Bradley Hampel is into the business of activations, movie premieres, corporate events, and brand experiences. But before he founded his event and entertainment agency, Solution Entertainment, more than ten years ago, Brad didn’t imagine starting a business of his own. A trip to Lagos, Portugal and the circumstances that occurred there lured him towards the entrepreneurial path, not expecting that such experiences would lead him to success.
It was in 2002 when Brad spent a few months in the small party town of Lagos. “I probably never thought that I would start my own business. It was not my intention. I had no idea what I was planning or doing with my life. And then, I went travelling,” he began. While in Lagos, he needed a job, so he posed as a DJ, which paved the way for an exciting career in business and entertainment.
“One evening, after a few drinks, I convinced this guy that I was a DJ. The story probably got a little bit embellished. All of a sudden, I was a massive DJ, and I was taking a summer off the European tour. It wasn't my motive. I went with it and went the full extent of it. I ended up getting a job at a nightclub,” he fondly recalled. His first night at the club was a huge success, with the venue jampacked when he played his set, even though the turntables were extremely new to him. Right after that fateful night, he clinched the job and worked three days a week until he went back to Australia.
Upon his return, Brad finished his marketing degree at Monash University while doing random odd jobs. “I got a sales job at a company. We were selling telecommunication systems. And I hated it. But I did it every day for three months until I decided to leave. Then, I said, ‘I'll start my own thing.’ I started DJing a lot, getting asked if I could book as a DJ. And I started doing a lot of private events,” he narrated.
It seemed that the entrepreneurial spirit has been in Brad’s DNA earlier on in his life. While his mum was an educator, his dad was into business. He’s had amazing chats with his father when it comes to the business world. But apart from his dad, he wanted someone to guide him through his journey. “I always thought, maybe I'd love to find a mentor to counsel me and take me through the experience. But I never found that person. I just fell into this particular path. And I guess I spent my life creating these life experiences through events,” he retorted.
Running a venture without a business partner has its pros and cons. The positive side was that he could chart his path however he liked. On the downside, he didn’t have someone to confer with as he went along his business journey. It was also a challenge not having a clear vision and growth strategy during the early stage of his venture. With a lack of a partner, Brad found some great company from fellow business owners in EO Melbourne, which he joined six years ago. As he ingrained himself more in EO, he found he’s been enjoying his Forum experience.
“I think the experience-sharing is a key factor for me because I didn't have any business partner. So, hearing other people's experience was a big help. I think your whole life you get told what to do by people. It’s nice to have people who will talk to you about their experiences and what the outcome was, and then you can draw your own assessment of the situation,” explained Brad.
His first lucky break was when he did the movie premiere of PREY, which featured Natalie Bassingthwaighte, a famous personality in Australia. The person he was dealing with paid him a deposit but didn’t compensate him for the remainder of the project. Getting fleeced was one of the heartbreaks he encountered early in his business as it stripped him of most of his growth savings.
“In hindsight, I probably only got the lucky break because I was the last agency that said I would take the payment terms that he proposed, which he ended up ripping me off. But it put me on the map, and it was a great event and a great learning experience. So, it gave me the ability to showcase the work we've done. I just kept moving forward and then was fortunate enough to build back up,” he shared.
That experience taught him the harsh realities of the business sphere, notwithstanding the fact that the industry where he belongs is in itself challenging. “There are very low barriers to entry, in general. There's always new up-and-coming people with great ideas. One of the challenges is staying creative, staying ahead of the game. Another challenge is that you're only as good as your last event. So, something can come up that can ruin your reputation. It's challenging to establish a good reputation. The real challenge is to maintain it,” Brad enumerated.
With a business to run, work keeps him preoccupied most of the time, that is why he rarely switches off. “I'm in the business by myself. So, some of my biggest challenges are ensuring that I enjoy the highs and realising that I can get through the lows.” Because he loves what he’s doing, he has never been busier, but he never felt like he had more time in his life.
Aside from his passion for his work, Brad’s energy boosters are his family and exercise, which are important parts of his life. “Family time and physical exertion are probably the key things that keep me going,” he revealed. He would go to the gym, go for a swim or go for a run to have more physical energy.
What he considers as the best tool that has brought him this far are relationships. “The number one key for me is developing strong relationships with suppliers and the clients. I think relationships, for me, are a huge focus and integral part of every business, and definitely with this business. To make sure that you have a great relationship, you have to deliver,” bared Brad. By that, he meant delivering the best service that would satisfy their clients.
Such relationships also extend to his staff. He acknowledges that getting the right people is necessary to make sure that their agency is delivering quality service that will help build up positive branding and reputation. “Today, it's already in my recruitment process of making sure that I get skilled people who are fantastic at what they do. I hire people based on attitude and passion for the industry. It's a highly stressful business and industry because it is service-based. I think the key is making sure that you have passionate people who love what they do,” Brad shared. Brad puts a high value on culture. Thus, he makes sure to maintain their positive corporate culture. Since he loves what he does, he sets a good example for the rest of his team and expects the same from them.
Being in a dynamic environment may have its ups and downs, especially for entrepreneurs who have a business to manage. It’s a 24/7 commitment. But running his venture is what Brad wants for his life. “You may never get the ability to switch off, but you can write your book. You can write your way of how you want to live your life. So, to me, personally, that's what I love. I can dictate how to run my life and my business,” he explained. For that, Brad believes that for one to become an entrepreneur, one has to stay focused and have an unwavering motivation to do what he wants to do.
His motivation now is to grow his business, not too quickly, but more of towards the right direction. With his big vision of becoming the best creative event and entertainment agency in Australasia, he is concentrating on opening another office in Sydney. “Personally, I’m very hungry to grow this business. I don't want to have just 15 employees. I want 200 employees in each state and other countries, like Singapore or somewhere similar. I think the biggest challenge is maintaining the current clients we have, and then adding service offering that will enhance the growth of my business,” Brad revealed.
With his excitement and vigour towards his business, the present and the future look positive for Brad. “I'm enjoying the position I'm in at the moment. I feel like it's the first time I've ever been busiest with the most amount of time because I feel like I'm truly focused on what I do well, which is just relationship building. If I keep doing that, I don't care if I'm doing that for a hundred years. That's what I enjoy doing. I think it's also important to set a lot of family time. I'd love to one day get a house along the coast, spend time at the beach with my family, and all that. But, at the same time, I love coming to work and working and building and developing relationships and spending time with clients.”
Brad has come a long way since that time he went to Lagos, Portugal. He found his purpose and the solution to the pain inside of him that being employed couldn't provide. In the process, he has built his enterprise, established good relationships, and humanised brand experiences through creativity and passion.