The business partnership between siblings Monica and Cameron Derksen came together very naturally, but arriving at the name Ethero Events & Management was a hard-fought battle.
“We were almost called Purple Penguin at some point,” says Monica. “We were Kaleidoscope for a while… That was the hardest part about starting this company,” she jokes.
Ethero was finally suggested to them over Facebook, and having spent some time living in Greece, Monica loved its Greek roots.
“It isn’t a real word but the root of it means ‘to bring light to,’” says Monica. Due to its added connotations, like the word “ethos” which calls to mind morality or common guiding values, the two were won over.
One guiding value for Ethero is that, for now anyway, the two work exclusively with non-profit groups on their events and conferences.
“We’re very intentional about our clients and what the fit will be,” says Cameron.
Acquiring sponsors is a huge component of what Ethero can bring to an event, and it’s important to them that they maintain their business relationships and help their sponsors match up with the right events and vice versa.
Because they bill themselves as a full-service company, that can take an event from 0 to 60; design event materials; gain media coverage; and arrange permits and all elements for events, they complement non-profit clients well because they can have all of their needs met by one company covered under one fee.
Ethero often works for organizations that have never outsourced their events before, and the clients sometimes initially get sticker shock.
But the fact that Ethero works fundraising dollars into their services means, more often than not, the company pays for itself.
In the past, clients have asked to draft a clause that says they can’t make the event go over budget – but the two never even consider that an option.
“We need your event to be a success, so we can’t go over budget,” says Monica.
This is also the reason why the two won’t take on portions of an event, because to put their name on it, they have to ensure their stamp of approval on everything.
Ethero, being relatively new (started in 2012) and recognizing the importance of hearty relationships in Winnipeg’s market, attracts nearly all of its business through word-of-mouth.
Its lifeblood is the relationships it builds and the success it finds with each event. “Our clients are all people we want relationships with,” says Monica.
“We want to get to know their people. We want to be invited to their Christmas parties,” adds Cameron.
Monica has picked up a few networking tips since she began the company.
“I learned really quickly that I’m not selling myself, I’m just talking about what I really love doing,” says Monica.
Approaching networking with this ingenuity has paid off for Ethero; mostly all of its events are annual and it gets repeat business because of the relationships built.
Monica even deliberately plans where she spends her downtime, realizing there’re more opportunities in certain locales to meet the right people.
Besides offering event management services, Cameron provides association management for companies; for this endeavour, components of his services are available on their own.
It can be as simple as him taking an organization’s minutes at meetings and circulating emails – to running its finances, planning and scheduling meetings and completing all administrative duties.
When many non-profit organizations are made up of a group of volunteers or employees with many other responsibilities, the association management helps free up these people from the extra work and provides a single contact point for all communication.
The vast services Ethero offers are a reflection of its staff: the two are almost professional generalists; they have both undergone several career changes and acquired many skills over the years.
Monica had a brief foray into hairstyling before studying at Asper School of Business – it was there that she began volunteering with the Young Associates and grew addicted to event planning after her success on the planning committee of the Black & White Gala in 2012.
The event’s mandate is to throw parties in surprise locations, and she planned a very popular event at the former Paddlewheel Restaurant in The Bay downtown. “That was the decision-maker for me,” says Monica.
Cameron was looking to leave the cubicle after his latest career in civil service; he had been an auto mechanic, a carpenter and worked with at-risk youth prior, but it was his administrative and financial expertise as well as graphic design abilities that made him an asset to Monica’s company.
“Because of personal situations, we ended up moving in together,” says Monica. “Cameron was kind of watching me work and when I was complaining about the things I didn’t want to do, he said, ‘Those are actually the things I want to be doing.’”
Past Ethero managed events:
Young Associates’ Black & White Gala
Farmers’ Feast Fundraiser
Winnipeg Design Festival (23 events over 5 days)
Growing Local Conference
ManyFest Street Festival (downtown Winnipeg’s largest festival)