Melissa Hatwell, Owner PPP Events transitioned from her 10 year teaching career to start her own party planning and events business in 2013 with a fairy floss machine and a tank of helium. Since then, Mel has exponentially grown her highly successful Pilbara based business to host corporate events for BHP, produce weddings and custom events, and supply events equipment hire.
How did you transition from teaching to owning the premier events business in the Pilbara – PPP Events?
We owned a commercial property in town that was sitting empty and had been sitting empty for a couple of months. We decided that if no one else was going to rent it out then we better do something about it. We thought about what was lacking in town and considered building an indoor playground. However when we made enquiries with the town planning about this we were informed that one was already in the works.
Our next thought was somewhere to hold children’s parties. So we looked into running small kids parties out of there. We ran a couple for friends and starting getting in some equipment. We first purchased a helium tank and fairy floss. Whilst we were waiting for supplies to arrive the premises received a good offer so we rented it out.
By this time we were quite excited about the prospect of running parties. So decided to change tack a little and just start with balloon bouquets (something else that was lacking in town) and fairy floss at things such as the markets. We shortly after acquired some party gear from a local community group who needed the space in their store room. Then along the way we acquired different items from different places. Gradually it grew from fitting in the lounge of our house, to taking over office space at my husbands work, to needing a shed of its own.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities that come with being based in a regional area?
Challenges – getting stock in. Some freight we can only get as far as Perth and this has required us to take trips to Perth to pick up items or pay the large sums required to get freight from Perth to Port Hedland.
Staff – we live in a transient town and good staff are hard to find.
Work spaces – rent in town is quite hefty and has halted our expansion as we have had difficulty finding appropriate places to rent.
Opportunities – being a small town but with a high mining population we have had opportunities to expand that we wouldn’t get if we were in a bigger town. BHP have a great local buy program and once you can put them on your resume other businesses will look at you, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.
We were able to put together a fine dining experience for Gina Rinehart with only 10 days notice by working together with other small businesses. We wouldn’t have received this opportunity anywhere else. At the same time we have also been able to assist important community members put together their wedding and use events to showcase the beauty of Port Hedland.
Your husband also runs a Communications and Security business from your home, how do you both manage the juggle of raising a family and two businesses?
I don’t think we could run an events company if Adrian worked a 9 – 5 job. Whilst most events happen on the weekend they don’t always and I do require assistance loading/unloading the van/truck.
Luckily for me Adrian does like putting together events also and has an entrepreneurial mindset so he is always able to look for opportunities and come up with creative ideas. Our family come along with us to most set ups 😊 And my oldest daughter is now at an age where she is happy to help as it gets her extra pocket money.
My youngest attends most business meetings with me, but as daycare is hard to get in town all workplaces are understanding of this and are happy to have her there (the people we meet with often have children with them also). We just have to be organized and make sure that everyone knows where we are going at what time and that our bag always has snacks in it.
How did COVID change the business?
COVID. It changed our business from an event business to a personal shopping business in 2020. That we didn’t mind as it kept the doors open, allowed us to hire a friend (who we were able to keep on after events resumed). The personal shopping wasn’t even so much about the shopping but for many of the FIFO workers we were their only face to face contact with non work friends during this time. Many of them were away from their families for extended periods of time and we became someone they could chat to. We loved having work that wasn’t just busy work but something that was meaningful to the people we were shopping for.
In 2022 when COVID finally hit WA we were again shut down. One of the companies resumed the personal shopping immediately so we were able to continue to earn an income. At the same time we were able to plan for events later in the year and just crossed our fingers that the events would be able to go ahead. Which for the most part they were.
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