a community and not just another number. I also get to spend more time with my son which I would never have been able to in the corporate/hospitality industry in the UK which for me is the best part.

JC: What inspired you to found Cardamom Events, and what is the ethos of the company?

CC: Since I was a chef in London from restaurants to catering companies, I really enjoyed the being part of the whole creative process from conception to completion of an event. Just being the chef and creating the food for an event was not enough. I had to be a part of the whole process and deliver incredible events with the finest ingredients whether it be decor, food, cocktails, bands or performers that made a mark in people’s lives. In essence, to create unforgettable, happy memories for our clients.

JC: Did you have experience coordinating events and catering prior to starting Cardamom?

CC: The first and most enjoyable experience was for a small catering company called “Hand Made Food” in Blackheath, South East London where we made endless amounts of canapés, gourmet dinner parties and corporate events as well as the occasional birthday party where we had to decorate an airport hanger like a south American rainforest (complete with wild animals and a menu to suit).

JC: What were the practical challenges associated with setting up this kind of business on the island? How do you think it compares to setting up a business in the UK?

CC: As I have never set up a business in the UK, I cannot compare but I would assume it would be a lot easier as there are more small business advice agencies and government sponsored start up courses where in Ibiza we are a little behind the time when it comes to this support and so I would say information and support are the biggest challenges in Ibiza but once you have developed a good relationship with your Gestoria (accountant) and Bank manager, things seem to move a lot quicker and easier.

JC: What specialities and fortes do each of you bring to Cardamom Events?

CC: With regards to my wife and I, we are definitely Vision and Truth. Navine is “Vision”, meaning creativity abounds in her with no boundaries and I am “Truth”, meaning I know where to set boundaries, number crunch and most importantly where to say no when budgets are spiralling and bring everyone back to reality when events need to be paid for which is so important in events as everyone know what they want but not how to pay for it.

JC: What range of services do you offer and how big is your team? What elements are you able to produce in-house?

CC: Cardamom Events is a fully licensed events concierge company with in-house catering, bar, decor and styling services. We have 6 of us in the office, 2 full time chefs, 2 decor and styling specialists and a logistics team for transportation of all that is necessary in an event sometimes working 24 hours between multiple events all over the island.

JC: How far in advance do your clients generally approach you? How long do you spend planning an event and what are the steps involved?

CC: Usually, we start planning 1-2 years in advance but we have organised a full wedding in just 2 weeks for a Polish supermodel from the States. It would begin with the clients’ initial enquiry from which we would show them the most appropriate venues for their style of event, budget and number of guests. Then we would take them through menus and bar choices before moving onto our preferred 3rd party suppliers such as photographers, videographers, beauty stylists, flowers, furniture and decor ideas. Then when we have the skeleton of the event, we organise guests accommodation in hotels and private villas and then finalise all of the little details that make an event special.

JC: What do you think are the key elements to a successful event?

CC: Firstly I would say using an established event planner that has an extensive network of contacts, the information/resources and the experience to make events work and flow. That can get you the information you require within a day and have the professionalism on the day, to deliver the goods and more. Once you have this under your belt, a successful event should flow from arrival to dining to music and party theme. This is where an event manager on the day is invaluable, in order to think on your feet to any obstacle that arises that may affect all the above. In addition to this, the quality of 3rd party suppliers is paramount to a successful event and so we only use tried and tested suppliers whom we have the utmost confidence in.

JC: How many events did you organise last year and roughly what is the split between weddings and different types of event?

CC: In 2013, we organised around 60 events in the summer season. 90% were weddings and the rest were special birthday parties, incentive groups, product launches and boat trips.

JC: Can you give us a snapshot of a typical day?

CC: The morning is always dedicated to emails as communication of information to our overseas clients is paramount to the business. Then the rest of the day would consist of meetings with prospective clients, viewings of new venues, interviews with new entertainers from musicians to dancers to DJs. Then the office would work on each client’s brief and produce quotes, images and sound bites for their requests. Then if there is no event on in the evening, I would meet my wife and son for dinner.

JC: What is the most rewarding element of your business?

CC: Seeing the planning process come to fruition after sometimes 2 years work is fantastic and when our clients get back to us expressing that the event was everything they hoped for and more, this makes us very very proud!

JC: What are the more challenging aspects of what you do?

CC: The biggest challenge is helping clients who have no vision. They just want it perfect but have no idea what that is. That is when our creative juices from our artistic designer and graphics department come to the rescue and combine to pitch ideas and themes which finally give them their ultimate event.

JC: What has been your favourite wedding or moment that stands out to you and why?

CC: At the end of 2013 season, my chef who has been working for me for the last 9 years and our decor stylist decided to get married and they asked me to be the officiator at their wedding. So for the first time, I was the ‘priest’ in one of our weddings, very nervous but very proud to be asked :)

JC: What advice and wisdom would you impart to those planning their own wedding or event?

CC: Start early. Give yourself plenty of time to gather information, prices and ideas. If possible, employ an event designer to do the hard work for you. Most importantly, start with an idea of your total budget and try and stick to it as much as possible even if it means cancelling some services and one of your events as you may produce a great event but it is no joy being bankrupt after it!

JC: What is the most important lesson you have learned since starting your business?

CC: Be prepared for everything. Have a plan B ready at all stages and think on your feet when obstacles present themselves. A pro-active business attitude is the key to success!

JC: Can you tell us about some of your favourite places on Ibiza and why?

  • CC: Cala Martina Beach, as it is our favourite picnic spots for friends and family
  • Atzaro Spa – nothing better when you are stressed out and you need pampering and absolute tranquility just for a day
  • Casa Colonial Restaurant for a cosy romantic dinner with Solomillo del Diablo (Chilli spiked fillet of beef) and copious cocktails from their mixologists
  • Relaxed Lunch at Cala Xuclar in the north with a great sunset if the lunch goes on a bit too long ;)
  • Coastal Cliff top walks in the north of the island with the most stunning views