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2024 Market Movers: The Grand Event Design and Decor

By Brock Huffstutler

June 6, 2024

Shannel Aiken, owner, The Grand Event Design and Decor

Shannel Aiken, owner, The Grand Event Design and Decor

When asked what has driven the growth behind Northport, Ala.-based The Grand Event Design and Decor over the past three years, Owner Shannel Aiken chalks much of it up to demonstrating empathy with others during a challenging time for the event industry.

“A lot of it has to do with building relationships with people during their toughest times,” she says. “A lot of our friends were closing down during COVID and didn’t know what to do. We were actively letting them know we were there, saying, ‘We have a business too. We know what you’re feeling and going through.’ That helped people spread the word about us and trust our business.”

As word of mouth about the company spread, relationships it developed during and post-COVID “put us in rooms we never thought we’d be in. And in those rooms, people said, ‘We want to partner with you. We see what you’re doing to help other people. That means you’re not in it for the wrong reasons,’” Aiken says.

Those rooms that Aiken never expected to be in have led to big jobs by the likes of ESPN College GameDay, Mercedes, Shein and the University of Alabama, including the “coming out” bash for new Crimson Tide football coach Kalen DeBoer.

While technology plays a role in The Grand Event’s growth trajectory — Aiken lists RW Elephant’s boutique rental software as a key tool — the timeless way of doing business is just as important.

“We’ve become so computerized, and everything is just ‘Drop it off here and pick it up there.’ Let’s go shake your hand. Sometimes old school is also new school,” Aiken says.

That “old-school” approach in a high-tech age may seem unconventional — and equally so is Aiken’s overall business philosophy — but it all has been paying off. “We are using our business as a tool to help people, not necessarily to make a whole bunch of money,” she says. “I think that’s why people want to come work with us, because they know that we’re doing it for something bigger than just us and something bigger than just events.”

Tips for growth

Focus on relationships. Everybody has products, but do you have relationships with potential customers? These can help you grow revenue and capitalize on that income to expand your inventory offerings.

Don’t hide behind your company name. Be out there as the owner. This visibility is important for your customers as well as for your team members.

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