‘Tis the season for parties, which means Natasha Miller, founder and CEO of Entire Productions, is a busy lady. Her company plans corporate and social events, bringing in entertainment of every genre and discipline – from tarot readers to DJs to casino tables.
Why did you start your business?
I am a classically trained violinist and a jazz vocalist. I was really kind of an entrepreneur at 15 without knowing it. I was playing with a string quartet in high school. I started getting requests to play, so I started advertising the string quartet I was in. Then, I started getting inquiries for the same night, so I started sending out other groups and managing them. I moved to San Francisco and started singing with a jazz ensemble as well. I was doing lots of events and weddings as both a vocalist and playing the violin. I was getting double- and triple-booked, so I started sending out bands. Then, I started producing concerts. It kept growing and growing from there. When my daughter was later in high school and had extra-curricular activities she didn’t need me at, I was able to go out and really infiltrate the events industry. That’s when the business skyrocketed.
How did you fund the company at the start?
I always bootstrapped. I never would have considered borrowing money or taking a line of credit until I went to a program, The Goldman Sachs 10KSB. I learned from the professors there that it’s very important to have the ability to borrow money. Right after that course, I opened up a line of credit from my bank. That gave me the ability to take some chances like hiring someone with a higher salary requirement that I didn’t think I could afford before then.
Running the Business
How do you manage cash flow?
We manage cash flow by asking our clients for a deposit upon signing a contract with the balance due 10 days before the event. For contracts with our vendors, we tell them that we’ll pay them within 14 days of the event. We have a buffer and some leeway that helps with cash flow. As we grow, we have bigger clients like Visa and Salesforce with 30-60 net pay terms. We can’t say “no” to them because of their pay terms, so it becomes a juggling act. I hope to be able to put aside a chunk of this year’s net income to be sure that we have enough cash to pad our workflow.
What’s the most challenging thing about running the company?
It is hiring. It is getting the right candidates in the pipeline, then interviewing them and finding out if they’re actually able to do the job. It’s really an art and science. We just hired a recruiter to help.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the company?
It’s having a great team with a great culture that really enjoys what they do and are thriving. It’s wonderful to work with people who have autonomy and who are entrepreneurs within their own role. My great joy is having this incredible team.
What I’ve Learned
What’s the biggest mistake you made when you were starting out?
I’ve made some major mistakes in hiring. Also, I wasn’t as educated as I should have been earlier. Three years ago, if you talked to me about my balance sheet or profit and loss, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a very good conversation. I didn’t know my numbers and I didn’t know financial terms. Going to that Goldman Sachs program really opened my eyes. I was terrified of my financial professor then, but now I can have a one-on-one sparring contest with him over my numbers. I shouldn’t have waited to go to the 10KSB program to learn that.
What’s the smartest thing you did when you were starting out?
In the early days, I was really savvy about marketing and branding. I placed an ad in a wedding magazine for my string quartet that was really expensive. I didn’t really have the money lying around to do so. But, it really paid off because back then, in the early ‘90s, people weren’t really getting their information from the Internet. That educated me as a good way to get business, so I continued doing it. When the Internet came around, I was also really savvy and created a website myself in HTML in 1995. I was on the cutting edge of technology all the time. I understood when the magazine ads were no longer pulling, and I pulled out.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Be passionate and love what you’re doing. I can’t understand people that start businesses for the task of doing so or for the goal of starting a business. I don’t know how successful that can be if there’s not a passion involved. There’s a lot of stuff you don’t love to do within your small business, so you might as well love most of it to start.
I would also say there’s an education component. I did a lot of things by instinct and by the gut, and that worked for me for a long time. But, it could have really been a detriment to the business. Thankfully, I really caught up with myself and began educating and engaging myself. I don’t know if the pieces would have fallen apart, but I do know that I now have a multi-million-dollar business.
What’s next for Entire Productions?
We’re really going to be focusing more on larger events and the specific niche of corporate events. Those are the fun, splashy ones with really good budgets! And we also do experiential marketing events for brands. We’re really going to open up that space.
Some other good news is that I’m writing my memoir! It will talk about how I grew up and a lot of obstacles I overcame that led me to today. I have a really incredible drive for life, which I certainly did not at the beginning. I’m really excited about that!