Sydney-based Funktionality marks its 15th year in 2015 of creating award-winning corporate and special events.

What started as simply a “laptop and a dream” drove managing director, Tracy Wood to take her experience in events and marketing at Price Waterhouse Coopers and business development experience from her role at Gearhouse (a Sydney-based AV company) and venture out on her own.

“It had become evident to me that there was a gap in the market for quality décor in the events sphere, having had trouble sourcing some in my previous roles,” she says.

“The idea snowballed when my best friend, Raquel Burton, suggested the company name ‘Funktionality’ – a name I was immediately drawn to and thought encapsulated my business concept well.

You can imagine my excitement when I found out the name was not yet registered!

“With a name now selected, I took the leap and borrowed $50,000 from the bank against the equity of my home. I used that money to set up the business, designing and locally manufacturing my own range of furniture pieces for hire. I began with a signature white range, and have continued building upon it ever since. The rest is history.”

Funktionality today has grown to a multi-level warehouse housing not just a décor and theming business but also a team of event professionals who’ve successfully managed some weighty events including the Thunderdome Mad Max event (a Canadian incentive for 1200 and recent finalists in the 2014 Australian Event Awards), as well as the award-winng Julian Farren-Price Diamond/Jewel showcase. This year, Funktionality has taken on an American healthcare industry incentive, AdvoCare 2015.

Wood says some of her earlier events have always stayed top of mind as some of her proudest including looking after the Canadian International Olympic and Paralympic Committees and managing their opening ceremonies in 2000 as well as a Gulliver’s Travel event where Funktionality took on the management and build of ther World’s Largest International Rugby Big Pub event for 6000 guests for the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

“I’m most proud of these because what we do has a strong creative element to it and these were some of the ones that allowed us to go all out and really create something genius and award-winning,” she says.

Wood admits that over the past 15 years it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, citing the 2008/09 GFC tested hers, along with much of the industry’s confidence.

“Companies literally overnight stopped entertaining and holding lavish parties and events. The fear for me and my staff was terrible. Luckily, I had saved for a rainy day and we were able to survive through it,” adding that it was her father’s advice of investing in a competent financial advisor in the early days of business that paid off.

“Being a creative and keen décor shopper, it was good advice,” she says.

Over 15 years, Funktionality has done their fair share of event trends, and seen more than their fair share come and go. The good, the bad and the ugly.

“New trends and styles change so much more than they did in the early days. Clients are now much more tuned into what they want and there’s so much more out there to choose from.”

Some of her favourite trends of the moment? Metallics, especially rose golds, coppers and pieces with subtle wood elements; Perspex in runways, suspended dance floors and bright colour leading into winter.

“Branding has become almost compulsory on all corporate events. We buy and build pieces that branding can be applied to in a stylish way.  The days of pull up banners are over.

“Latest trends are taking from vintage glamour elements and moving into a more refined and luxurious style. Textures and materials such as copper, marble and velvet are now coming back in a contemporary and sleek way.

“Most themes can be achievable with a decent budget and listening to the client and thinking outside the box,” she adds. Themes that are out, she says, are winter wonderland (unless you have a decent budget), fire and ice themes, lycra chair covers (chairs are so in –  covers out!), LED ice cubes, glitter scatters on tables and trying to achieve a luscious ‘Gatsby’ event with a tiny budget.

“When this trend was in I would have got almost a brief a day like this.”

Wood says that the keys to business success for her were having the energy, drive and passion for what she does. As for the advice she’s passed on, she says that it’s important to listen to what your client is asking for and ask all the right questions when taking a brief.

She also adds that being willing to take risks is also necessary.  She recalls one of her bigger risks that paid off was buying a warehouse with three days’ notice at a firesale auction.