Kim Swift and Andrew Stevens met while studying advertising at the University of Texas at Austin. The two became friends and collaborated on a “rollerglam prom” at a local roller rink. They created a poster campaign, sold tickets, and made sure the party was well attended (Stevens says all the advertising students came) and well executed. Little did they know this would be the beginning of their career in events.
After graduating, they moved to New York in 2005 and found jobs, Swift at a boutique design firm, and Stevens at advertising agency BBDO. “We would work until 6 or 7 p.m., then we’d work until midnight on our own projects, like branding campaigns for musicians or art directing photo shoots,” says Stevens. They also threw elaborately themed parties for friends, like a bacchanalian celebration in a Brooklyn backyard, complete with sod, tents, and backlighting. “We were indirectly learning about events—lighting, getting everything set up before the guests arrived, making sure the night had a perfect peak of energy,” he says.
In a strange twist of fate, Stevens and Swift were laid off from their full-time jobs on the same day, due to the economy. They took it as a sign and decided to become their own bosses, launching brand experience agency We Came in Peace in early 2009. They have worked with Virgin Mobile, Schick, and Microsoft, among others.
While they collaborate on the look and feel of their projects, Swift handles the production side of things and Stevens is in charge of public relations. They also work with companies specializing in services ranging from architectural design to video projections. “They bring the brains and technology to our dreamier ideas,” says Stevens.
After the firm pitched the idea of bringing together a group of young street performers handpicked from across the U.S., Virgin Mobile hired them to do just that at the 2009 Virgin Mobile Freefest outside of Washington. For three days, the Busker Brigade raised money for Virgin’s youth homelessness initiative, and then performed on a stage created by We Came in Peace and EFGH architectural design studio, which was covered in 300 traffic cones.
“Andrew and I are focused on the experience,” says Swift. “We want to fully immerse people in an environment. It’s not just a party with free booze; it’s about sharing an experience with a brand, or whatever the message or product is, and making that experience something different and special.” Stevens adds, “We want people to come in and see something they have never seen before and be affected by that.”
During the Marfa Film Festival in May, the duo partnered with BMF Media to create the Filling Station, a pop-up Café Bustelo lounge complete with a custom 20-foot heart-shaped bar and planters, lighting fixtures, and other items made of coffee cans.
“They created a unique lounge in the middle of this bizarre and beautiful little town that added to the magic of Marfa and the film festival,” says John Paul Souto, vice president of marketing and co-owner of Rowland Coffee Roasters Inc. “They surprised me with their creativity, talent, and their interesting way of looking at things. On top of all of that, they are lovely and fun to work with.”