Written by Deena Douara

“At the end of an event, the satisfaction you receive when a client says it was out of this world, it was really beautiful — that’s a high for me.”

Looking after details — ensuring a tasty meal, creative detailing, good music and ambience — means that hosts and guests can sit back and enjoy the day. “Most important though,” says Osuoka, “is creating opportunities for guests to meet and interact.”

Those key ingredients apply as much to a wedding as they do a product launch, award show or conference  — just a few of the types of events Osuoka helps organize through her company, Em Avenue.

Large celebrations are in Osuoka’s blood. Growing up in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, she says events were magnified and multiplied versions of what’s celebrated here — birthdays, weddings, cultural ceremonies, religious ceremonies. “Even for funerals there’s a big affair with food, especially if the person was older.”

Having come from a different culture herself informs her planning for other people’s events, working with diverse clients to infuse uniqueness and personality into their celebrations. “I don’t use one lens for all my clients,” she says.

She also offers translation, travel and pickup services.

Most importantly though, Osuoka offers her full attention, something she says larger companies can neglect to do.

“I’m all in for it.… I treat you like you’re the only client that exists.”

One event Osuoka is particularly proud to have helped organize is the annual week-long African Experience Festival (AFEX) in Toronto, which brings together nearly 2,000 people to celebrate African food, film and culture with an exhibition, cooking classes and outdoor festival.

Osuoka is also in the midst of planning her own event, Chef’s Palate, which will feature MasterChef Canada finalists Terry Adido and Vince Spitale creating a special dining experience for a limited number of guests. That event is scheduled for April. (Check Em Avenue for details).

In addition to event management, Em Avenue also offers to provide event staffing and event training — courses that will be offered this summer across Toronto to help those looking to get into the industry.

While Osuoka is used to managing events big and small, managing her own business was not quite the same process. Early on, she recognized those areas she would need help with.

In doing her research, she says Enterprise Toronto resources and workshops saved her a lot of time and energy.

“Online, you have to go through loads of information and it takes a lot more time,” she says. “It also helped with the cost — sometimes you just need the opinion and advice of professionals.”

Through Enterprise Toronto workshops, some of those professionals advised on hiring, finances and what to expect, what to look for in a commercial lease, and what perks were available to entrepreneurs.

Another way she managed to save was by using Vistaprint, which she connected with at the City’s Small Business Forum. Using the online printer for business cards, banners and everything in between, she says she’s saved “loads and loads and loads of money,” taking full advantage of a business account and regular offers.

Osuoka says the forum was helpful in other ways too, meeting suppliers, accountants and even potential clients prepping for a product launch.

Whether for a product launch or otherwise, Osuoka shares three tips for a smooth event:

  1. Have a budget. “Some people spend as they go along  — that never works.”
  2. Have a solid (but flexible) plan. Ask yourself what you want to create with the event, and
  3. Build the experience in your mind. Think of what people will do the moment they walk in the door — Will they be served drinks? Will they hear music? Will they know where to sit? — and write down every last detail.