In DeSouza Associates

Marking our 25th Anniversary in Business – better late than never!

DeSouza Associates celebrated its 25th Business Anniversary during the pandemic and rather that passing it over, particularly with what the hospitality industry (and everyone of course!) has been through, we wanted to mark and celebrate it, albeit late!

The business and I personally have had ups and downs, as is life, over the last 25 years however overall it’s been a very positive experience and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in spite of two significant recessions.  Above all I would like to say a very big thank you to my loyal staff and customers, without whom we would not still be in business more than 25 years on.

So, it all began in October 1995 having left a corporate position in the pharmaceutical industry the Friday before. A computer, a business phone and fax number, a business address and that was really the beginning.

1995 was memorable for other reasons too, remember….
  • The BBC begins regular digital audio broadcasting from the Crystal Palace transmitting station – wow, this really surprised me.
  • The famous interview with HRH The Princess of Wales, an episode of Panorama, was broadcast on BBC One.  An estimated 22.78 million watched the broadcast, the all-time record for a UK current affairs programme. 
  • “Rogue trader” Nick Leeson is jailed for six-and-a-half years in Singapore on a double fraud charge relating to the financial collapse of Barings Bank.
  • Delia Smith’s cookery book Winter Collection was published – I still have my copy!!
  • Fred Perry, tennis player, died in the February.

1995 was also the year which saw Britpop at its most popular. A highly publicised chart battle in August saw Oasis and Blur battling it out for the number 1 position, having both released their singles on the same day. Blur won the singles battle, with “Country House”.

From inception, DeSouza Associates was involved in both event management and venue finding and our service is all about treating each enquiry and client individually. Less than a year later with the business growing, additional staff were recruited, including in 1998 a telesales/business development person to help grow the business further.  We even had a website by this point, albeit small scale and obviously nothing like the ‘responsive’ sites we have today.

The new millennium – Y2K – arrived and we were all expecting our computers not to work on 1st Jan 2000! In April that year, DeSouza Associates moved to larger premises in the infamous town of Sunningdale in Berkshire – home to golf and many famous residents including, at the time, Bruce Forsyth.  We were four in the team and recruiting.  New corporate clients came on board and some are still with us today.

In 2001 we incorporated a new member of the team and her event business and over the next few years we were involved in a number of event management projects, collating and managing all aspects: marketing, venue finding and liaison, delegate and speaker management, registration and on-site management.

Ten years on and we’re now in 2005 and time to move office premises again! Staff changes inevitably also are realised and Catherine first joined the team on a temporary basis, soon to join as a permanent member of the team.

In 2010 we achieved a significant win by being appointed the conference organiser to a medical society.  Thus began work for the society’s first international conference which was to take place in November 2011, the first of many.

As we continued to grow our business and staff numbers, other things changed too- gone was the fax machine and in came a brand new venue system which we’re still using to this day but which has obviously developed in leaps and bounds over the years.  Our venue system is now used by over 60 agents, not just smaller companies but also by one of the largest privately owned agents in the UK – we’re in good company!

The business ‘came of age’ in October 2013 and to mark our 18th birthday we contacted our local newspaper, the Farnham Herald and following a short interview and team photo, our anniversary was featured in the paper – we became local celebs, even if just for a day or so!

In 2015 we reached the heights of 20 years in business, working with many new clients and, this was also the year when we won a new managed account which opened new doors for us.  We celebrated this special business anniversary with a few clients at the wonderful Chewton Glen Hotel, a luxurious five star venue in Hampshire.

These were some of the other headlines in the UK in 2015….
  • UK inflation fell to zero percent in February, the lowest level since records began – we can only dream of that in 2022!
  • In May, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth baby Charlotte at St Mary’s Hospital in London.  She became fourth in line to the throne.
  • In July a level three heatwave was declared by the Met Office as a temperature of 36.7 °C is recorded in London. Our offices in Farnham got pretty warm too.
  • In August commemorations were held to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of VJ Day, the end of World War II in the Far East.
  • In December British astronaut Tim Peake became the first Briton under the banner of the European Space Agency to set foot on the International Space Station.

