Tiko Nizharadze and her company “Vanilla Event” are among the world’s top 100 event organizers. Time, love for the profession, and years of tireless work have brought the company this level of quality. However, organizing a celebration for people and giving them joy is not just a profession and a duty for Tiko – it also makes her happy. Perhaps that’s why she found event management – the main work of life – almost instinctively, back when this profession did not even exist in Georgia.
More than 3,000 events and more than 20,000 guests – this is the incomplete but very impressive 13-year history of “Vanilla Event” and Tiko. Among them are many international and state events, conferences, and weddings.
Tiko, at what point did you become interested in organizing events? How and why did you get interested in this business?
We had a bar in our parent’s house, which provided professional opportunities for organizing events – with built-in lighting, sound system, large bar tables, decorations, fireplace, DJ console, etc. My father was a great lover of parties and an innovative host. He organized a lot of mini-events, which we observed throughout our childhood, and the whole family was a part of it. Father traveled a lot and brought new friends. We always had guests and parties in our house. Therefore, from early childhood, I was actively involved in hosting these guests and creating a joyful experience for them. I think that’s where the love for this work came from. I love the hospitality industry; you can even say I’m crazy about this business…
What was the first experience?
I was 19 years old when I first decided to organize events. Back then, it was called “arrangement of shows,” and the event management profession did not exist. Everything started in Kutaisi, my hometown. Those times were times of terrible boredom; nothing interesting was happening. We used to go to Georgian restaurants with big tables and music – this was traditional entertainment, which I never liked. One day I thought of making an event on my own, and I rented a stunning but unrenovated building and organized a party there.
Did you have any kind of professional knowledge at that time?
No. I did the event at the expense of my intuition and determination. I didn’t know much about the field from a professional point of view…
It turned out that I genuinely organized unique entertainment – with a DJ, appropriate lighting, and face control. I even sold tickets. We had a different type of menu, buffet, cocktails… Afterwards, we organised such parties several times a year – on New Year’s, Easter, and other holidays. I planned the concept of the event, rented unorganized spaces, equipment, and lighting, brought the presenter, got the bands, we organized the raffle. All this lasted for 3-4 years.
Where did you get the information on how to organize events?
It was all intuition. I did not learn this profession. Back then, we did not even have the internet. I had no information. Whenever I would say I was an event organizer, people would look at me with great suspicion and ask me what it was. I would subscribe to wedding magazines, and if someone were travelling, I would ask them to bring me decoration books… I was trying to explore various trends and make sense of the industry myself.
So, this was your first business, the first steps in your profession?
Yes. However, when I started, I also had a job. Then I went to Ireland, where I worked as an assistant program manager in one of the organizations; it was there that I acquired administrative skills and necessary experience.
Tell us about your company, “Vanilla Event.” Where did the company’s story begin?
After returning from Ireland, I had a great desire to work in an event company, but as it turned out, there were practically no such companies in Georgia at that time. However, that year, the company “M-Group” was established. It operated in the hotels and restaurant management. I started working there. This line of work and service was completely new in the Georgian market. Many did not know what it meant, and they did not understand the need for it. That’s why catering appeared as a different format of food. Other types of buffets, lighting, sound, band, and music were added to them… I worked in the company for five years and learned a lot; it was an excellent practice. The next stage was the company “GD Alco,” where cooperation with such large, well-known international brands as Moët & Chandon, Hennessy, Dom Pérignon, and Johnnie Walker gave me great experience in terms of international events and branding.
Later, I created my own company and founded “Vanilla Event” 13 years ago.
Does the company have a big team?
We are a team of about 15 people, but we have partner companies (various service providers) with whom we have partnered for many years. We cooperate with them during significant events. In general, there are many people behind the event. Conventionally, 200 people can be involved in organizing a high-class 300-person event. The idea, the planning, the creation of the concept, the logistics – all of this can take about nine months – depending on the complexity of the event. Generally, according to the European standard, they plan the event one and a half years in advance. If you invite guests from abroad, you should send out the invitations in advance to give people time to plan. Unfortunately, this is not the case with us. We would be delighted if they informed us even two months before the event.
I can’t help but mention that I have a fantastic team. So many successful projects have been completed thanks to them. These young, motivated people love their work very much, and they work day and night tirelessly to give our guests and customers unforgettable memories.
I know that you and the company “Vanilla Event” are among the 100 best event companies worldwide. How did you get on this prestigious list?
