Anna: Welcome to podcast number14. You’re here with Anna. Today I would say we’ve got a very particular special guest here that’s been in industry for very long time, but also has his hands in a lot of pies all over, not even in this industry, but all over other industries. It’s really amazing to actually speak to this guest. Knowing his history, his background, getting to know him it’s actually a very interesting story, but it’s very admirable as well.
We’ve got here today Fred, known as Sydney fireworks, but now al known as StarLight. God knows what else he’s known for. Welcome, Fred.
Fred: Thank you, Anna.
Anna: Fred, a lot of people do know you around the industry; the venues, the suppliers, the planners. Everyone knows you. I would like to let the guests and everyone kind of have the intake of who you are, how you started from the beginning.
Fred: Okay. really this started… My background, I’m actually an accountant. I was looking for something to… Fireworks was always something I’ve been interested in. I have done the training, the courses and then started doing the fireworks. Then, some of the venues started approaching me. I wasn’t doing any weddings. I was mainly doing corporate events and stuff. Once they saw how we do our shows and the way we execute all the shows, they started wanting to me to look after the venue’s inhouse… whatever they require inhouse. It just rolled on from there, from one venue to another venue.
There just seemed like there’s a big gap in the market for the fireworks. We really took on that gap. As we took on the gap, we found that the old school fireworks were really unsafe. We just completely… there’s too much risk factors and there’s all these stories. That’s when we moved over from real fireworks to the electric fireworks called sparkler and we actually brought it into Australia. We’re the ones who got the deal signed over, brought the product over. I got it approved by all the venues, all the government organizations. That’s where fireworks are now.
Anna: For the guests out there, they’re actually listening, when you listen to fireworks you just think automatically big bang shows for New Year’s Eve and all of that stuff. For those that don’t know what sparkler is and stuff, they’re just fireworks indoors that they have throughout the actual wedding; on the entry, through the stairs, cake cutting and things that. It’s just a sparkle that comes off.
When someone does want an outdoor show, you can do all the barges and everything?
Fred: A hundred percent. Yeah. We’ve got outdoor shows this week, next week and stuff. We do outdoor shows all the time. It’s all about budgets as well. We’re going to work to clients’ budgets. The indoor stuff works better with the client’s budget than the outdoor shows. The outdoor shows there’s a lot more that goes into it. That’s why we don’t do as many outdoor shows as indoor shows.
Anna: From there… So, you were an accountant.
Anna: Now, you went into fireworks.
Anna: What else do you do, Fred?
Fred: We obviously do, my background as well, I’ve got in the hobbies where… My company is one of the biggest wholesale companies of hobbies in Australia. We wholesale to all different hobby stores all over Australia probably ever 600 stores.
Anna: Oh my gosh.
Fred: Yeah. Again, I’ve got a good management team behind me who look after all that stuff. Right now, I’m really focused on the fireworks. Obviously, StarLight chandeliers that we acquired this year.
Anna: Gosh StarLight. Let’s talk a little bit about family. You’ve got all these businesses, everything’s happening. You’ve got business partners in these or…?
Fred: With StarLight and Sydney Fireworks all looked after by myself, the same with the accounting[?]. With the hobby shop there is a management team and a leadership team behind it. That’s looked after by the director of all the companies. There are good people behind me who look after the [inaudible] that allows me the flexibility and give me some balance in my [crosstalk]. Yes.
Anna: Amazing. What made you get into Chandeliers?
Fred: Chandeliers was an interesting one. Chandeliers, we’ve already… with the electric fireworks, we were already starting to hang these in all the venues and stuff like that. We were already building our qualifications being riggers and doggers which you have to be to do chandeliers.
We had the qualifications coming through, and then we were working with StarLight. We were on these same jobs over and over again. An opportunity came up where Mitch decided he wants to step away. We thought it was a good opportunity and it worked with what we’re doing which is high risk.
Everything we do with Sydney fireworks and StarLight chandeliers is high risk. We try to minimize the risk, but just the job title, it’s always dangerous. We want to make sure it’s done right. For us, it fit into our business plan and that’s why we took on StarLight.
