Kiara Sullivan, founder of Unified Events and mum to a gorgeous 3 month old boy, is absolutely thriving in the exhibition industry space. Having already developed successful exhibitions across Queensland, including Brisbane Eco Expo, Kids Expo and The Women Expo, Kiara is ready to look national.
Adjusting to life as a mum can be difficult but imagine also managing Australia's largest sustainability expo, Brisbane Eco Expo, as well as launching Horizon Shores Boat & Marine Show within months of giving birth. Despite juggling her business and family, Brisbane Eco Expo saw a significant increase in attendees this year with over 10,000 individuals visiting over the three day event. One initiative from the expo, the $2 Lifeline sale, saw over 90,000 pieces of pre-loved clothing sold with all funds raised going directly to Lifeline. Through the success of the Brisbane Eco Expo, Kiara has been able to provide Queenslanders the opportunity to take one eco step towards creating a better planet for future generations with plans to expand the show into Sydney and Melbourne next year.
Horizon Shores Boat and Marine Show is also shaping up to be an unrivalled event featuring Australian firsts, an onsite live boat auction and their Seafood and Wine Festival within the show. This boat show is the latest addition to Kiara's extensive portfolio, showcasing for the first time next month at Horizon Shores Marina. With live demonstrations and music to mouthwatering food and a range of stunning boats, this is a marine spectacle that will have something for everyone to enjoy.
A savvy and visionary events and marketing professional, Kiara Sullivan is the founder of Unified Events & Media, an agency known for delivering quality events and exhibitions across the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Kiara has more than 10 years of experience in the marketing industry, as well as over six years previously running food and wine expos across Australia.
Her wealth of knowledge has garnered a strong reputation for her commitment to organising highly successful events and marketing campaigns. Kiara has managed over 2,500 business clients and exhibitors, as well as achieving total event visitation of over 250,000 targeted consumers.
This October, Kiara will be bringing her expertise to Unified Events' newest endeavor, Horizon Shores Boat & Marine Show - the ultimate outdoor boating festival for all water lovers, conveniently located in Jacob's Well between Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Showcasing a range of boating, fishing and water sport equipment and accessories, live sea trials and demonstrations, as well as live music, celebrity speakers, educational sessions and a gourmet food and wine precinct, the Horizon Shores Boat & Marine Show will have something for everyone to enjoy.
"I've worked on numerous expos throughout my career and have found there wasn't anything like this, an outdoor festival with the sole purpose of celebrating our unique waterways and the marine lifestyle" Mrs. Sullivan said.
"This event has been created to be all-inclusive and family-friendly, with a special focus on sustainability and preserving our marine environment".
Question: Can you tell us about Unified Events?
Kiara Sullivan: Unified Events began in 2015 with our first show, Kids Expo on the Gold Coast. With a background in food, wine and wellness, I was looking forward to creating my own shows in untapped markets. We also do marketing and graphic designs for a number of clients.
Question: What originally motivated you to start Unified Events?
Kiara Sullivan: In the company I was previously working for, I was essentially running all aspects of the business except for paying the bills. One day I thought, why do this for someone else when I can do it for myself? I saw a large gap in the market for families so I decided to create my first show, the Kids Expo on the Gold Coast. With 120 exhibitors, 6500 adult attendees and large sponsors such as Nickelodeon and Paw Patrol, we were so excited to have launched the business which such a successful show!
Question: What's a typical day like, for you, at Unified Events?
Kiara Sullivan: Before I was a mum, my day consisted of up to 13 hours of work from a 9am start time to finishing as late as 10pm that night. This did include a number of breaks but ultimately work took up a lot of my time and this comes with owning your own business.
Following the birth of my gorgeous son, I have had to take a bit of a step back from the business. I have tried to be online for my employees as much as possible and have only taken five full days off since becoming a mum. With my baby being twelve weeks old now, I am back to normal days with a lot of computer-focused work. I have been very lucky to have such a supportive home and work environment during this time!
Question: What is the biggest business lesson you've learnt?
Kiara Sullivan: I learnt one of my biggest lessons at my first expo under Unified Events, where we had an exhibitor bringing a number of Disney and Nickelodeon characters to the show for performances. We were so excited about this prospect that we advertised it everywhere! Little did we know that this exhibitor had not obtained licensing certification from the companies and we were receiving letters from the likes of Disney and Nickelodeon branches from around the globe to inform us that they planned on suing. Needless to say, we got rid of that exhibitor very quickly and were lucky enough to secure Paw Patrol – even if a few of the families weren't very impressed with us.
Question: Congratulations on the birth of your son; how has motherhood changed your approach to business?
Kiara Sullivan: I have definitely had to pass on a lot more responsibility to my team, letting them make more of the decisions. Now that I have different priorities, I have learnt to let the small things go and have developed a lot of confidence in my staff. My little one is only twelve weeks old has been on site for two of our shows already.
Question: What advice do you have for women hoping to return to the workforce after having children?
Kiara Sullivan: Take it slow and do it at your own pace – there is no rush to return to work and you shouldn't feel pressured to do so. I genuinely love work and I am able to do a lot of my work online which made it easier to come back to work progressively. I do think it is important to not lose touch with your work or industry though, keeping up to date with what is happening in your industry while on leave can be helpful when you are planning on returning.
Question: What's next for you and Unified Events?
Kiara Sullivan: We are excited to have 6 to 8 shows coming next year, which is a big leap from our current expos. We will be bringing Kids 2020 back and taking it to Brisbane for a change of scene. We will also be expanding the Eco Expo into Sydney and Melbourne in addition to next year's Brisbane show. Horizon Shores Boat and Marine Show will also be returning with the possibility of an Eco Living show taking place in Bryon Bay and Bondi, Sydney.
I am excited that my son can grow up seeing a mum that goes out, works hard and is ambitious. This is really important to me. He will end up touring around Australia with us exploring all the exhibitions that we are creating.
Interview by Brooke Hunter