H i t Y o u r M a r k
P r o d u c t i o n s ®
Erron J. Toppin (President and CEO)
One-stop Shop Event Execution Company
What inspired you to start your event execution company?
The inspiration was wanting to build a company capable of creating events that honestly centered around emotion and not superficial things. Throughout my 17+ years in the event business, I've observed clients experiencing varying levels of stress. Often, their envisioned event expenses escalate, diverting focus from the original purpose behind their event, ceremony, or celebration. I knew that with my experience and passion, I could help clients and organizations bring the important things back into focus and help them successfully execute their vision.
At its core, an event will almost always consist of food, linen covered tables, some type of beverage, and music. We've all been to events that have those elements. Now I ask you, which events stood out to you? Why did those events stand out? Events that tend to stand out in our minds are ones that evoked some type of emotional response.
As an example, strip down a wedding to what you're there for. Is it for the lukewarm chicken and the open bar, or is it because you want to experience the emotional exchange that is happening between two people that you care about? Now think about the part of the night that really stood out to you. Was it the linens on the tables? How about the centerpieces? Do you remember the meal you ate? You probably don't and that’s because emotions are what create memories, whereas material things create moments.
When I set out to conceptualize this endeavor, an endeavor that evolved into Hit Your Mark Productions, the focus was on assembling a team of proficient individuals dedicated to identifying and crafting poignant moments aligned with a client's event vision, thereby ensuring a memorable experience.
With this approach, I am proud to say that we have had the pleasure of working with countless organizations and individuals whose core value or company mission has been about positive impacts within their community or group. Those clients allow us to live in our truth and serve in the way that our company was founded on.
"Now I ask you, which events stood out to you? Why did those events stand out? Events that tend to stand out in our minds are ones that evoked some type of emotional response".
Where are you located?
We are located in Cleveland, Ohio, or as we like to say, Ohio-Based, Cleveland Proud. We make it a point to say that while we are Ohio-based, we are able and willing to go wherever our clients need us to be to help them execute their event.
What does your company name "Hit Your Mark Productions" represent?
Our company name is an adaptation on the theater term hitting the mark. In the world of theater and performance, when someone hits the mark, they are either standing in the right spot for lighting or the camera, or they are delivering a line in a way to evoke the desired emotion from the audience.
Additionally, in the world of theater, think about the number of people you never see that help the performer hit their mark on stage. You can't hear the performance if the sound person isn't doing their job; you can't see the performance without a lighting person doing their job; you can't capture the event without having the right videographer and photographer; and you couldn't get guests in the space without ticket takers and ushers helping to fill the room.
At our core, that's what Hit Your Mark Productions is. We are a company that works behind the scenes to assemble the best vendors and talent to bring our clients' event vision to life. We focus on YOU hitting the mark because the event is not about us; it's about you getting the accolades for the success of the event. When we are doing our best work, the spotlight remains focused on you, which will ultimately have you Hit Your Mark!
"Our company name is an adaptation on the theater term hitting the mark. In the world of theater and performance, when someone hits the mark, they are either standing in the right spot for lighting or the camera, or they are delivering a line in a way to evoke the desired emotion from the audience".
Tell us more about the different services that Hit Your Mark Productions offer.
Potential clients can take advantage of 8 different services when they decide to work with Hit Your Mark Productions to execute their event.
Site Selection Services: Through our site selection services, we provide our customized, comprehensive report on local area venues to help you find the best place for your vision to shine. Our logistic and design teams scout throughout the city to find the perfect spaces to enhance guest and vendor experience.
Event Flow & Timeline Management: We create a comprehensive timeline that manages event timing and flow, before, during, and after the event. This can include program logistics, such as vendor load-in and load-out, or program elements, such as speeches and workshops. Our timelines are created in a way that all parties know exactly where to be at any given moment, when certain activities should be activated, and when set-ups should be completed and ready for inspection.
Script Writing & Stage Management Services: Our team works alongside our clients to transform their historical data, like personal or funny stories for weddings, or life lessons and business insights for inspirational and motivational corporate events into cohesive stories that encapsulates the goals and objectives of your occasion, and evokes the expected emotions. Also, your event doesn't need a physical stage for us to ensure your event has a smooth flow as we "stage manage" all aspects of the production side. Elements such as presentations, technology and timing are set up, monitored, and in sync with all activities that are happening throughout your event.
