An Oakland-Based ‘Eventertainment’ Producer Brings Themed Parties to Life with Stilt Walking, Acrobatics, and More
CUSTOMER NAME: Audette Sophia
PROFESSION: Event Business Owner, Catalyst Arts
LOCATION: Berkeley, California
Verifly: How would you describe your business?
Audette Sophia: I officially started my business in 2010. I call it “Eventertainment,” because it’s entertainment specifically designed for events. We do a mix of corporate events, private parties, and charity fundraisers.
We’re not just an agency representing talent; we produce our own costumed characters, signature interactive elements, and art experiences.
V: What types of acts do you usually put together for these events?
AS: The entertainment falls into two main categories: ambient and interactive. I’ll occasionally put together stage shows and featured acts with aerialists or other circus performers, magicians, and dancers. But usually we’re bringing a theme to life, which means having costumed hospitality entertainers greeting guests and serving food and drink. Basically, the staff is working to create a novel and memorable experience for the guests.
Stilt walkers are one of my most popular categories of entertainment, and it also happens to be one of the main types of performance art that I did before I started my own company. I’m also a face and body painter, so that’s one of our other specialties (what I call “skin décor”).
V: What was the transition like from working for others to starting your own business, and what motivated you to take the leap?
AS: Before I founded Catalyst Arts, I was juggling a variety of day jobs: teaching arts education, gymnastics, and creative movement to kids, bartending, massage therapy, and creative performance work on the side. Once I got into stilt walking and fire dancing for corporate gigs, that area of my life became more profitable.
I wanted to get a more cohesive career together. After pursuing my life coach certification, I found it quite difficult to find artists who would pay for my services (surprise, surprise!). I spoke to some friends who said, “you have all this amazing history with performance and the arts, why don’t you just start a company doing that?”
I had gained a lot of performance and production experience while juggling my various day jobs. Still, I had always thought of performance as a fun outlet, but hadn’t really considered it as a legitimate career path. I found a local program called Women’s Initiative in Oakland that helped me draft my business plan, and Catalyst Arts was born. I’m really passionate about the work, and I’ve been able to phase out my day jobs and pursue the business full time. I haven’t looked back since!
V: Were there any particularly valuable lessons you learned in your first few years of getting Catalyst Arts off the ground?
AS: We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we have a tendency to steer away from the territory that feels confusing or unsettling to us. For me, I probably would not have done any forecasting or financial projections because it feels tedious to me. I’m a creative, so I want to be focused on the excitement of the vision, not on number crunching. The Women’s Initiative forced me to look at my business holistically rather than just as an artist having a go at building a business.
Another challenge I faced came while I was conducting competitive analysis. I almost threw in the towel because I realized that some of the people who had been hiring me were going to be my competition, and I just really didn’t want to show up on the scene as a competitor.
Instead of quitting, I shifted my focus from being another entertainment agency to being more of an entertainment production company and offering innovative services that didn’t really exist yet. So now I’m creating something that those companies view as a value add rather than competition, and I can continue to work with them and foster those relationships.
V: How did you discover Verifly, and what led you to choose us for your insurance needs?
AS: I had two separate liability insurance providers in a row decide to discontinue my coverage because my work falls into a kind of confusing, out-of-the-box category. So I had my assistant research insurance options, and she came upon Verifly. She said it was all done via an app and I thought it sounded too simple, but I gave it a try and was blown away by how easy it was to choose the exact type and amount of General Liability coverage on an as-needed basis.
V: What are some of your favorite features of the Verifly app?
AS: It’s so easy to add an Additional Insured. Often the venue or event planner I’m working with will request a certificate of insurance, and you make it really easy to type their name in and generate the certificate. When I had a yearly plan, I’d have to email the company, and then it would take several days to get the certificate, whereas this is pretty much instant. I also really like that you have the option of bumping the limit from $1 million to $2 million when necessary and customizing the coverage in other ways.
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