Anna: Gosh. In the industry, like with my background and you know, I’m hiring chandeliers for weddings, corporates, all of these functions. There aren’t many Chandelier companies out there. Traditionally, there’s Chandeliers To Die For.
Fred: Of course.
Anna: Then, StarLight came through. There was this competition between. But there really isn’t anyone else out there. How do you find the actual product itself that you offer, the difference with Chandeliers To Die For. Why would a bride come to you, Fred?
Fred: For us, we try to differentiate for our market. Really, we don’t want to look at what our competition is doing. All our chandeliers are different to what they do. The ones we select is what we feel we’re comfortable with. Our chandeliers have the same high-quality crystals and stuff like that. We can do any sort of chandelier. We do a lot of custom stuff. We get people who commission us to do chandeliers for them.
Why people choose us for, is obviously the quality and obviously price. We understand that these chandeliers are only going to be out for three, four hours. We’re not trying to sell you a chandelier that’s going to be at your house and it has to look amazing every single day of the year. It has to look amazing for the three or four hours and then we take it down. We’re trying to sell you something that you can afford and it looks amazing.
Anna: Beautiful. Yeah, budget is a very conscious thing for brides.
Anna: If they come to you to get five chandeliers for a price of three, then why not.
Anna: In saying so, there’s a lot of different things happening. Balancing with family. Let’s go back to family. When do they get to see you then?
Fred: During the week, I try to spend as much time because on the weekends, as you know, sometimes we’re there all night all day. My Saturdays generally start from let’s say 6:00 AM and don’t finish until Fred:00 AM. The same with my Sundays. It’s very hard to get balance. Anyone in the wedding will tell you the same thing. We do our best we can to balance family and work life. It does get hard. We’ve got to have good people behind us or wives who really support us or the partners. They’re the ones who really support us in doing what we can do.
I can’t do what I can do without my partner behind me supporting us and still looking after the, well I’ve got three kids; two girls and one boy. Yeah, you got to give a bit of time.
Fred: Yeah. You got to get that balance. You’ve got to sometimes just disconnect, but you got to make sure you’ve got your team behind you who can manage the things. I’ve got a fantastic PA. I’ve got production managers right now.
Anna: You need to duplicate your PA and give him to me.
Fred: Yeah, 100%. Yeah
Anna: I need a PA.
Fred: If I can get 10 PAs, I would. But right now, it’s always under control, but you always have these humongous weeks where there could be 50 events one weekend. You just got to punch through it. You can’t really get stressed about the numbers. Every event we give it the same sort of treatment and make sure it’s managed correctly. And then we look after so many events. It gets out of control, but we still have full control of what takes place.
Anna: Oh gosh. Amazing. Because I know sometimes, we’ll have like three events just with me, and then you still got other people doing it. And then you’ve got like 30 fireworks shows. Oh my gosh how do you it, Fred, like literally all over the place in Sydney.
Anna: Have you had any moments of doubts and challenges of anything?
Fred: A hundred percent. It happens every week. You have these times where you think to yourself, why do we put ourselves through this anguish? There are always times where you just got to… and this is a time that you got to say to yourself, what am I going to do next? Everyone’s looking at you to come up with a solution and you just got to work for what… You can’t really get stuck with deer in headlights. You’ve got to come up with a solution. The answer ‘can’t be done’ is not acceptable. You’ve got to find a solution to people’s problems and you got to work with it.
We’ve walked into hundreds of different solutions or problems. We just make it happen. You know what I mean? We’ll never come up and say to a bride, “No, it can’t be done.” Everything can be done. You’re just going to have the right preparation for it and always have provisions. We always have a lot of provisions behind us for situations that we don’t factor in on a daily basis. That’s the reason why we have it. So, when they do happen, we can respond and fix a problem for clients.
Anna: In terms of interaction with clients and venues, where do you get most of your bookings? Is it from venues or actually brides come to you?
