Made In CA: Exclusive Interview
February 4, 2023 | By Nicole Blair
Established in 2004, hala inc. is one of the most highly awarded event firms in North America. We are master event designers, storytellers and experiential gurus.
Our clients are as diverse as our portfolio, and both are in the corporate and charitable sectors. From virtual and hybrid events to large-scale charity galas, product launches, conferences and sporting events, we craft distinctively memorable occasions that reflect our clients’ brands while artfully telling their stories.
Our mission is to execute events that make good business sense. Our vision is to artfully tell our client’s stories.
Tell us about yourself?
Hala is an event industry thought leader and an international award-winning event producer with over 20 years of experience. In 2020, she was named one of Biz Bash Canada’s Top 250 Event Professionals, and in 2017, she was named one of Canada’s Most Fascinating Women in Canadian Events by Canadian Special Events Magazine. She has received several prestigious awards, including Canadian Event Professional of the Year and Alumni Award of Distinction from Toronto Metropolitan University.
Hala began her career at SickKids Foundation, where she developed her passion for events. Later, as Chief Development Officer for the Children’s Aid Foundation, she honed her fundraising skills and became a Certified Fundraising Executive. Though she loved her 13 years in the not-for-profit sector, she was always drawn back to event planning and started hala inc. in 2004.
Quickly earning a reputation for delivering events that are equally strategic, fabulously creative, and flawlessly executed, she always raises the bar. She is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences and has established educational programs at both Toronto Metropolitan University and Humber College, where she has also taught the curriculum. Valued for her teaching techniques and experience, she has also been brought in to train internal event teams at various organizations. Hala has written the Special Event Chapter for the first and second editions of Excellence in Fund Raising.
Her secret to success? Surrounding herself with talented, energetic event producers and collaborating with some of the most creative people in the business, in Canada and around the world.
In her spare time, she likes to swim, bike, and run, completing an Ironman in 2004, and she loves to ride her motorcycle. She also volunteers her time as a contributing editor to Canadian Special Events Magazine.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Trust your instincts. Believe it or not, you don’t have to say yes to every possible client. A large part of attracting and securing our ideal clients means turning down those that don’t fit the bill to keep space open for the ones that do. It’s not just about fitting the bill. It’s also choosing clients you really want to work with that respect time, money, and experience. Any sort of business relationship is built on the basis of trust and integrity, so it is important to trust your gut and take note of red flags.
What problem does your business solve?
We are in the business of executing events that creatively tell our client’s story.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
When I started in events, it wasn’t something that was looked upon as a profession. It has come a long way, and now there are not only many job positions in the field but many educational programs. Who would have thought organizing my high school parties would lead to developing an international award-winning event firm? Right before I started my business, I was in succession planning to take over as Executive Director for Children’s Aid Foundation. About eight months before officially moving into the position, I realized I didn’t want the job. I felt horrible as I had been in succession planning for three years, and I loved my boss. But I realized it was not right for me, and I knew it was now or never to start my own event business, which I always wanted to do but was afraid of. I took the leap. I wanted to develop a company that really understood its clients, was strategic in telling their stories and developed meaningful guest experiences that really connected attendees to the product/service or charity in a genuine way.
What is your magic sauce?
It’s our storytelling. We take the time to truly understand who our clients are, what they’ve done in the past, their goals and objectives and then develop a magical guest experience that is creative, strategic, memorable and on brand.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We will be celebrating 20 years next year. Wow. After all this time, although I feel we have mastered our craft, I feel we are always still learning from our diverse clients and the breadth of projects we work on. I would like us to keep challenging ourselves and move out of our comfort zone with projects that scare us, LOL.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
For me, it was learning that just because you are an amazing event producer doesn’t mean you can run a successful business. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way—in fact, I almost lost my home and my business as a result of my mistakes. Take the time to learn and understand how to run a business outside of what you might have learned in school, and surround yourself with the right people who can help and guide you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Failure is not a step backwards. It’s important to overcome your fear of failure. Someone who survives failure has gained irreplaceable knowledge and perseverance—you learn not to sweat the small stuff.
How can people get involved?
This interview was originally published on MadeInCA.ca in February, 2023.