Q&A with Autumn Rich, CEO of Autumn Rich & Co., and Co-Owner, Panacea Collection
Each month, we ask a Culturati member about culture.
Q. You’re a successful female entrepreneur, how has culture impacted your success?
Culture has greatly impacted my business — both the successes and the challenges — as an employee, an entrepreneur and employer. As a start-up begins, the culture is like a family. There is a passion for the product or vision and a leader that is in the trenches with the troops is paramount. As companies are successful and grow that vision and cohesion can quickly be lost unless careful attention and intention are in full focus.
As a female, I have had to walk a fine line of being too ambitious, intimidating, or just plain bitchy vs. having empathy and understanding. I don’t think my male counterparts would give this a second thought.
As I built my two small businesses we’ve focused on making sure we get the right personalities that will fit into the culture and then teaching them the business. People can learn the business but cannot change their personalities.
Also, I am very present at this stage of the businesses but can see as we begin to grow the lines of business that may not be the case. I want to make sure that the foundation of the culture we have stays once the day to day grows and changes.
I recently started a furniture rental business that has grown very quickly and morphed into a rental, design and furnishing company. With the background of music festivals that my partner, Lisa Hickey, and I come from, this is the direction the company has focused on. We’ve changed the way rock stars are treated from simple and mundane festival dressing rooms, rehearsal areas, meditation rooms and “hang” areas to highly styled and visually stimulating areas. Artists are now including in their riders that rooms look like “this”!
As I’m in the process of merging my two companies to be able to offer broader services and add more lines of business, I am paying particular attention to a more cohesive and larger infrastructure. Both are highly service oriented but in very different ways. To combine the cultures in a thoughtful and complete way will dictate the success we have in the future.
Q. To all the mom’s out there who think it (starting & then growing a successful business) can’t be done, what advice do you offer?
Anything is possible. It takes a mix of risk, balance, faith, and determination. I have been a single mom since my son Jett was two years old. Juggling being at every school play, every little league game, dinner most nights with him and building and creating a successful business is hard work and not for the faint of heart. I used my time wisely. Certain aspects of my personal life took a back seat as my priority was to be a good and present mom while also an entrepreneur. There were some very early mornings and some very late or middle of the night work sessions.
What I love about it now though, is that my son is 20, in college studying business and knows first hand that you really can do or be anything you want. He was at the first Austin City Limits Music Festival build after Montessori school when he was 4. He was at the White House Easter Egg Roll at 4:00 am for set up and then later got the privilege of playing one-on-one basketball with President Obama. He has seen the work that goes into what I do but also has reaped the amazing rewards that you get.
Q. You’ve been involved, helped create Culturati since before the launch. What are you seeing, why is it important?
The culture of Culturati has to be great in order to produce a Summit that will be worth the time of a C-Suite executive. What we’ve come to know is that small and intimate conversations and exchanging of information is what our people want and need. We’ve achieved this in part by creating settings where executives can feel comfortable opening their play books and sharing with their peers what has worked and what has not. Ongoing communication throughout the year is also very important. Culture can’t be changed by going to one Summit a year. Our private CEO dinners have morphed from a few groups to independent monthly gatherings. Our key Culturati team has a dinner once a month in one of our homes to make sure we’re on track to bring to the Summit what we’re hearing throughout the year.
Companies are becoming much more comfortable taking a stand on politics, the environment, immigrations and all other hot topics that are so prevalent in today’s life.
Diversity and Inclusion is also moving up as a priority for many companies. Studies are showing that hiring more diverse employees raises the moral and productivity of their companies.
Q. You’ve created events for high tech execs, media moguls, musicians and their fans, the White House . . . what’s important? What’s your secret sauce?
Autumn Rich & Co. is an events production company that immerses itself with our clients to produce large-scale events, and private, more specialized events. We have to be able to adapt to many different needs and personalities of our many different clients. We’ve produced events that feature high profile people such as Presidents Obama, Bush, Carter and Clinton. We’ve produced events that feature stars such as The Honorable Colin Powell, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and many more. I’ve been able to be shoulder to shoulder with rock stars, Presidents, CEO’s of major corporations and see first hand what makes them successful.
What I’ve found is that details are important and as stress runs high in producing events, there has to be a very level temperament to successfully pulling them off.
I’ve been very fortunate to have large and long-term clients where my team becomes a part of their team. We integrate ourselves and become an extension of the core. We love what we do, we’re passionate about being the best and producing extraordinary events for each client.
Our attention to detail, new ways to communicate a message, and creating an experience sets us apart from other event production companies. We’re small but pack a huge punch. You don’t get an account executive with us…you get the whole team.
We create a plan and a timeline and we execute activations and implementation in a tried and true formula. Our team puts ourselves in the audience’s place to imagine their experience. What would make me walk away saying, “I want more”?
Q. Does culture come into play in bringing people together at the events you produce?
I’ve found that culture is important not only within my company but how we deal with each client as well. The setting you create. The intimate experiences you create that allow people to have one-on-one conversations are more important than ever. People want to learn. People want to have personal connections that are far stronger than what we have on social media. While all that is important I see a trend back to face-to-face, person-to-person contact.
Autumn Rich is the Founder of Autumn Rich & Co, LLC, an Austin-based experiential marketing and event production company, and co-owner of boutique furniture rental and design company, Panacea Collection.
Previously, Autumn worked at C3 Presents where she was Director of VIP and Private Events. Autumn managed all VIP and hospitality components for music festivals including Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza. She also handled all private events for C3 including the 2008 Presidential election night in Grant Park, Chicago and five White House Easter Egg Rolls. Autumn produced numerous events during SXSW including Rachael Ray’s Feedback and Greenhouse events, Google Garage, Big Easy Express screening for Mumford & Sons, Red Light Management’s Showcase, Rolling Stone’s Rock Room, GSD&M and many more.
In addition, Autumn produced, in partnership with Texas Cultural Trust, the Texas Medal of Arts for six years, honoring Billy Gibbons, Former First Lady Laura Bush, musicians Clint Black, Steve Miller, Ray Benson, Kris Kristofferson and Kenny Rogers, film and literary stars Bill Paxton, Marcia Gay Harden, T Bone Burnet, Lawrence Wright, Robert Schenkkan, Dan Rather and Scott Pelley to name a few.
Other clients include Culturati Summit, which is in its fourth year, The Texas Tribune Festival, Quaker Oats and several corporate private retreats.
After graduating with a BBA in Business Marketing from the University of Oklahoma, Autumn lived in Washington, DC where she planned major political events, political national conventions and fundraisers. She went on to plan events around the country for Former First Lady Barbara Bush, and consulted for the Red Cross, President Bill Clinton, the American Medical Association, to name a few.