Fred: We get a lot of brides come to us, and we do have a lot of venues come to us. We obviously have a very good relationship with a lot of the venues in the city. We’re the preferred supplier or the exclusive supplier to most venues. Because obviously they’re happy with the safety that we have and the precautions we take. Because especially with fireworks is that if we make a mistake in the venue, we could damage the venue for the next bride. We have to make sure we do everything perfect. There’s no second guessing. Even with sparkler, if it’s done incorrectly you could damage a venue.
Anna: Yeah. I think with the artificial flowers [inaudible] actually the spark caught a small fire.
Fred: A hundred percent. Because like I said, sparkler is a safer technology. It is not the end all be all. It’s not a hundred percent safe. Anyone who says that to you think… If they’re in the right storm, it can create issues. That’s why we have to go there and make sure it’s done correctly. We’ve got the training behind us to do this. That’s a concern. I feel like it’s going to be a problem going forward, because anyone can use sparkler potentially. When they start making the mistakes, and there will be fires, then the venues will step in and will say; we’re not going to allow or not going to have outside supplier running it because they don’t know how to run it correctly.
Fred: It’s unfortunate, but we’re doing the best I can by educating people. We constantly educate a lot of the interstate[?] guys and stuff. I explain to them how to use it correctly. We constantly speaking to the factory to change… The sparkler uses titanium powder. But just anything, there if there’s a slight bit of heat in it, if it’s in the right product, be it florals, be it pampas[?] grass or whatever, there could be an ignition point. This is what we’re trying to always avoid and keep it away. Sparkler is not to be used and not to be touching florals of any sort. It shouldn’t touch any sort of item. All my staff know this.
We’ve been going to venues and we’ve seen stuff where it’s too low. We’ve actually canceled shows. But we try not to go to that length of canceling the shows. We can maneuver the machines to a position where it doesn’t touch any of the florals. Even though it could be safe, I don’t want to take the risk. I don’t want the position[?] because the guests don’t know that this is fake fireworks. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable that they’ve seen stuff touching something that it could ignite a fire. And in this current climate, it’s definitely something that we’re always very much aware of.
Anna: You got to stay really really wary of everything.
Fred: A hundred percent, a hundred percent. I can’t speak to every single florist and ask; oh, what have you done to your flowers? Have you sprayed hair spray in them? Have you done this? People do some silly things with their florals. Other supplies I’ve seen some other stuff that they’ve done to it, and we don’t know what it is. If you don’t know what it is, sparklers should be kept completely away from it. That’s something that’s part of our risk assessment that we always look at what’s in the ceiling, what curtains are around, everything like that. We’re always training our stuff. It’s a nonstop training for our staff.
Anna: You would be. For those out there that want to get into working with fireworks or working for you or doing their own thing. What advice can you give them then?
Fred: Definitely, it’s not still just about the fireworks. It’s more about speaking with clients on those things. You’re dealing with an emotional industry. Weddings are very emotional and you got to make sure that when you’re talking to MCs, brides, and everything like that, that you understand that they’ve got a lot into this and we don’t get no editing. We have to be 100% on point. The stress factor is to the most extreme as you get. If you can’t handle stress or problem solving, this is definitely not the line for you, because you will have issues constantly.
Anna: If something doesn’t… one of the sparklers doesn’t go off?
Fred: Yeah. That’s an easy one. We can sort that out. We take precautions against that. The problem is the bride wants it happen this time, and they get changed around, and then you got to deal with guests on top of you and you can’t sit the machines correctly, or they’re changing the whole schedule on you. That happens constantly. When you have that happen, you can’t just say, “No, it can’t be done.” You have to just go with the flow and just make sure you do what you’re being paid to do. Things run late, things run early. You have to be prepared. You’ve got to be… you’ve got to be into it 24/7. It’s not something you can just say, oh yeah, they’ll call me whenever it’s ready. It doesn’t happen that way. Things happen without you even knowing it’s happening. You have to watch for the signals and watch for the signs in a wedding.
Anna: Gosh. We know all these precautions, all these signs, and it’s team and it’s staffing. I know I’ve met quite a lot of your team already, but there’s probably a lot that I haven’t met.
