How Carolien Became The go-to Event Planner For Coaches And Creative Entrepreneurs
Carolien is a vibrant, inspiring, and creative woman. Her love and passion for connecting people through unique experiences led her to...
Carolien is a vibrant, inspiring, and creative woman. Her love and passion for connecting people through unique experiences led her to start her own event planning business. With more than 100 business events under her belt, Carolien clearly has become the go-to event planner for coaching and creative entrepreneurs around the world. Here’s how she achieved her dream.
What was your big dream, and what inspired you to go after it?
When I was 14 or 15, I dreamt that I would get up every day and never feel unhappy to go to my job. I wanted a job that inspired me and that would keep me interested and excited about what I did every single day. When I grew older, after I went to university and I had my first jobs, I realized that my dream was to create my own company so that I could be location independent. I didn’t want to be tied down to one location but instead I wanted to travel. That’s exactly what I did. I’m building my own event planning agency and I’m traveling around Europe, US and the world to host in-person events for my clients, and to help them create their own events from scratch.
Did you always had this dream?
As I mentioned before, it grew on me when I was 14 or 15. I even wrote on my bedroom wall: “I have to create myself”, as Sartre said (L’existence précède l’essence – Existence precedes essence). This quote is the red thread in my career choices. I chose for myself, and made it work.
I opted for Ancient History rather than Medicine at university. I remember feeling confident that I would find my way in the adult world after uni, even if I didn’t choose a topic that typically let to an outlined career path. I picked the subject I liked the most, and had great fun and academic success along the way.
Then the time came to find my first job. I headed to the The European Art Fair in Maastricht, one of the top art salons in the world of fine arts. I had a couple of printed resumes with me, and presented myself in all the booths with Archeological Objects. I got one interview on the spot with an art auction house from Brussels, and they hired me! There I learned about organizing auctions and events.
After 2 years at the gallery, I wanted to get into meeting and event planning, and I got a job at an event planning agency. I was in charge of the logistical planning, and for running for conferences and meetings for the European Commission and other high profile clients. I loved the project cycle of putting together a live event where people could connect and transform together. What was missing for me at the agency was the freedom to travel and to choose my own clients in the industries I loved, like the online education industry. I wanted to work with clients at shaping the event concept, and I also wanted to offer full marketing and communication services to sell tickets. That’s why I founded my own event planning business in late 2015.
What was one of the first thing you did to get you started?
I took a course about freelancing, to learn more about what it is to run a business, and how to do it. This was back in 2013. Then I started getting clients on the side as a freelance translator, along my day job at the auction house. I picked translation because it matched with my skill set and it’s a service you can operate completely location-free. I missed the human contact I had when organizing events, so I eventually moved into event planning instead.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in working toward achieving your dream?
The biggest challenge was to find a clear focus. I was asking myself a lot of questions: “Should I build a business, or should I find another job, or maybe stay at my job? What kind of business should I build? Should I go full-time or not?”
I wanted to be flexible and location-independent. I first tried translation, but this didn’t fit so well with my own desire to meet people and see my clients reactions at the end of the project. Again, one of the reasons why I went with event planning. It’s daunting to leave the security of a full-time job for a new project. I had no guarantees, but I felt a big urge to go for it. To make the transition, I started out in a startup incubator first, where coaches helped me find my way with market research, my first sales calls and my first clients. I actually landed my former employer, the event agency, as a first client with their help.
What do you wish you would have done differently? What would you warn others about?
I wish I would have worked on my mindset earlier. I let myself be held back because of fears I had. Doing mindset work really helped me reach next levels in my business.
Would you say you’ve achieved your big dream yet?
I’m on my way, every day. I’m building my company.
What do you think helped you achieve it?
Support, both hired and from my circle of friends, business buddies and family. I regularly chat on Skype with other entrepreneurs that I meet during networking events or online, to check in with each other, and to hold each other accountable.
What’s the best advice you have for others who want to follow their big dreams?
Don’t let fear hold you back. You can figure out a way to get there. When I first started I was terrified of being visible online, on social media, and of doing sales conversations. I was afraid people would judge me, and I didn’t want that. But I realized there would be no business if no-one knew about me or if I didn’t sell anything… So I worked on my mindset and developed ways to get over my fears.
More about Carolien – carolienmertens.com
Carolien Mertens is the go-to event planner for coaches and creative entrepreneurs. She planned over 100 business events and welcomed more than 10.000 participants. She’s a regular a contributor for the Huffington Post and Thrive Global on live event topics.
Carolien gives her clients the opportunity to focus and thrive at their live event through her signature flexible planning strategy, that ensures smooth event flow & intense participant experience.
Use her 5-step guide to start planning your own live event.
Watch Carolien’s Event Experts interviews on her Facebook Page. The last edition is all about branding your event.
Carolien’s favorite quote:
I have to create myself
– Jean-Paul Sartre
Carolien’s big dream for the world:
More access to education and opportunities for everyone.
If you want more inspiring stories of Big Dreamers, I’ve got great news for you! This story is part of an interview series, you can find all entries here.