David Howard is ring leader of The Event Group.
Tell me about The Event Group. How you started it and what it does?
Howard: I started The Event Group in 1997 with my then-business partner Jim Button. We saw that there was a need in the marketplace for an event company that produced events through a company’s marketing goals and objectives. At the time, events were not that strategic and offered very little return on investment.
Our goal then, and it continues today, is to produce events that achieve our client’s strategic goals and gets the client a return on their investment.
We found success early on with producing events like the Big Rock Eddies and Calgary Cares, and many unique corporate events. When I bought Jim out in 2002 and became the sole owner, I changed the focus of The Event Group and we started concentrating more on producing concert and keynote speaker events for corporate and charity clients across Canada.
The Event Group has become the leader across Canada in producing these types of events and we help our clients get a large return on their event investment. When we produce charity concerts and speaker events, our clients have an opportunity to raise much-needed funds, raise their profile, secure new donors and associate their charity with some of the world’s most successful entertainers. On the corporate side, these shows are produced for companies’ clients, staff and suppliers. Guests would much rather go see a concert or a thought-provoking speaker than attend another rubber chicken gala. People are looking for unique experiences and that’s our business, and at the same time these events can cost much less than a gala event that guests can’t wait to leave.
We have worked with talent like Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah McLachlan, Elvis Costello, and keynotes like Al Gore, Steve Harper and former first lady Barbara Bush. Through our many years in the industry, we have developed agent contacts around the world, so we book direct, which saves our clients money and in turn we never mark up supplier services. We charge a management fee and as such, work in the best interest of our clients across Canada.
How has business been considering the economic challenges Calgary has faced recently?
Howard: The local economy has obviously not been great for our local business, but it has forced us to look at the way we manage our client’s events and bring more value to them.
Business in other provinces has been steady and we have certainly seen great growth in Saskatchewan. The agricultural industry has been a pleasant surprise. More firms are wanting to reward their long-term clients with a unique concert or speaker event. When firms bring in a keynote speaker that adds value to their client’s business outside of their core business. These clients become very loyal to these brands.
On the charity front, these clients have been forced to look at new ways to fundraise and bring in new supporters. Presenting a public speaker or concert event allows them to do that. Furthermore, sponsors are looking for new ways to market and tying into a public charity event, is becoming ever more popular. The companies see the value in marketing their brand in partnership and in support of charitable causes.
So, while the Calgary economy has not been kind to traditional event planners, our group is not traditional; we are the leader in the concert and keynote speaker production industry.
You are also involved in the Homes for Heroes Foundation. What is that?
Howard: Homes for Heroes is a charity I co-founded with Murray McCann with the goal to end homelessness among our veteran population. We are building tiny home villages across Canada with full support services and have had great support from local companies like ATCO and CP Rail.
Homes For Heroes Foundation’s mandate is to provide housing accommodations to homeless veterans who have served in the Canadian Forces within a framework that ensures a successful transition into civilian life. We provide affordable rental homes, a community of peers, a support structure designed to meet individual needs, and a sense of place and belonging.
Unfortunately, over 2,500 Canadian military veterans are homeless and have not been successful in transitioning from their military career to healthy and productive civilian lives. The Homes For Heroes Foundation is an initiative that assists with re-integration of military veterans into civilian life through the provision of affordable housing and a robust support system. Our first village opens in Calgary later this year and next year we open Edmonton. Hopefully we will be able to announce more villages opening in other major Canadian centres soon. More information can be found at this website www.h4hf.ca.
Can you also explain what the Canadian Legacy Project is?
Howard: Canadian Legacy Project is a charity I started to help our veterans in need across Canada. It is 100 per cent volunteer driven, and we develop programs that Veterans Affairs is not presenting, with direct feedback and input from veterans.
Canadian Legacy Project supports our veterans in need across Canada in the areas of employment, mental health, food, service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD, housing and education.
This is a trying time for many of our Canadian veterans as they try to integrate back to civilian life. In order to help with the transition, Canadian Legacy Project has developed national programs designed to help those who have stood on guard for our great country. The Canadian Legacy Project is one of the few registered charities run by volunteers, allowing the dollars raised to go directly to veterans in need. While operating a registered Canadian charity has some accounting and legal expense, we are very proud that 95 per cent of the dollars that are raised go to our veterans in need.
- PTSD peer-to-peer programming;
- PTSD service dog program;
- Canadian Legacy Projects Mount Royal University Bursary;
- Entrepreneurial business boot camp at Mount Royal University (touring in five cities);
- Veterans association food bank partnership;
- Homes for Heroes.
Why are you so involved in issues regarding Canadian veterans? Where does that passion originate from?
Howard: I was deeply moved from an experience I had when visiting my grandfather in Vancouver. He was a Navy veteran, suffering with PTSD (shell shock, as they had coined it then) and had become an alcoholic. At one point upon returning from the war, he was president of a multibillion-dollar company and years later because of his drinking, he was a security clerk in the same building. A dramatic move from the 30th floor penthouse office to the ground floor building registration clerk.
My family had distanced themselves from him because of some of the terrible things he had done to them growing up, but for some reason I was drawn to him and wanted to get a better understanding of what was happening.
What I saw was a broken man who was suffering and had been suffering most of his life because of his service to our country. I knew he wasn’t the only one and I began the process of learning more about those who served and continue to serve Canada.
What I found was too many charitable groups doing the same thing, not working together, not transparent on their spending, and not getting feedback from the people they were trying to serve.
The Canadian Legacy Project is a better model. CLP is run by volunteers, including myself, and we make sure that the dollars that come in go to those veterans in need. I look at this in the similar light of a public corporation. People trust us with their donation dollars, and we owe it to them make sure we are using these effectively and communicating to them on how their investment is being used.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business