A grand opening for the San Francisco Symphony, a fundraising event for Stanford Health’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, a large-scale corporate meeting for Twitter, a holiday party for Google — these are just a few of the events the team at Blueprint Studios, with locations in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Napa Valley, Calif., has created.
But the large-scale social event scene is just a slice of what Blueprint Studios offers its clients. In addition, the company works on more intimate gatherings and creates virtual and hybrid trade shows, company meetings and such. While the scope is quite breathtaking, the goal is always the same: to deliver a one-of-a-kind event experience, according to Mircea Manea, principal, who founded the company 23 years ago, and Dominic Venn-Lever, general manager.
To achieve these one-of-a-kind experiences, every endeavor “starts with the creative process,” says Manea, who began his career as a designer in Romania, working first in incentive travel and cruise lines. “We start with concepts and talk about the goals of the event and then we move on to design. Our niche has always been providing the unique products, and we kept in mind that we need to have a designer approach to what we are doing. We kind of built our collection using these concepts. Rentals are the physical aspect of the hardware that goes into all our events, but there is always a bigger story of what we are doing with our rentals.”
The whole idea is to offer a “holistic system of integrated event production that offers end-to-end continuity and efficiency” because the company is “devoted to delivering creative design breakthroughs and trendsetting innovations. After all, if it’s not remarkable, it’s invisible,” as described on the company website.
To do that, the company has become “the studio of studios,” Venn-Lever says. “We have in-house creative services, in-house production, in-house fabrication, in-house floral, in-house print services and in-house rental, which consists of about 300,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) of rental items as well. We also have such a diverse team with many different skill sets. What truly separates us from other brands is if someone comes to us having a backyard event or a corporate event for several thousand people, we can go ahead and assemble the team to support that event. The nice thing is people can tap into one of our studios and services or tap into everything. We have people who come to us as a rental provider. We have people who come to us for creative services, people who come to us for print solutions, people who come to us for fabrication and we have clients where we do everything for them. We can play in those other sandpits very easily and accommodate anyone’s event.”
That “studio of studios” concept offers Blueprint Studios “the ability to be unique but also service high-quality events with a large number of guests or be there for backyard events — small weddings and meetings, which occurred during the pandemic — as well as a citywide convention that requires a unified look or concept that is carried between multiple events and venues. We have the ability and depth of inventory to do that,” Manea says.
Through the years the company has developed partnerships with sister companies, including Hensley Event Resources, a well-known event rental operation that has been one of the most prominent structure owners serving California’s Bay Area for more than 41 years, and Vident Exhibits, a Las Vegas-based company that specializes in the design and production of corporate environments, including the creation of trade show displays and exhibits.
The key to all Blueprint Studios’ endeavors is “having an entrepreneurial mindset,” Venn-Lever says. “We are solution-oriented. If a client brings us anything, we never see that as a roadblock or obstacle. We see it as an opportunity to be even more creative and create a solution for them. We can do it all from A to Z because of the studios that have been created.”
When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit, the company started to experiment with hybrid concepts and strengthened its footing in the virtual space by buying another sister company, Illumeet, which, according to its website, “approaches virtual engagements from space planning and the attendee journey.”
As in other endeavors, when “pivoting into the virtual, we had that entrepreneurial mindset of the organization,” Venn-Lever says. “Many companies that went into that space were tech-driven. What separated us was coming from the world of live events — that user experience and journey mapping and trying to understand what the client was trying to create from their event. Bringing that same mindset into virtual, I think, was very new and unique and different to a lot of these tech companies that have a product and a service, like Zoom, but it doesn’t truly connect with the audience member.”
Venn-Lever says that when the company moved to the virtual arena, “we had the same design briefs, the same conversations with our clients to truly understand what they were trying to create. The difference was that behind the scenes we built an entire ecosystem of applications and services that we could build into these virtual events. Rather than saying, ‘Here is our virtual platform and let’s host your event,’ we take that virtual ecosystem and custom design that virtual event for them and really work with our clients to enable them to fundraise and connect with that audience. Our approach is holistic. Now we are seeing the world pivot into that hybrid space where you can have the live event and the virtual event and bring them together. I believe we are the only organization in that space because we have that virtual arm, and the live arm is still there, too. We can perfectly marry those two and marry that experience for the attendees, which I think is special.”
While the company is leaner since the pandemic, with about 150 employees compared with 300 pre-pandemic, it is well-situated, with technology an ever-present factor in its ecosystem, making it ready for even more growth, Manea and Venn-Lever say.
“All our departments are integrated into our software system. The need to adopt technology is part of our life right now — everything we are doing. We love the cloud because it allows us to be on the go, on different devices and access information in real time. I think that has been our solution for a lot of our problems. At the end of the day, though, the human factor is something that makes and breaks it. We like technology for productivity, but at the end of the day it is about human connection and the service that we get face to face with,” Manea says.
As the company website says, Blueprint Studios is “the architect of events,” but for Manea and Venn-Lever it is much more.
“We are group of talented individuals who have stayed humble. Our humbleness is an opportunity to learn and listen to what the industry and our clients are asking or challenging us with. We live to create and reinvent ourselves. We would love to work with different clients and expand our experience in the marketplace because we are part of a bigger picture and story. We want to play our part successfully,” Manea says.
Joining ARA opens up more possibilities
Blueprint Studios, with locations in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Napa Valley, Calif., joined the American Rental Association (ARA) in 2021 to gain more understanding and be actively involved in helping bring about solutions for the industry.
“We learned about the different committees and task forces that ARA offers and its fight for those in the rental industry from James Auerbach, [ARA’s vice president, event segment and rental industry workforce development] who I used to work with at another rental company,” says Dominic Venn-Lever, general manager at Blueprint Studios.
“Joining created an opportunity to be part of the solutions that ARA is working toward and our unique understanding of the rental industry. It was fate for those things to come together. As the world comes back to life, any organization we are part of we want to be active members and participants. ARA has such a large plethora of rental organizations. It provides not only a unique opportunity from a strategic point of view but also an opportunity to have some really great conversations,” he says.
Their membership has already “given us the ability to see how the market has shifted,” adds Mircea Manea, principal, who founded Blueprint Studios 23 years ago.
“Through ARA’s coverage and articles, we have seen what is happening at the micro level in the marketplace. We always focus on what the next event is and sometimes we forget what is happening at the micro level. I think ARA helps show there is a pattern happening in the marketspace. What we learned is that rental is more than just a leasing concept of buying a product and using it several times. There is a main component that people are forgetting — that we have the ability to bring this green component and our products are not ending up in the trash. The rental component is bigger than a concept of using a product. It is about sharing in the marketspace and giving it a green component. We have that ability to reuse and repurpose and also add new elements every year and spread that cost with our partners,” Manea says.