STAGEKINGS PART I
Starting the adventure
Stagekings was born back at the start of 2015 with husband and wife team Jeremy & Tabitha Fleming. Jeremy explains the initial objective and reason for starting:
“We thought the Australian Event Industry - particularly the music & entertainment sector - could be enhanced by introducing custom-designed decorated stages, similar to some of the incredible large-scale designs that we’d seen across the European music festival scene”
Jeremy, with a long background in the staging and event production industries, also worked as a scaffolder and in carpentry, and had spent time working in Europe in the world of events. Tabitha had over 15 years experience working in sales and marketing for music labels including EMI, Sony Music and Universal Music who look after some of the world’s biggest artists, so together they not only saw the potential, but were also very well placed professionally to understand exactly what was needed.
The concept quickly took off, and within a very short time Stagekings were creating and building some of the largest custom stages and event structures in the country.
Mick Jessop was a pivotal addition to the team when he joined in 2016. Another well-known, hugely experienced and respected face in the Australian Event Industry, Mick came to Stagekings from his former role as a Production Manager for Sydney Festival, where he’d been for more than four years. With a strong background in design, he was also used to the intense challenges of large-scale and complex production builds.
After initially moving in and out of co-working office spaces, Stagekings finally took the plunge to set up their own dedicated space, and in 2018 moved into a 2,000m2 warehouse in sleepy Kurnell at the end of the Sutherland Shire peninsular, a space which they have been customising ever since. Part of the warehouse houses the ever-increasing stock of huge quantities of truss, scaffolding and staging when it’s not out on hire, whilst the rest is dedicated to custom builds and carpentry. The warehouse layout is constantly changing to adapt to different projects, and it makes for an exciting place to work.
Stagekings has grown at a phenomenal rate, and has built an enviable and solid reputation in the national event industry for it’s pioneering and forward-thinking creativity, ‘can-do’ attitude and sheer speed of agility.
Chatting to a regular Stagekings client from their recent Commonwealth Games involvement, they confirmed:
“If you want something custom - literally anything - your first port of call is generally Stagekings. And particularly when you have an idea that is so unique that everyone else just sort of shrugs their shoulders and looks a bit confused. The Stagekings team will just say straight away ‘yep we can do that… and we can do it even bigger and better if you want’. Everyone in the industry knows about their incredible capability… and we’re all pretty envious of it to be honest!”
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony: Stagekings largest project to date
As with any business, the one thing that is fundamental to get right is your team.
“You can have ambition, but to go at this pace with what we do, it just wouldn’t work unless you have a ultra-reliable and highly capable team in place. Basically, you need a dream team! When we started the company, I thought about exactly who I would ideally like to work with us. It’s taken a few years to get there, but somehow I’ve now managed to land every single person on the list”
As a result, Stagekings now comprises an impressive hand-picked team of some of the most experienced, creative and talented individuals in the industry, and this is undoubtedly at the core of it’s huge success as a company. The company never seems to stopped moving up gears, and has expanded their portfolio and bullet-proof reputation to span an ever-increasing number of industry sectors. They have delivered major jobs for government and state civil projects, built entire television studios, made and Shakespeare’s ‘Pop-Up Globe’ outdoor touring theatre across the country, made a life-size replica of Edinburgh Castle for the Military Tattoo, and built the sets for TV shows such as Ninja Warrior. Stagekings also designed and built most of the set for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
Jeremy points out that it doesn’t always have to be large-scale though:
"As well as a rapidly increasing job list from all angles, pre-COVID we were also seeing a significant increase in interest from the Corporate Event sector, delivering smaller brand activations and structures. Agencies and Brands are continually trending towards a more customised and individual experience with their consumers, so they look for the most unique and genuinely creative concepts that maximise engagement. That’s where we excel as a team and as a company: we have the multi-skilled advantage where we can create everything from concept design to technically challenging physical production of any scale"
STAGEKINGS PART II
IsoKing, the famous pivot
Every single person involved with the Australian event and entertainment industry is going to remember Friday 13 March 2020 for the rest of their career. It was the day that our Prime Minister announced measures that lead to the immediate shutdown of our entire industry, by placing impossible restrictions on all events.
It was the first national industry to completely fall over due to the COVID-19 crisis, and it happened very, very quickly. The Stagekings team were half-way through building a massive set for Formula 1 in Melbourne; half-way through constructing possibly the largest truss structure in the country for Channel 9’s Ninja Warrior live film set; and bumping-out our incredible giant stainless steel spherical cricket balls from the T-20 World Cup. We were having discussions with dozens of event companies and agencies about creating some really awesome stuff. In the space of just 48 hours, our entire income and job list for the remainder of 2020 (and beyond) was completely cancelled, and we had no choice but to make massive and instant cuts to our business.
“The mix of emotions I felt was impossible to put into words” says Jeremy. “Letting all of our hard working, loyal staff go was too much to bear. I felt sick to the core. We pretty much decided there and then that we had to - HAD to - come up with something to survive”
So we do what we always do at Stagekings when we need to get highly creative. Which is most days! We gathered our talented team together, and we brainstormed. But this time, it wasn't to impress a client, it was for survival of our business. This had to be our best work yet.
We thought about what people would need at a time like this, and realised that tens of thousands of Aussies would have to start working from home with almost immediate effect. We had a CNC router (specialised cutting machine), a large and well-kitted out warehouse set up to custom make pretty much anything, and an unbelievably talented team on tap, so we decided to produce super-simple but beautiful work-from-home desks - Stagekings style.
Overnight, our Head of Production, the legendary Mick Jessop, came up with a design that has rapidly expanded into the now-expansive and iconic ‘IsoKing’ home furniture range. Flat-pack, fast-to-assemble slot-together designs made from beautiful birchwood ply, with no need for fixings, tools or DIY skills to put them together.
The original IsoKing desk
It was an instant hit with the Australian public, and we started to receive an onslaught of media attention, who were desperate for a feel-good story in amongst the public despair of COVID.
Three months later, and Jeremy was still doing media interviews every single day! We were even invited to represent the Australian Event Industry and meet the Prime Minister in person to show off our new IsoKing products and discuss the impact of COVID-19 on our much-loved industry. In just the first three months we made nearly 10,000 IsoKing products and sent them across Australia to thousands of new awesome customers.
We quickly expanded the product range, and continued to design and release new products almost every week. It’s been good for business, great for morale, and has kept us afloat and busy during some strange times.
But by far the best bit for us is how the knock-on effect of this success has been helping out our legendary event colleagues at a time when they really need it.
The workforce went from twelve to over fifty people working across four states, and we were able to re-employ our entire staff base and quickly add to the team with all kinds of highly-skilled event freelancers who found themselves out of work due to COVID-19: it was pretty much a dream team that you may never have had the chance to hand pick during more normal times.
Best of all, right at the start we decided that we would donate a portion of sales to Support Act, the Aussie charity that is the heart and hand of the event & entertainment industry. In the first year of IsoKing, we have been able to donate nearly $100,000 to Support Act and other worthy charities and causes, and we are looking forward to continuing to supporting more into the future.
And that is how IsoKing was born!