Anna: How many people do you have in your team?
Fred: The team sometimes goes up to about 30 to 40 staff, depending on what work is on. Usually it’s about 20 staff. There’s a lot of them[?] in the team who have been with us for over three years. They’re the ones who are out there. There are also the guys who are coming through the ranks who have done like… Most staff I’ve seen have done over a hundred shows plus.
We’re constantly training new staff who go out with the seniors to assist and to get their skills and knowledge and stuff. It’s always a question I ask, how many weddings are in Sydney on one day?
Fred: I know. I’ve seen 50 on one day. There could be 60, it could be 100. One day we could get a call where there could be 30 or 40 different weddings for us to look after. I have to be prepared for that. I don’t want to say no. I don’t want to say we’re booked out. We’re building our resources to cater for the demand and the fix we provide really enhanced their weddings. I can’t imagine a bridal walk without dry ice. I can’t imagine without fireworks now.
Anna: Yeah. With the CO2 gun…
Fred: CO2 guns and stuff like that. That was a gimmick we started. One of the grooms came in and he got something crazy and I gave the CO2 gun. After he used it, it just exploded. I have never seen a product that we introduced still running. It’s been running. It’s just getting bigger and bigger and people are…
Anna: You’re always innovating. You’re innovating other products. What’s the other new products that you’ve done? The bubbles…
Fred: The bubbles which is the fog of cheese bubbles and stuff. Again, we’re always looking at something different. We sometimes look internationally to see what they’ve done and how we can make it look better. Yeah, we’re always looking. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. That’s why the bubbles, the CO2 jet, the CO2 guns, the spinning fireworks. Even the factory in China, they’re looking at different ways of delivering the fireworks.
It’s not going to stop. I mean, in the next six months we expect to be in three or four new products.
Anna: Gosh. It’s just never ending.
Anna: Never ending. But that’s also with the chandeliers.
Fred: A hundred percent.
Anna: It’s innovation, different designs and collections and stuff on it. We created a collection together and it’s just something I’ve been waiting for so long. I just want something different.
Fred: A hundred percent.
Anna: And then all of a sudden, we just say, “Yep. This is what I want.” And then we made it happen. And then that’s it. And that’s what brides want to see. They want to say something different.
Anna: And that’s what we try to do. As we kind of got into the whole teamwork and the business and family and all of that stuff, what else is on your books?
What’s for the future for Fred?
Fred: Right now, my focus is on the chandeliers. Because once the fireworks are under control and it’s manageable, the chandeliers, we’re still finding… A lot of growing pains is that people want more range. Since we took over, we’ve already doubled the range. We’re going to double the range again. The next step for us is a bigger home for Sydney Fireworks and for StarLight. We’ll combine the warehouses together and it will be a massive warehouse where we’ll have a display room where there’ll be a dance floor where you guys can come in.
Anna: Yeah. Looking…
Fred: Still deciding. We’re not really locked in on an area yet. We may [inaudible] to finding the right premises where people can come in. We’re hoping to have a nice big conference space. We’re also going to have offices for planners, installers to come in and use when they’re out and about. Just to give them a place where clients can come in and they can walk through our showroom, look at our range, select the right chandelier to clients. Get a firework demonstration if they want, and give them the whole atmosphere of it.
What we do is not just chandeliers, it’s ceiling installations. We look after what’s hanging on the ceiling; be it the fairy lights, be it ribbons, tassels, big crystals. We want to give them the full…
Anna: You do all the rigging and everything on…
Fred: Yeah. We work with everyone. We want to make sure if someone has a bride and they want to see what it looks like, they can come to us. Sit down, go through it, go through the floor plan, the seating plan and just help them on their way so they know where they’re going. Because so many brides come to us and they’re lost. We were first suppliers off course and we just want them to work with the best that we work with. Have a relationship with everyone. We just pick up the phone, call them, and you can speak to somebody. Not wait two weeks for an email or someone to get back to them.