And then the pandemic hit in March 2020……

Thankfully we’ve been able to ride the immensely difficult times faced by the hospitality industry and continue to adapt and learn new skills such as organising virtual conferences.

And finally, I would like to share with you some (25, and why not!) memories from the last 25 years….
  1. On our first day in new office premises in the centre of Farnham in 2009, we had a visit from a supplier with 4 international colleagues – just a little chaotic!
  2. Most interesting FAM to St Petersburg. If I had visited on my own, I would definitely not have had the opportunity to visit some of the locations that we visited and had the first-hand background information from Russians. Will never forget seeing da Vinci’s Madonna Litta at The Hermitage Museum.
  3. Winning our first Managed Account!
  4. Medical Conference on Copacabana, Rio, Brazil in 2011.
  5. Client Event at a venue in Bucks some years ago – all our clients were delayed due to two accidents on the surrounding roads.  Kate and I thought we were going to be without any ‘friends’ that evening but fortunately they turned up, albeit late.
  6. Covering on-site for a client for a 2-day event in London.  She had to travel back to Australia for a family funeral.  I was meant to be on site with her but managed it successfully myself in the end – needs must, as they say!
  7. Being spoilt by an international hotel group on a 5 star London FAM – amazing.  Some of my Hospitality Colleagues can easily drink me under the table; I am truly a lightweight!
  8. We were running an international conference in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2012 when a major storm in the area delayed several speakers and delegates from arriving in time for the conference.  My event colleagues and I were so worried as to how our outdoor Gala Event the next evening would pan out and if in fact it would take place at all.  We need not have worried – it was a beautiful, still evening and enjoyed by one and all!
  9. DeSouza Associates staff have produced 6 children, so far, over the course of the 25 years.
  10. Being in the same restaurant as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie during a Hilton hotel site visit.
  11. Travel to Hawaii and several Caribbean islands for conferences and event
  12. Being shown hotel rooms by a member of the Sales Team, on site visits, in which guests were already checked in.  On other occasions guests’ luggage was already in the room even if they weren’t there and we were lucky not to have bumped into them – this has happened a few too many times over the years.
  13. Nice gifts from hotel suppliers or during FAMS which have survived eg a teddy bear with my name on it!
  14. Some wonderful suppliers who, over a number of years, help us on an ongoing basis.
  15. Frightening flight to Amsterdam on a FAM many years ago – due to the strong winds we couldn’t land in Amsterdam but landed in Rotterdam instead. Our hosts were just amazing and made alternative arrangements accordingly – as we all know, flexibility is the key!
  16. Valued friendships – staff, clients and suppliers.
  17. Some very complimentary testimonials!
  18. Scary taxi ride in China during a conference in 2017.
  19. Wonderful clients – many are so very grateful for the service that we have provided over the years’ and they continue to come back to us time and again, even though they may have changed jobs many times.  Thank goodness our company name has not changed in the 25 years.
  20. A ride on the back of a Harley Davidson when in Dubai on a FAM – quite exhilarating!
  21. Excellent client referrals – this has been a very important marketing strategy for us and continues to be.
  22. Accompanying clients on site visits both in the UK and Europe and bringing to the table our experience and knowledge to help them reach a decision on their venue choice.
  23. Going on the BA i360 in Brighton during a Client Event 
  24. Ongoing learning, development and adapting to the needs of our clients and the hospitality industry – social media, hybrid and virtual events, on-line webinars, new venue platforms and other systems.
  25. Flying to Washington DC to assist a client on-site at a one-day Medical Advisory Board Meeting
Event planning

Concluding, as I’ve eluded to already, I’m most thankful to my staff, clients and suppliers who have each played a very important role in the success of DeSouza Associates. Here’s to the future… probably not another 25 years but certainly aiming for a good few more business celebrations!

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