Air, Hotel, & Ground Logistics Management: At Hit Your Mark Productions®, our team enjoys and is adept at working with all major airlines, hotels, and car services on our client's behalf. We negotiate rates and manage contract terms, as well as monitor the entire process from trip inception, budgeting, and contracting, to guest arrival and hospitality. We can also assist you in coming up with fun perks for your guests, including delivery of special gift items like welcome packages.
Budget Development & Maintenance: We pride ourselves on providing our clients with additional safeguards that allow them to use the watchful eyes of our team to make certain that all the contractual deadlines are met ahead of, or within, the established timeline. These safeguards not only ensure that the budget will be constantly assessed, monitored, and maintained, they also allow our clients to focus on other elements of their event, and therefore, provide them a more positive, beneficial and stress-free experience.
Vendor Management & Logistics Services: After you sign-off on the perfect vendors to accomplish your vision, our Hit Your Mark Productions® team will work with each one to make sure that all the key details remain top of mind from inception through event day. Our team is fully equipped to host and facilitate virtual meetings for you, or attend in-person vendor meetings with you to make sure that everyone stays up-to-date on any changes that might affect logistics on event day.
Event Ticketing & Registration Services: With this collaboration, our clients have the benefit of receiving bi-weekly updates on the event's headcount, live customer support for your guests, and administrative assistance for your organization throughout the entire "on-sale" period.
Contract Negotiation & Management: We eliminate the time consuming need for the client to sit through high-pressure sales pitches by having our logistics and design team vet multiple vendors and obtain the quotes on their behalf. Contract negotiations are not just about the numbers. They're also about relationship building and aligning your event as a partner, not an adversary, in the negotiation process. In the end, it's about obtaining the most favorable contractual agreements with reputable venues and vendors who will ensure that contracted services are rendered professionally, and payment terms are executed on time.
Is there a memorable event that you enjoyed planning for?
Oh yes! I have to start by saying that there is truth in the ability to manifest the things in your life. The most memorable event that we ever worked on was for a signature event done by the oldest African American theater in the United States, commonly known as Karamu House.
It's important for me to share that when Hit Your Mark Productions was an unnamed idea on paper, I honestly dreamed of the day when the concept I was creating could reach the point of maturity to approach this institution and present ourselves as an event company to execute this event for them. That dream became a reality for us in 2023. Our partners at Karamu House will never truly know how much entrusting Hit Your Mark Productions with that event meant to us.
This outdoor event that catered to 400 people tested every system we had in place since our inception; while also testing our team’s ability to adjust on a fly when we had two separate torrential rain storms that happened 30-minutes apart, 90 minutes before guests were scheduled to arrive.
Six months of planning to activate three different spaces, with three caterers (Pearl Flower Catering, Gourmet Gent Catering, and Del's Catering), three different live entertainers, and two stages all changed the morning of the event with the weather forecast. Any reputable event company is ready to pivot for a rain plan, however, your rain plan becomes extremely tested when 2 of 4 outdoor tents flooded, and one of those tents flooded tents filled with mud. Twice.
As much as those elements stand out, they are not why this event was memorable. The event was made memorable by how all the vendors, volunteers, the client's team, and our team rallied to flip linens, shovel mud, reimage the catering execution and the guests experience to allow guests to still have an amazing experience during this signature event. We were one lighting strike and one more flood away from canceling the event that I dreamed of working on. However, not only did the event happen, guests danced until the sun went down without a drop of rain falling after the event officially started.
How can future clients book an appointment with you?
Clients can reach out to schedule an event consultation in one of two ways. They can go to hityourmarkproductions.com and complete the intake form on our contact page. They can also send a direct email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you describe the planning process that goes from initial intake with a client to actually planning the event?
Like most event companies, we have the standard intake form on our website that allows a person to submit an inquiry and to provide basic information about their event. However, our event process doesn't actually start with our intake form as much as it starts with the conversation that happens during the informal in-person or virtual meeting where we learn about the client and why they want to put on their event. We take our time learning about the history of the event and what the goals of the event are. We then spend time really digging and exploring what emotional response the client hopes attendees feel while attending their event. It's only after both parties are in agreement that an event relationship is ready to be explored, that we start talking about contracting and pricing.
