Ariana Alexander-Sefre describes herself as, ‘a curious creature who loves adventures, fitness, live music and discovering new and exciting things’. She set up her first events business aged 19, ‘running what was probably a very illegal music-gig and club night operation in Bristol’. She would cycle home at 4 am with thousands of pounds of cash in her bag having very little idea what she was doing but knowing she loved creating experiences. Since then, and over the past 9 years, Ariana has worked with companies including Nike, Coca-Cola, Citi Private Bank, Sofar Sounds and various tech startups and investment firms, managing everything from tiny grassroots events to ultra high net worth corporate events.
Ariana now runs Sweat & Sound, an events startup that creates immersive, live music fitness experiences, born through a pure love of movement and music. Ariana has been dancing for over 20 years so she understands how the two go hand-in-hand and is at the forefront of pioneering live experiences.
Sweat & Sound events really are like nothing you’ve ever experienced – expect to be whisked away into a secret hideaway, pulled into an immersive theme and met with the magic of live music and an adrenaline-boosting workout. Ultimately, Ariana loves the subtle art of creating an emotional experience through the two most uplifting and non-discriminatory things in the world – sport and music.
Describe a typical day for you?
I wake up and spend the first 15 minutes or so mulling over my dream, totally oblivious to the real world existing. I have a heavily overactive imagination so I have vivid dreams every night. My early mornings then usually consist of replying to various emails before I can tackle my day’s tasks.
Each day is totally different as it depends which events we have upcoming. We run consumer events that you can see on our website and also client/brand events such as book launches, press events etc, which are not publicised. Each event has a 3-6 week timeline of preparation and tracking so each day sees me check in on where we are at for each upcoming event and of course I chat to my co-founder about tasks and then get on to completing them.
The job really is 80% relationship building with us having constant calls and meetings with other brands and partners showing those who don’t know about us how our events work and arranging our musicians, instructors, artists, spaces etc through these relationships. Our events attract such an awesome demographic of people, it’s usually a benefit for brands to work with us.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
I’d say my biggest so far is setting up my dream business. I have a history of anxiety, and honestly, I can say that creating this business (even though it’s far more stressful than a typical 9-5 job) has brought it right down. As people with anxiety, learn, there are many different types of triggers. I discovered mine was heavily rooted in my purpose and to what cause I was contributing my energy & creativity. When my work felt meaningless, my anxiety flared up. I’m not saying it’s cured but a huge achievement has been realising the cause and having the courage to take the leap to feel happier.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
My laptop, notebook, headphones, gym kit, the book I’m reading (currently ‘The Art of Gathering’), bubblemint gum, a million lip balms, my makeup, my purse filled with more receipts than money and a hairbrush.
What are your ambitions in life?
Right now, it’s to keep creating uplifting, artful experiences, I’d love to find ways of bringing them to more and more people. On a bigger scale, I am a huge advocate of the power of sport & music, they are the two things that bring all types of people together regardless of any differences. As well as this, and the fact I’m mixed-race myself, I have a huge passion for breaking down barriers across borders and between different groups of people through positive engagement. I’ve no idea what I’ll do with this wider goal yet but maybe it’ll be something related to politics or thought leadership.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
Trust my gut feeling.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Working in-between numerous countries, bringing the power of an ‘exceptional experience’ to as many different groups of people as possible. Apart from that, I have no idea – where I see myself changes constantly with each new twist and turn… I genuinely enjoy the journey though.
What advice would you give a startup founder?
In the first year or two, don’t think too hard or strategise too much. Do enough research to know you’re on the right track then dive in, follow your heart and put the time in to create what you innately feel you need to create. Also, remember that not a single person on earth can create exactly what you are creating and that there is enough attention and resource for everyone who works for it – the competing mentality can be destructive!
Finally, happiness is…
Sitting on a surfboard looking out into the ocean, skiing with friends and family holidays.