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The event industry is not the easiest place to make a change. It takes a lot of hard work to change an industry that is set in its ways. As a result, most people will never make a change.
Dylan Shinholser, reached out to Cassandra Costello, the CEO of Moonlab Productions, to ask her to be on, ‘Mastering the Event Business.’ Cassandra shares her thoughts on how the event industry will make a true change with the help of the industry’s most influential people.
Cassandra Costello is the CEO of Moonlab Productions. Moonlab Productions is a unique agency that offers a full service production team as well as a design team that specializes in live and virtual events. Cassandra and her team become an internal extension to their clients as they create the most memorable events.
Dylan is especially excited to have a female join him at this event. To kick things off, he wanted to know a little bit about Cassandra’s background, who she is, and where she comes from.
“I always knew I wanted to get into events, like, when I was little I actually worked a lot of events with my grandfather growing up so we were like, doing the local air show, the jazz festival, all of the parades and then as I got older, I was always producing these epic parties in my backyard.”
She continued to develop her craft as she grew older. “I moved to L.A. from Wisconsin…My degree was in visual communications. So, I learned a little bit about everything that I needed to apply in the event industry from, like, drafting, graphic design, lighting design, prop design, and a little bit of fabrication work…Then of course some marketing.”
The early years of Cassandra’s career were vibrant with variety and exploration. “So, I started very young…My first job I worked for a Hollywood event agency. I was a production assistant but kind of wore many hats there…Over the years, my career kind of grew because I started jumping…I wanted to see more of the corporate end. So, I started doing marketing event tours, um, traveling around the country doing basically the same event in different markets…I eventually moved to, um, a larger agency where we did very high end environmental design and trade booth design.”
Dyan was dying to know why it was so difficult for him to find more female CEOs in the event industry. So, he asked Cassandra for her insight on the matter.
“I think there are a lot of variables for me. I grew up around guys. I actually used to race BMX when I was younger. So, I raced against the boys, traveling with the boys, beating the boys. So…I always saw myself as equal, if not better than some of them.”
It takes more than talent to be successful. Luckily, Cassandra had that extra push to keep her encouraged. “I luckily had a lot of support…Not only through my childhood…through college…but through my career and in addition, the same thing goes with my old bosses. A lot of them gave me, like, a lot of empowerment…to run with it…I was always supported but also…I’ve worked with a lot of very powerful women as well.”
Cassandra celebrates working with both men and women. She also understands the strengths that women bring to the event industry. “I am all about that girl power, always have…I think men and women have different traits and strong suits but, um, I think women entrepreneurs in our industry…have a special touch because…we have not only the organizational background and what not but the creativity, the compassion…There’s just a really beautiful approach to it.”
An effective leader has the responsibility to balance confidence and humility. “In the very early days of my career, especially, when I was in the trade show world…It’s pretty male dominated….It was rough, like, for the first couple years but then…They realized I knew what I was doing and I’m open to learning and I’m open to hearing…and that’s how I grew, just being open but also having to crack the whip when needed….I always try to be solution driven.”
Dylan jokingly admits to “stalking” Moonlab Productions because he admires the work they do. Yet, he noticed that a majority of the employees are female. Dylan would like to know if this is a coincidence or did Cassandra do this intentionally.
Cassandra addresses the question with confidence and a sense of pride. “I’d say, 75% of our company is women which is great…I love guys on our team too..It’s so wonderful seeing, like, strong powerful women…working on my team doing, like, epic stuff together.”
It was only by chance that Moonlab Productions hired more female employees than men. “As we have interviewed over the years, most of our candidates are women when it comes to production roles. There are very few men that I’ve interviewed in a producer role…Which is our strong suit.”
We all know that CEOs have a laundry list of responsibilities. Dylan asked Cassandra to break down her day-to-day tasks on a typical work week.
“I kind of have my hands in all departments at our company. We are pretty small. There’s 14 of us…I’m running the operations with our team…running the business, project management and I’m very heavily involved…supporting my production team, and like, cross check documents and budgets…and then in creative as well, I’m pretty heavily involved with the conceptualization phases.”
There is a secret to sharing the workload within a company. “I think it’s super important, especially when you’re a small agency that the team dynamic is, like, very fluid. So, our team is extremely close. We work so well together and I’m so proud of all of them…They are my family. I can’t even describe how beautiful the collaboration is and how dedicated they are.”
A great team is never self-made. It is dependent on proper development and guidance. “Once you know there’s somebody who’s in a position that you know can grow pretty quickly and kind of level up…I always, like, hyper focus on those goals for them so they can get there.”
The value of having a great team is immeasurable to Cassandra. She is glad to help team members develop within her company for the greater good. “I can step back and focus on business development and just the larger projects…I can step back out of the day-to-day a little more because I really do want my team to…do things turn key and without me having to be there.”
A healthy work-life balance is essential to growing and scaling any business. “Over the years, I’ve been stretched pretty thin…I’ve had my hand in so many pots…The last year I’ve really focused on, like, stepping back…disconnecting after hours and not working over the weekends…Taking a vacation where my cell phones turned off.”
Being a CEO requires a ton of work, organization, and time. Dylan is curious to know how she does it all!
“Project management software…has been a life changer. So, throughout the pandemic…our team actually doubled…We have teammates, like, west coast, midwest and east coast. So, everyone’s working on different time zones…As the timezone shift throughout the day…We can…task something off to another employee to review and then the next morning it’s, like, completed. So, it’s a really nice workflow.”
A healthy work-life balance is a personal responsibility. “Work life balance is definitely key because, ya know, we’ve all experienced burnout…Utilize your normal working hours, take care of yourself. You need it to refresh, get reinspired…so you can bounce back when needed…That is definitely the long term key. Just figure out that work-life balance so you can show up for your team everyday and your clients.”
We hope you enjoyed the interview with Cassandra Costello, CEO of Moonlab Production. Cassandra is an extremely talented and driven businesswoman who is constantly inspiring others with her vision and ability to grow and succeed in the event industry. If you want to learn more about Cassandra and her company, you can visit their website at MoonlabProductions.com. Thank you for reading!
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