That's our process because once a contract is executed, our team hits the ground running to find venues and vendors that not only show they understand the vision of our client's event but have the capacity and desire to meet the needs of the event and our client's mission. We then narrow down and present the top three Request for Proposals for our clients to pick from to get the event partners selected. Once all the event partners have been selected, Hit Your Mark Productions then acts as the client's liaison for the remainder of the planning and execution process, allowing the client to focus on more important event details...their guests.
Our team then spends months acting as the event liaison and facilitating meetings for our client and the event partners to make sure everyone remains on the same page throughout the entire planning process.
Are there any challenges you've had to overcome as a CEO?
Absolutely. Those three letters that one puts behind their name come with constant challenges that change almost monthly. I will say the biggest challenge to overcome is the realization that regardless of how strong of a team you surround yourself with, businesses are not run by committee. Don't get me wrong, you must trust the team that you surround yourself with because there is a reason why they're on your team. However, I had to keep re-learning the lesson that health and longevity start and begin with the CEO. As the CEO, if you're not aware of, confirming the status of, and signing of on initiatives that are going on within your business, you are bound to pay the stupid tax every now and then.
"I will say the biggest challenge to overcome is the realization that regardless of how strong of a team you surround yourself with, businesses are not run by committee. Don't get me wrong, you must trust the team that you surround yourself with because there is a reason why they're on your team. However, I had to keep re-learning the lesson that health and longevity start and begin with the CEO".
Now your readers might be asking, what is the stupid tax? The stupid tax is the price we all pay when we execute a task, but in a way that it wasn't supposed to be done. The task got done, but it cost you something.
The other major obstacle that I'm sure all CEO's face is how to price your product or services that don't overvalue your offerings and potentially running of customers or clients, while also being careful to not underpricing your offerings and potentially cripple your business financially.
When I created this company, it was extremely important to build our infrastructure in a way that kept our overhead as low as possible to allow us to be flexible to be supportive of clients who we wanted to align ourselves with. It's because of that we have been able to be fair in our pricing to keep ourselves competitive in the event space, while not hurting ourselves financially.
I would like to be transparent with your audience when I say that our pricing wasn't spot on right out the gate. When we would take in feedback such as our costs were too high, we had to evaluate whether that was a valid concern or were we not positioning our services correctly for the amounts we were charging. Listening to our customers is what helped us right our ship and continue to grow. If we had made the mistake of standing on our original pricing structure, we would have missed out on the opportunity to produce events in the areas of sports, outdoor festivals, and nonprofits.
What are some words of advice that you can give to future CEOs who want to start an event planning company?
That's a great question. I've found myself using the phrase "you don't bake a cake in a microwave for a reason," as nothing in business moves at the pace you want it to but moves at the pace it's supposed to.
"That's a great question. I've found myself using the phrase "you don't bake a cake in a microwave for a reason," as nothing in business moves at the pace you want it to but moves at the pace it's supposed to".
The people around us will always give advice of what we should and shouldn't be doing in our business, however, the reality is they will never know how often we are all up until 4am with our minds racing about this business. They will never understand the hours it takes to cultivate the content to make a social media post. They definitely will never know how many rejections you have to go through to get a yes on a contract. However, they without fail will tell you how often you should be posting on social media, how many networking events you should go through, and especially how healthy your business should be in their mind.
Here's the reality, social media has projected this perception that success happens overnight for some people or as I like to call it, "happens at microwave speed.”
Back to my analogy. If you try to bake a cake in a microwave, all that time and effort you spent mixing the ingredients with the goal of having an edible cake will be wasted because you cut corners trying to bake it in the microwave. Being a CEO and building a business is a slow process that can't be rushed. Taking short cuts will only hurt you in the long run.
So again I say, "You don't bake a cake in a microwave for a reason."
Outside of your business, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?
Can I tie this back to Ohio based, Cleveland proud? I hope so, because I am all in on Cleveland sports and our performance theaters. With a city full of rich history, a theater district second only to Broadway, and three major sports teams in our backyard, being a tourist in my own city is a hobby that brings me the greatest joy.
PGerry Taylor (US Quadball)
Tyler Kubisty (Kubisty Productions)
Camara Thomas (Adorn Productions)