Business Monday

Turning tent-making into art

Alain Perez of Eventstar checks aluminum beams that are foundation structures for tents and modular buildings on March 30, 2018.
Alain Perez of Eventstar checks aluminum beams that are foundation structures for tents and modular buildings on March 30, 2018. cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

Eventstar Structures, a small company based in Medley, made its first sales in 1999 renting tents to Miami families staging parties at their homes.

Today Eventstar is an enterprise with an international footprint, 110 employees and annual sales of more than $27 million.

It rents and sells elegant and custom-designed tents able to house thousands of people for events like the Kentucky Derby, the Miami International Boat Show, exhibits at Art Basel, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, the Los Angeles Auto Show and for a spate of corporations in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

While Eventstar still handles weddings and other fancy fiestas for families, it has built a permanent structure to house the Space Shuttle Enterprise in New York City and supplied large tents for emergency housing following disasters in Florida and the Caribbean.

“We are a design, engineering and fabricating company that focuses on rapidly building temporary structures for a wide range of applications,” said Alain Perez, the CEO of Eventstar and one of the three co-founders and co-owners.

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Alain Perez of Eventstar and the company’s award-winning modular building. C.M. GUERRERO cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

“We can make safe, attractive tents with a span of up to 250 feet wide, unlimited length and 50-feet or more high using columns. We use heavy plastic [polyurethane], structural grade aluminum for frames and steel parts for connections.”

He described the firm’s products and operations while walking through nearly nine acres of administration, storage, fabrication and assembly sites at the company’s headquarters in Medley. The offices and other structures, of course, are tents.

Perez, who was born in Cuba and came to Miami as a boy, got his first job when he was about 18 in 1989, delivering and installing tents and washing plates for a party rental business in Miami. Demand for tents was high, and Perez “was attracted by the quick turnaround ... We were able to build something in a few hours, and then take it down the next day,” he said.

Perez later went into business with his father, Ignacio, who invented and patented a temporary floor system that could be used for covering swimming pools and other open areas.

Applying the experience he gained from marketing and selling this product, Perez, his sister Belkys and Jose Gonzalez decided to establish Eventstar in 1999 and set up an office at his home in Kendall, using about $20,000 in savings.

“I saw that there was great demand for tents from private individuals and corporate events, and I was fascinated by the business,” Perez said. Eventstar grew, thanks to active promotion by Perez, customers from the temporary floor business and word of mouth.

“At the beginning, we had to import tents from Europe, because no one made the high-quality tents we needed in the U.S.,” he said. A few years later, the company decided to buy the plastic and aluminum extrusions it needed to fabricate and assemble its own tents. “We moved from buying our tents to making them ourselves. This set us apart from competitors,” the CEO said.

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Alain Perez of Eventstar checks fabrics to make sure they have a proper seal. C.M. GUERRERO cmguerrero@miamiherald.com

Seeing opportunities in large corporate and special events, Eventstar added a design and engineering staff and produced unique custom tents for a wider range of clients. The company is now promoting a new modular product it developed — Centro — which can be used as a temporary or permanent structure.

Perez, who did not finish high school, learned the technical details of tent design and construction on his own, growing his company through hard work and innovative design ideas.

“I started with nothing,” Perez said. At first the company rented tents for weddings and house parties in Miami. “Now we’re building a huge structure for the Kentucky Derby. It will be able to house 6,000 people, with seating, restaurants, parimutuel machines, air conditioning and other facilities.”

Company name: Eventstar Structures.

Founded: 1999.

CEO and co-founder: Alain Perez.

Founders and owners: Alain Perez, Belkys Perez (sister) and Jose Gonzalez.

Headquarters: 8100 NW 90th St., Medley, plus storage and manufacturing centers in Edison, New Jersey, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Employees: 110, with 80 in Medley, plus contractors hired to install and disassemble structures at different sites.

Clients: The Kentucky Derby, Miami International Boat Show, Design Miami, Art Basel satellite exhibitions, South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Los Angeles Auto Show, Super Bowls and corporate clients like Visa, Audi, VW, etc. Eventstar works in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Eventstar's work was on display during the Miami International Boat Show. Eventstar

Financials: Sales were about $27 million in 2017, Perez said. They are expected to reach about $30 million in 2018, with projections for future annual growth of 15 percent or more.

Competitors: Some other companies that rent tents and supplies for parties and events are Diamonette Party Rental (Miami) and Elite Tent Co. (Hollywood, in Florida). “No one directly competes with us,” Perez said. “As a tent manufacturer, we can supply and support other companies that rent tents.”

The difference: Eventstar has years of experience installing tents and temporary structures, providing a complete solution to small and large clients. “We design, engineer and fabricate all our products in house,” Perez said. “We’ve won many international awards for design and excellence,” and the firm has carried out some of the most beautiful and challenging projects in the industry.

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Eventstar has built a permanent structure to house the Space Shuttle Enterprise in New York City. Eventstar

Client view: The USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City contracted Eventstar after Hurricane Sandy severely damaged the structure housing NASA’s Enterprise space shuttle, which is moored to the flight deck of the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Intrepid [CV-11] on the west side of Manhattan. “The shuttle pavilion was the largest and most complex structure” on the carrier, said Matt Woods, senior vice president for facilities, engineering and security at the museum. “They were the only company that had the technical expertise, and frankly the courage, to design/build a structure over a space shuttle sitting on top of an aircraft carrier with less than four feet of space on either side of the deck,” Woods said. “They have built the Space Shuttle pavilion, an aircraft restoration hangar which included a classroom space, a Star Trek exhibition building and a drone exhibition building. They are currently building another exhibition building for our submarine, the USS Growler [SSG-577, decommissioned in 1964]. They will take on challenges that other companies run from.” Since building the space shuttle pavilion, the museum has hired Eventstar to build at least one structure per year. “I rate them A+.”

Business lesson: “We had to learn to move away from some clients and businesses that made sense at one point in our development, but were no longer feasible as we grew,” Perez said.

Challenges and growth opportunities: Developing and selling new products — including its Centro temporary or permanent modular structures — as well as adding new clients in the private, government, sports and entertainment sectors. The company is committed to investing each year to develop state-of-the-art tooling and technology and assure that growth remains on track, Perez said. “We will keep focused on innovating to develop new products and designs.”

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com.

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