Balancing your big dreams with financial reality can be difficult for any business. But for organisations driven primarily by passion and love the balancing act becomes particularly difficult.
Mel spoke to Todd Buttery from the CoastOut Festival about the highs and lows of creating a world-class event in regional Australia.
Mel: How did the Coast Out Festival get started?
Todd: I’d been involved with marketing and promotion for the Melbourne Out Games and the Chill Out Festival in Daylesford in 2008. I came home to Coffs Harbour the next year and I had this idea for a Gay and Lesbian event by the beach. I’d heard of beach festivals overseas but there was nothing here. So I wrote down this concept for a three-day event – that was in January 2009. After several phone calls, meetings and heavy discussion, council agreed to provide some seed funding.
I fought hard and pushed and worked my guts out with a very small team of people. Gay, straight – we all just chipped in. And by October 2010 we had created a three-day festival – eight events over three days with people coming from all around the country.
Mel: That’s a big festival for a relatively small regional centre. Has it proved financially viable?
Todd: Every year we get by. We scrape the bottom of the barrel, but it happens.
I’ve had feedback that I took on too much in the first couple of years. But I wanted to put on something really special – as big and colourful as possible. I probably bit off a little more than I could chew in terms of the staging costs.
Mel: What are you doing to improve your financials?
Todd: If we could double our patronage we’d be in a great position financially. So we’re focusing on ways to put more bums on seats.
We want to reeducate the local community that this event is for people who like fun! Everyone who comes along to Coast Out has a fabulous time – it’s not just a Gay and Lesbian event.
Mel: What are you doing to grow your audience without blowing the marketing budget?
Todd: We’re looking at ways to make the event more visible and more welcoming for the whole community. This year we’re going to hold more events at Park Beach to make sure the Festival is more visible and open to locals.
Our Community Fair Day is going to be free. In the past we’ve had a small entry fee. But making it free lets people try out the Festival and we’re hoping that will attract them to other events.
We’re also adding a food, wine & jazz day to the Festival. This is a familiar and fun sort of event that everyone in the community will feel comfortable attending.
Mel: You’ve been putting your heart and soul into this event for five years, without financial return to yourself. Do you ever think enough is enough?
Sometimes, but then something always happens to reignite my passion. There was a woman who came up to me and thanked me for creating a Festival that made her feel it was OK to be herself. I still tear up when I think about her. It’s moments like that that keep me going.
At MJ Accountants we know that the dream is often just as important as the financial return. We work with our clients to help them develop financial strategies to make their dreams come true. Give us a call!