With his master’s degree in public health from Yale, Maneesh Goyal seemed like the last guy P. Diddy would call about throwing his New Year’s party. Yet after spending two years at the nonprofit Dyson Foundation, where he built a national program to train pediatricians, Goyal was in the midst of an unusual career transition from policy work to event planning. “I had to find something,” he recalls, “that didn’t feel like a job.”
After leaving the foundation in 2001, he tried to learn his new business the hard way—by taking grunt work gigs at corporate events. At one such soiree, Diddy’s MTV Video Music Awards after-party, he so impressed the rap mogul with his attention to detail that he was offered a chance to throw his 2002 New Year’s bash. After pulling that off, Goyal launched his own event company, MKG, out of his Manhattan apartment.
Goyal, now 36, leveraged the Diddy connection into commissions that led to about $90,000 in gross revenue in 2002. He made more than $300,000 the next year and hired his first employee in 2005. These days, MKG charges clients such as Delta Air Lines (DAL), Evian, and NBCUniversal anywhere from $75,000 to $1.5 million to handle event marketing campaigns. And Goyal, who now has offices in New York and Los Angeles, says he’s on track to bring in gross revenue of $15 million this year—while still staying true to his roots. All 37 MKG employees must complete up to five days of community service per year and donate up to $5,000 of company funds to a charity of their choice. “I’m also trying to nurture the next generation of givers,” he says.
GOYAL’S BEST ADVICE
1. Treat everyone as a client scout
You never know where your next lead may come from. Treat everyone—from the bike messenger to the person seated next to you on a flight—as if they have your golden client tucked under their arm. They might.
2. Create a signature something
Stamp your brand with a carefully selected icon, logo, tag line, name, etc. It won’t stand out at first, but the association will become indelible within a couple of years. In our case, it was a signature color [bright purple].