From balloon arches to singing telegrams, Maureen Harkness has done it all — except for the singing part. Finding a new home with Cre8ive Event Rentals in Tempe, Ariz., in May 2022, Harkness reflects on her rise and success in event rental.
“I was this little girl from small town Canada who wasn’t afraid of adventure,” Harkness says. “I just grew up in an entrepreneurial family and never really wanted to work for anyone except myself.”
Maureen Harkness with Andrew Heesacker receiving her Leadership Impact Award
Her career began in her home market, where there was only one party rental store. Harkness started with small jobs, balloon arches and gorilla suits, and eventually bought out her local competitor. She credits some of her growth to timing.
“I met just the right people along the way who were looking to sell businesses, acquire businesses, or change partnerships. It eventually took me to Japan and Dubai,” Harkness explains.
Her international experience includes acting as a managing director and managing partner for multiple event rental businesses.
“We literally built our own inventory from what we had from the last private event. We did a lot of private residence parties and grew some businesses from zero to a place where they could be acquired,” she says.
This experience set her up for more success in North America as Harkness decided it was time to move closer to home for her family. At the time she had growing children and aging parents, then an opportunity presented itself to join Classic Party Rentals. So, she hit the ground running as soon as she landed in the United States.
The culture shock of Los Angeles sparked Harkness’s creativity and passion for sales.
“I started in LA in inside sales but people in the company transitioned quickly and I found myself in outside sales, managing large accounts and organically growing the business,” she says. “Sales was always my focus — that was my passion — growing more salespeople to understand what sales was and what it was not [order-taking]. It all comes from my love of the business, finding new ways to dig out revenue and creating happy memories every time. That’s where we’re in the business to do.”
When asked if she’s as passionate about sharing these seemingly innate skills with the next generation, Harkness lets out a humble laugh and says, “I don’t know if I’ve done it successfully, but mentorship is so critical. If I can give my way of life and the quality of life that I’ve been able to give my family to a young women or young man starting out in this business, I want to.”
Harkness joined Cre8ive Event Rentals in May 2022 and is loving the collaborative environment and the consultative brand that Cre8ive has grown in its 25 years.
“The growth after COVID has been incredible to see,” she says. “The way the team is implementing technology, new product development and marketing tactics is exciting. We truly design every event from the ground up and partner with companies all over the valley so that we are a one stop shop. For me, having been involved with so many rental companies, this is a whole new experience. It’s something new. I’ve never done flower design in my life, but it’s so fun. I’m turning a different corner and a different page in my book this time.”
Listen to Maureen Harkness’s full interview here.