This is the top hundred of the world’s luxury event and wedding organizers, including representatives of much larger countries and people with more prominent names than us. It is a great honour to be included in this list next to the people from whom I have learned and whose experiences have helped me grow as a professional. This field changes every day develops and is trendy all over the world. My goal and desire are to constantly evolve, grow in my work, and learn something new. That’s why I’ve been going to international exhibitions for many years. Two years ago, I hosted luxury events and a wedding congress in Tsinandali, Georgia, where 200 top wedding organizers participated. We worked for a year on preparing this event. It was a great experience and, at the same time, a test for our team. We passed the test with great success – amidst enthusiastic guests and applause. We had terrific feedback. After this event, I became one of the world’s top luxury event and wedding planners. After that, we started working abroad for both Georgian and foreign customers. So, now we can offer our clients the to organize a high-level event anywhere in the world.
What is the most challenging aspect of your line of work?
When customer does not know what they want. Often, as a professional, you will see, understand, propose and create a product, and they will like it, but in the process, they will very often change their mind because of no experience… Of course, as in any business and profession, there are specific difficulties here too. Therefore, it is essential and comfortable to earth the client’s trust.
Tiko, how creative is the process of organizing an event?
It is truly a creative process and requires attention to detail. You may have an excellent idea but cannot implement it due to time, space, and budget. I enjoy working on exclusive weddings, where we create everything ourselves, starting from building the infrastructure. You have to build from nothing, create, think, do, and then make it a reality. It is a great pleasure to organize these types of events.
What is the main thing a person should take away from your event? When do you know that the event was successful?
An unforgettable experience and a memory that will follow a person for the rest of their life – without stress, they should get maximum pleasure. It is a priceless feeling when you see a happy client at the end of the event; this is the primary goal of our work. If you see a satisfied customer and delighted guests, you will instantly forget how little you slept and how many nights you were up while organizing the event.
Have you thought about what else you can do in your business? In what direction can your company advance?
Yes, I have often thought about it. Depending on the event’s level and who the customer is, we can make the event with both local and imported resources. Our company can offer the customer any high-level service available worldwide, which may not be available in Georgia at this stage.
One of our innovations is “Destination Event Management,” which includes two parts: when people don’t live in Georgia and come here to have a party. We offer to organize the event – everything from the purchase of the plane ticket to the departure. Whether they come for a birthday, a conference or a wedding doesn’t matter. Nowadays, having a party outside the residence country is fashionable worldwide.
Part of this novelty is that we also offer Georgian clients destination events in Italy, France, Morocco, or anywhere in the world they wish.
Paying for certain types of events, for example, weddings in Italy or Greece is now trendy in Georgia. Does Georgia have the potential to compete with the above countries? How are we doing in terms of services? Are we competitive?
This should be done step by step. These countries have more significant opportunities than Georgia. In addition, in the case of the same type of event, there is a massive difference in available budgets depending on the population’s capabilities and, therefore, the clients. As a result, the quality and standards are lower in Georgia. However, Georgia follows the trend. Obviously, due to its popularity, for example, Italy is in greater demand than Georgia – it is the dream of a massive part of the population of any country in the world to pay for a wedding in Italy. Still, I think that our country has great potential to become an attractive location, like other countries, with the development of the economy.
Can it be said that the culture of paying for festive events and parties has established itself in Georgia and has become an integral part of life for our population?
Georgia has grown a lot in this regard – now, it is not even considered to hold a high-level event without an organizer. At the same time, 15 years ago, people did not even know the existence of this position. Now, event management is at such a level that various successful businesses exist – furniture companies, decorators, music producers and directors, concept designers, etc. This field has developed quite a lot recently, and many professionals work there. At the same time, the customers themselves realized how important it is to work with professionals and to entrust the work to them. We conducted a survey, and it turned out that people who organized events independently do not remember much except stress and fatigue. This is quite a time-consuming process, which professionals should do like any other work.
Considering the volume of your work, do you ever have any free time?
Only now. For years I worked all the time without rest. Even today, I do no less and maybe even more work, but in such a way that I also travel and have time for other hobbies. This is partly thanks to my irreplaceable team. The experience brought another confidence. I am into hiking, fitness, running, and exploring holistic ideas. I like meeting people and getting new experiences.
Are there more women or men in this field?
There are more women in the field, especially in Georgia. It is difficult for a man to take care of many details simultaneously. Each event consists of many small things you must calculate correctly. You should not miss anything, and you should be very patient. Men have neither such perception of details nor willpower. It is the same in event management and life. Men do very well; they just have less interest in this field.
What inspires you?
Many things inspire me. For instance, walking in the mountains. Many event ideas have come to me while walking in the mountains. I look at everything from the point of view of event planning, and many crazy ideas come to me in nature. Other sources of inspiration are travel, books, movies, music, etc.