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Blog article 41 min read

Our love for small businesses: spotlighting a New York entertainment powerhouse

DJ Vikas at a Wedding in Marrakech, (Photo by Belathee), courtesy of 4am

Celebrating National Small Business Week

Make no mistake, small businesses are a force to be reckoned with. For National Small Business Week, we’re highlighting the value of small businesses, some partners we love working with, and an entertainment company that is a part and champion of the community.

For event planners feeling like everything has already been done, look no further than your nearest up and coming small business for an element of newness for your event.

Working with small businesses in the event sector is what really empowers each event to be so unique and vibrant. There is so much on the line for us as small businesses to constantly raise the bar and outperform ourselves which is a great benefit to event hosts and companies alike. Because of the nature of small businesses as well, creativity isn’t stifled. We have less red tape to move through which is crucial in an atmosphere that requires lots of thinking outside of the box, acting fast, and creative solutions.

- Madison Back, CEO of 4AM, Small Business Leader & Freelance Advocate
Maggie Sposato, DJ Timo Weiland, DJ Mei Kwok and Madison Back at Vogue x Nissan NYFW Party, (Photo by BFA), courtesy of 4AM.

Why we love small businesses

At Planned, we partner with small businesses across North America to connect them with clients and carry out marvellous events. As a startup, we understand the hustle that comes with starting out small and feel we’re in it together. Everyone is working tremendously hard at all times, and it’s a playing field we’re honoured to be a part of.

Whether it’s flavourful Nigerian/American cuisine from O’s Kitchen, deep dives into dreamy beverages with The Crafty Cask, or culinary experiences with Aphrodite Cooks — we love connecting these passionate entrepreneurs with our clients because we know they will help them put on unforgettable events.

In conversation with small business aficionado, Madison Back

Speaking of our partners, we spoke with Madison Back, CEO of 4AM, an artist management and events company based in New York City. She studied journalism at NYU, a time she treasures for having brought her to her career in the city.

“I have always been a naturally curious person, an answer-seeker, a dot-connector, and someone who wanted to make a positive impact on the community around her. Though I did not ultimately pursue broadcast journalism or politics in a traditional sense over the last decade of my professional career, to me, journalists are deeply entrepreneurial by nature, and that is a quality I have carried over into my career as a creative talent manager and small business owner.

Mia Moretti at De Beers' Alchemist of Light, courtesy of 4am
Make-a-Wish Toast To Wishes Charity Event, courtesy of 4am

When she took over 4AM in 2015, she and her partner Scott Petrizzo (DJ Chachi) intentionally sought out a fresh energy and new perspective to the company’s operations.

“We immediately diversified the talent roster and began building relationships across the country and beyond. Our biggest priority was to disrupt the status quo we felt had been established, and inject a previously unseen level of transparency, honesty, integrity, and camaraderie into our industry and its treatment of creative talent. We wanted them to feel truly supported and prioritized, and to even the playing field. I really do believe there is enough opportunity for everyone to win. That continues to be a constant north star for 4AM as we adapt, expand and evolve."

Marcus Miller, DJ Rick Wonder, Madison Back, DJ Chachi, and Maggie Sposato at Make-a-Wish Toast To Wishes Charity Event, courtesy of 4am

The significant impact of small businesses

Back has been a strong voice in the community for some time now, vouching for the invaluable impact of small businesses on the economy, culture, and more.

“As a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, a member of the Freelancers Union, and an artist manager, I am extremely passionate about advocating for small businesses and the workforce that makes up this community.”

The title of small business encompasses “any company that has fewer than 500 employees — which may come as a surprise to most people since that isn’t very small,” she explains.

“Small businesses account for more than 90% of all businesses in the U.S., and we are the leaders in job creation and economic growth. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a massive challenge to start and sustain a small business – 20% fail within their first year, and 50% fail within five years. We still have a long way to go in our country in terms of supporting small businesses with the proper resources, despite the fact they are the backbone of the U.S. economy.”

A small business incubator of one

With four to 10 employees at any given time, 4AM is both a small business itself and a major supporter of other small businesses, when you consider how many individual talents they connect with opportunities and audiences.

Seeing these artists as intricate small businesses of their own, or solopreneurs, Back calls 4am “a small business incubator of one.”

“By providing management inclusive of financial planning and accounting services, administrative support, strategic consulting, and marketing, we work together to elevate our talent in the growth of their own business,” she explains.

Their success is built on “leveraging being small but mighty to their advantage at every opportunity,” says Back, embracing the freedom it gives them “to be creative and flexible, to pivot quickly and as needed, to try new things and be unafraid to fail fast and move on and try again and succeed.”

Diplo and Mia Moretti at Core Response's Art Basel Miami Beach Fundraising Event, (Photo by Getty Images), courtesy of 4AM

What it means to be ‘small’

For some, there is a negative connotation of the word ‘small’ by those who see small as not yet successful. This has been put to the test by powerhouses in the community who capitalize on the strength of being small in its ability to create nuance, newness and a fresh perspective.

Small businesses are special in their inevitable personal touch, and element of passion.

The power of a well-designed night of music

“Of course I am biased that good music is essential to any successful night, but it can really make or break an event. To me, it should be the top consideration in any budget. You could have all of the other elements right, but if you're lacking on the music, the party will just never get there. And while we live in this wonderful age of Spotify, it's just not the same as the human touch of a DJ or band or musical act that can feed off of a crowd's energy and give it back tenfold. We have a very hands-on approach toward consulting with our clients about the music and entertainment for their events to ensure the evening is properly paced. Not every event has the same goal and not every client is able to communicate exactly what they need, so we often take on the role of directing the music experience to best support the integrity of the event.”

Musicman Ty and DJ Chachi, courtesy of 4AM
Mei Kwok at De Beers NYBG Cocktail Event, (Photo by BFA), courtesy of 4AM

On 4AM’s unique edge

“Making the transition into weddings and corporate events was a natural and organic expansion for us at 4AM, but you never forget where you came from and our background in nightlife will always inform so much of what we do. It remains an integral piece of our business and I like to refer to it as the "bootcamp" or "cross-training" that makes our talent unparalleled when it comes to succeeding in the experiential, corporate, and private event space. One of our amazing DJs Tokyo Rose once compared playing in the club to going to the gym to train. It's what keeps our talent sharp, their music fresh, and their ability to read any crowd on point -- transferable skills that prove absolutely invaluable in any other sort of event experience. This is fundamentally what sets us apart from other entertainment companies who specialize in one category over another. To juggle multiple industry categories is definitely a relationship balancing act and has required a unique approach to marketing and training of our internal team, but it is worth the work for us and we feel we're meeting a critical need in the overall events and hospitality industry by supporting DJ & musical talent in this nuanced way.”