One of the things I say to brides is that suppliers should be getting back to you in a timely manner. If they don’t get back to you, move on.
Anna: Yeah, exactly. That’s probably one of the biggest advice you can get. A quote shouldn’t be two weeks later, either. You should get a quote straight away.
Fred: A hundred percent.
Anna: Yeah. It’s pretty crazy. But that’s a great concept where you’re coming up with planners just going there and seeing everything and choosing the chandeliers.
Fred: Of course.
Anna: I know we have a bride currently who is like; oh, do I go with the bigger? Oh, it doesn’t fit the ceiling. What’s the next big thing that you have? And then, what about over the bridal table, what can we put there? So, we’ll just go to your showroom and go; yeah. I want that, that, that. Let’s put it together.
Fred: You can just hang it up and do test so they can see it because we’ll have the trusses already outfitted. It’ll just be about adding these chandeliers on there.
Fred: Hopefully, within the next six months we’ll have that all finalized.
Anna: Is there anything else in terms of the industry you would like to touch base on or give advice to? Or actually let the people that are listening whether they’re suppliers or clients or venues…?
Fred: One thing I always come back to, and this is automatic for us because we’re running the event is having an MC is very important. Because when we’re at these venues doing these events, that is what controls what we do. I know a lot of family members and a lot of people from Indians like to have their family members do it, because they good at speaking. But being an MC is not about speaking. It is about coordination.
Anna: Yeah, the tone of the night.
Fred: And the knowledge. Everyone knows it is that we always say you’re spending some people over a 100 – 200,000 on a wedding. The keys, you’re going to give it to a a person like your friend who’s never controlled a wedding before or you’re going to give it to a professional MC who drive these weddings constantly. That’s the thing. You need an MC. And we need an MC to keep the coordination. Because they just run off and they go late and you miss out on many different things.
We’ve had the conversation and be like, I’ll be there at a wedding and I’ll be at 11 o’clock and I haven’t even had a dance set or whatever. And you tell them, oh they don’t care. So, your guests don’t get to dance it’s because your MCs are too busy walking around socializing with guests. That’s why you need a professional MC.
So, one thing is, no matter what always have a professional MC. Your friends are good, but your friends…
Anna: You want them to enjoy. You want your friends, family to enjoy.
Fred: A hundred percent. They can talk, but let the professional MC manage them. You know what I mean? I’m not saying you need to get the highest-level MC. Just a professional and knows how to do weddings. They will help you along the way. That’s what I always say. That’s one point Whenever I ask is that your MC so I know who I’m dealing with and I will instruct them to get MCs, because it just makes our job easier. You know what I mean? And they get a better outcome as well. Always, a hundred percent. The small amount you spend on an MC is worth it.
Anna: Beautiful. Beautiful. Our next job together, are we doing anything this weekend?
Fred: Yes. I believe we’re doing a [inaudible].
Anna: Yes, a [inaudible] wedding. That’s right. And then next week we got [inaudible] together.
What’s happening? What’s to look out for? For, those that want to actually contact you, where do they go?
Fred: You can definitely jump on our website sydneyfireworks.com.au or starlightchandeliers.com.au or you can just call me on the mobile 0499019890. There’s no issues at all. I’ll take that hundred phone calls. But yeah, definitely I want to see brides and grooms. They can come and see us for consults and things down at our warehouse, and we’ll take them to the chandelier warehouse. Hopefully in the next six months, we’ll do a grand opening of our new warehouse and show everyone what it’s all about.
Anna: Amazing. Amazing. We’ve got a very small collection in our showroom here. That’s nowhere near what StarLight chandeliers is about.
Fred: Probably close to about 300 chandeliers at the moment in the range. There’s more on its way.
Anna: Alright. Well, thank you much for your time, Fred. There’s much to plan for. You probably out and making sure chandeliers are out, what’s happening on the weekend, scheduling, everything most of the things.
Thank you for your time. We’ll get everyone to come through Sydney fireworks, StarLight chandeliers, Hobby… There’s just so much happening. Thanks, Fred.
Fred: Thanks again.