Local event production company pushes through with Bridge loan

Big City Events of Hillsborough County

Big City Events is a local event management company that produces innovative, cutting-edge events for the community in the downtown area of Tampa. The company got its start with its first major event, the Tampa Tee Off, which required shutting down multiple city blocks to create a golfing range in the middle of the city.  Afterwards, the company took off.

“We just moved on from there and gained a lot of traction from that,” Monica Varner, business owner of Big City Events, said. “Us at Big City Events are always putting on new events, big events trying to activate the community. What we try to do is really produce community events and build them in our own community here.” Varner has been working in the event planning business for more than 10 years.

A few of the company’s most successful events include the Summer of Rum and the Tampa Margarita Festival, which brings out approximately 10,000 to 15,000 people each year on Memorial Day weekend.

As most of us know, things don’t always stay sunny here in Florida. “We originally reached out to the SBDC because we had an event, an outdoor event and we had a hurricane situation, which was detrimental to our event and we had to cancel,” Varner said.

Due to Hurricane Hermine, Big City Events had to cancel the Summer Rum Festival, losing approximately $185,000 in revenues.

“We applied for the emergency Bridge loan funding due to the hurricane canceling our event. It was a process, they [the Florida SBDC at USF] really helped us walk through all the paperwork to get that loan, which really helped us out,” Varner said.

The emergency loan enabled the company to refund all tickets and keep the staff on payroll while they worked on getting things moving again. They did this all while not having to immediately worry about a loan payment.

“The way it works is you don’t have to pay it back right away; you get a six-month window with no interest, which is very helpful especially having to have time to build up some cash flow and not having to worry about that payment for a while and to set aside some funds to go ahead and pay it back without interest,” Varner said. “One of the number one things that kills you on loans in the interest rates so it was very helpful to have that buffer time period to be able to save up some funds.”

Now the company is working hard and staying focused on keeping up-to-date with the industry and trends to keep the business growing.

“We love the SBDC; they’re very helpful,” Varner said. “They have tons of courses that can keep you up-to-date on what’s going on, help you grow your business, and just a lot of different options. There are so many things as a business owner that you think you know that you don’t know, so it’s always good to kind of have someone help you go through that.”

“The SBDC really helped us through the process and helped us get through that, and now we’re moving on to the next event,” she added.