DENVER, Co. – For many people, the news that Ron Douglas sold the Self Reliance Expo was not exactly a surprise. Business was down, and no one knew if the expo could last.
Why the business seemed to falter confused most observers. Was it a lack of attention by the founder, or an industrywide downturn? Recently, the future of SRE under Douglas turned from confusion to clarity for two reasons.
The first was his recent stint on reality TV, which led to suspicions the entrepreneur found a more lucrative market to focus on. A fact he confirmed for PBN. The second was the announcement of SRE’s purchase by Kiki Bandilla, a marketing and management professional with a passion for self-reliance.
Who Is Kiki?
Talking with Bandilla reveals a high-energy leader that views success as a holistic, long-term endeavor. In her mind, she is successful when everyone else is successful. She wants the vendors to sell product, while attendees enjoy a good mix of educational experiences and available products for purchase.
To make this happen, the Denver resident will use nearly three decades of Las Vegas corporate management and marketing experience.
For starters, she’s secured speakers with both notable survival backgrounds and large followings. She’s even included a few ancillary special guests that can entertain, but who also bring a huge number of fans that should translate into larger attendance. In addition, she will approach partners (vendors) in a more collaborative way. Not only will she provide them with mechanisms to market the event to their own followers, she will share her marketing plans regarding ticket sales, contests, and giveaways.
Experienced SRE participants immediately will notice that the new logo is designed to plainly speak to a wide variety of people interested in the different aspects of self-reliance. Moreover, in our interview below, she reveals more details as to how the Self Reliance Expo will succeed and why potential vendors may want to get on board.
Paratus Business News: You say your husband is an important part of your management team. Tell us about you and Steffan’s professional background.
Kiki Bandilla: I have a 25 plus year background in the corporate world, in both administrative management and sales, marketing and business development. I have consulted for several start-ups, helping them build their corporate infrastructure. Throughout my career I have also consistently been involved in some form of sales, marketing (including communications, PR, crisis communications and event management) and/or business development (including having been president of the Las Vegas High Rise Association).
Having received his Master’s degree at the University of Sophia in Sophia, Bulgaria, Steffen is an electrical engineer by trade. After a successful career in the laser and semi-conductor industries in both Germany and the San Francisco Bay area, Steffen chose to pursue his own entrepreneurial ventures, managing his own online businesses. He is currently enjoying great success as an Amazon Prime retailer. Steffen also is no stranger to sales, and has represented several different products online, at expos and home shows.
PBN: Why did you want to take over the SRE?
Bandilla: We attended the expo approximately four years ago and were VERY impressed with the quality of exhibitors and products. We both realized how relevant the content at the expo was to us personally, as well as our community. However, not being in the “self-reliant” world, we also realized how many others were like us and needed and wanted the information/education but probably didn’t know where to find it because they may not understand what “self-reliance” means for them.
PBN: What inspired you to seek the self-reliant life and a new career in this industry?
Bandilla: While I have lived in urban areas most of my life, I have always been interested in what I call the “simple life”…living off-grid, the ability to live off my own land, grow my own, make my own, etc. However, with what seems to have always been a very fast paced, hectic life, consumed with career, I would only dream of the “simple life” for which I know I am not alone. On the other hand, my husband grew up in a very self-reliant culture in Northern part of the former East Germany. Gardening, foraging, wine making, and filling the cellar in the spring and summer in preparation for the winter was just a way of life. Most importantly though was his families’ connection to community that to this day makes me want to stop what I am doing and just run away to their village. I have learned so much from my in-laws. While their life hasn’t been always easy, they are strong and resilient and prepared to help themselves AND their community for whatever might come their way. Visiting them is truly medicine for the soul.
PBN: What made you choose this type of business?
Bandilla: My belief and vision is that we are stronger together than apart, and community starts with us. I am a collaborator by nature That’s the value I bring to this equation, I am simply a facilitator. I am not the preparedness, survival, sustainability, or homesteading expert. I am simply an enthusiast and believe that we, as a society, have gotten too far from the “basics” and there is great importance and freedom that we get back to those basics in order to be more sustainable.
PBN: And so you purchased the business outright?
PBN: So why do you think the previous owners sold it?
Bandilla: They were ready to move on and pursue other ventures and knew it was time to infuse some new blood into the amazing platform they created and developed over eight years.
PBN: What are your plans to change or upgrade the expos?
Bandilla: We have plans for significant changes; however, we are not yet ready to publicize those. Stay tuned! It should be quite exciting. In the meantime, we are creating an interactive, kinesthetic learning EXPERIENCE versus simply a “retail experience.” That starts with the speakers, educators and overall content. We will have various zones where attendees can become educated and experienced and then decide what preparedness, survival, sustainability and the simple life means to them. It is different for us all, depending upon our particular circumstances.
PBN: How will your expo be better or different?
Bandilla: This Expo is not about instilling fear, it’s about creating an awareness and empowering our citizens, families and communities to simply become more self-reliant. I like to say, “With a little preparation and personal responsibility, you can enjoy a life of peace and freedom.”
We are creating an exceptional experience and atmosphere of learning and fun. Our goal is for the attendees to leave the expo excited and hungry for more, knowing that they will definitely need to come back next year for another “dose.”
We will accomplish this by creating an experience focused on preparedness, survival, sustainability and homesteading basics, helping individuals and families find their path back-to-the-basics, resurrecting time-honored traditions and adopting their idea of a simpler life filled with great adventure or simply, great peace.
PBN: How many employees do you have? And what are the positions?
Bandilla: I am the only employee. I have contractors for digital marketing and information technology, a sales representative, a social media contractor, and then my husband (we can’t forget about him…he keeps me going). I also have someone joining us mid-January who can produce expos in her sleep. She is the creator and producer of the “High Performance Building Zone” at the International Builder’s Show, amongst several other notable expos.
PBN: How do you plan to advertise the Expo?
Bandilla: Our primary mode of advertising will be through social media and digital marketing. We will also have some billboards approximately one month prior to the expo. And, we will probably hire a PR/media relations firm to get us on the local news shows the days prior to the expo.
PBN: What are your plans for the future of the company?
Bandilla: We will change the name, and also the structure. Not quite ready for the “big reveal,” but we hope to be soon. Also, we will change our logo to give it an earthier, yet, edgy feel.
PBN: Is this your full-time job, or do you have a day job and what is it?
Bandilla: Full-time for sure! I am committed to making this an extraordinary experience for the attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and partners. It’s taking a bit of work to lay a stronger foundation, but I believe it will become much easier in the future.
PBN: How many hours a week do you work on this business?
Bandilla: A lot…LOL
PBN: What makes this Expo unique, what differentiates it from others?
Bandilla: I love the platform. I believe it’s more mainstream than most similar-type expos, in that:
1. We are totally neutral. There is no political or religious affiliation. The content and experience we offer is for the benefit of all!
2. We are not fear-driven. To the contrary, we want to focus on how a little knowledge, preparedness and personal responsibility can provide greater freedom and peace.
3. We maintain a broad platform in hopes of being able to capture a wider, more mainstream audience.
PBN: What will make it successful?
Bandilla: The neutral platform. The people – exhibitors, partners, sponsors and attendees. The team – we are a passionate bunch, determined to create an amazing experience for all.
PBN: Have you set dates and locations for 2018?
Bandilla: Yes. Currently, we will be in Mesquite, Texas, March 23 and 24, and Denver, Sept. 21 and 22. We are seriously considering additional locations and dates, however, first-things-first, we want to get through our first expo in Mesquite and really knock that one out of the park before we dilute our focus with additional expos.