“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
Hearing these words immediately conjures up images of many a dreamer, taking on the Big Apple in hopes of success. Most likely with a Frank Sinatra-mantra in their heads. But what if you could not make it there? Then what? Lee den Hond, owner and founder of Blue Platinum Events, speaks like she lives: vigorously and with fervour. She states with humble conviction that the success that she has achieved with her company in the last 18 years had its birth in what was probably the darkest moment of her professional career. At the age of 30, the South African entrepreneur did go to New York in the hope of making it big in the marketing department of Nike. She did not, however, succeed.
Take us back to the beginning
“I’m a Pretoria girl,” Den Hond says. She has fond memories of her life growing up. “I don’t feel like there were any negatives that impacted my life. My twin sister Kim is one of the key people in my life and I have a very, very supportive and strong mother.” Her career started in the fitness apparel industry. Den Hond used the Yellow Pages to find the number of Adidas and telephonically convinced the marketing director that she needed 20 minutes of his time. Those 20 minutes were all it took. She got her first job.
She spent a couple of years working for companies such as Adidas and Nike in South Africa until she had the opportunity to travel to New York with her sister for their 30th birthday. Den Hond then moved to New York. “But everything went wrong. The 20th of September of that year was the worst day of my life,” she says. That night, after walking home from her third job for the day, she was stabbed by a mugger and ended up in hospital. The 11th of January of the following year she came home. “My ego was downtrodden. I had failed. But my ladder was against the wrong building; that was the scenario I found myself in,” she says.