Chelsea van der Spek, 40, is the owner of Tiny Bean Events, a company that hosts popular independent fashion and artisan pop-up shop events in Abu Dhabi, as well as private parties.
A former Qantas Airways stewardess, the Australian mother-of-two is the face of the monthly Shopping Soiree, upMarket and Saturday Market at Yas Marina events, which pair vendors of handmade or personally sourced products with customers in a non-mall setting.
On the day of the Shopping Soiree I’m up early to enjoy a moment of quiet before a hectic day. I check Facebook, Instagram and emails before leaving for the venue, The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort and Spa. Social media is so important with each event. I’m constantly updating the vendors that are coming, or answering questions from them or clients. I’m also checking radio traffic reports as most sellers travel from Dubai.
I wake my daughters. Their nicknames – Arabella, 10, is Bean and Sofia, 8, is Tiny – inspired my company’s name, Tiny Bean Events. My mum, Liz, looks after them when I have an event. It is a short drive for me from home in Khalifa City to The Westin for breakfast – muesli and my first coffee. We have 35 vendors at each event and most have been with me since my first four years ago. Most have preferred spots, but it is up to me to place them around the room. I make sure jewellery sellers aren’t too close to each other and the clothing shops have enough space and are close to bathrooms so shoppers can try the clothes. Some tables require space for rails and I put new stalls beside really popular regulars so they get great exposure.
Vendors arrive to set up. Everyone stops to say hello and give the obligatory two air kisses. It is like a group of girlfriends getting together each month, as everyone knows each other. It has a great vibe. This is also my time to brief the hotel manager on who is coming and future events we may have, as we also do corporate events at The Westin, and ideas for future Shopping Soirees.
My fabulous event manager, Vanessa, arrives. She does the bookings and we spend ages looking at Instagram and Facebook pages, deciding on which sellers suit which market. She books about 200 tables a month for our pop-up shop events in Abu Dhabi. She has a great eye for new participants and is always on the lookout. We spend time showing vendors to tables. Sometimes they need to move at the last moment so we are often seen dragging tables through the room to make a bigger space. The banqueting team brings our Shopping Soiree signs to the lobby.
Doors open. It is always a great feeling seeing (mostly) ladies walk through the door. They have dropped their kids at school or camp, the husbands are at work and it is their time to catch up with friends and do some shopping.
Vanessa and I have a meeting about the next shopping event. Along with the Shopping Soiree we run the Saturday Market at Yas Marina, upMarket at Saadiyat Beach Club and upMarket at Eastern Mangroves Promenade. There is always an event to work on.
A shopper asks about a vendor that she saw at another event. We check the booking list for the next event she can find them. I quickly pick up a birthday present for my daughters to take to a party.
It is in full swing and I mind a table for someone while she goes and orders food. I also make a quick check of the bathrooms to ensure no clothing is left in there and then grab a Thai salad and sparkling water for lunch.
Shopping Soiree ends. I collect shop signs from around the room and head off to meet a client about a birthday party for 50 children. She wants me to find an elephant, but I seem to be able to find every other exotic animal on the planet except for that. Then I collect my girls.
Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner, bath and bed has been done, and now I’m answering emails and waiting for the printer to deliver a backdrop for a party I have arranged. A client wants a graduation party in three days’ time, so I email designers and suppliers.
I collapse into bed. It has been a long day, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love this job.
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