Meet The Founders Of STAMP Event Co. Who Run Their Company with Passion, Purpose & A Beautiful Friendship

by Eddie Roche

Fresh from producing the GLAAD Media Awards and the upcoming telecast on Hulu, the Daily sat down with STAMP Event Co. founders Jason Burlingame and Margaret Crisostomo to hear how they became one of the most in-demand full-service event companies out there. Along with their bi-coastal team, STAMP provides event management, production, creative, and guest services for clients such as Netflix, ADCOLOR, Hudson River Park Friends, and The Daily’s upcoming Fashion Los Angeles Awards…..more to be revealed soon! So, why do we trust these dynamos? Read on to find out! 

How did you two first meet?
Jason: Our origin story is that in the year 2000 I was working at GLAAD as the head of events. Margaret worked at an agency that did guest management work for big awards shows, and I was her client.
Margaret: I was based in LA at the time. I loved working for Jason and GLAAD and I also personally wanted to move to New York. Less than a year later there was an opening on his team to be based out of New York. And I begged and pleaded to get an interview with him, and he finally said yes.
Jason: The real version of the story is, when she applied for the job, we all knew we were going to hire her. The truth was  that Margaret had never lived out of Southern California before. She was going to work at a gay organization during a time when there weren’t a lot of straight people working at gay organizations. She was making a big change in her life, and so we made her go through the real process to apply for the job. She thinks I was trying to make it difficult; I was just making sure it’s what she wanted.

How long were at GLAAD together? What were some of the highlights?
Jason: We were working at GLAAD together for over five years. The coolest thing you get to do at GLAAD when you work in the events [side] is the GLAAD Media Awards. It’s their crown jewel. It’s just an important part of gay culture, of media culture, and we got to explore and grow that program.
Margaret: We just did a lot of things that I think a lot of organizations saw and, I think, are doing now. I do think that’s kind of our legacy there. The Media Awards defined what a gay, big awards show could look like. We established a sponsorship program. A lot of the people that we worked with at the time are now big in their own right—like Glennda  Testone, who runs the NYC LGBT Community Center, Rashad [Robinson], who runs Color of Change, and Ruben Gonzalez who is in the White House!

What did you take away from your time at GLAAD?
Jason: It created the foundation for how we do events. Most people, when they start their career in events, they start by doing small things. And we sort of just jumped in with both feet, and we were doing these big events for 1,200 or 1,500 people with a big onstage program. We were forced to learn how to do things on a larger scale, so when we started STAMP Event Co. and we would do events for 200 people, or a cocktail party, we were like, ‘Oh my god, this is so easy compared to what we were doing before!’
Margaret: I’ll also say that I think it’s baked into our DNA, the importance of the mission and the ‘why?’ of the events we produced. Because we were so rooted in nonprofit organizations changing culture, that informed how we approach all of our events. Even if it is the Tony Awards and the red carpet, we still understand the impact of that events, as opposed to ‘Oh, let’s just make it a logistical and production thing.’ We really want to understand how are we serving the organization’s overall mission beyond just this one day or one event.

Angelica Ross, Chase Joynt, Jules Gill-Peterson, Zackary Drucker, Brian Michael Smith, and Jen Richards at the recent GLAAD Media Awards (GETTY Images)

Between the two of you, who was the one that said ‘Why don’t we start our own company?’
Margaret: It’s imprinted in my head [Laughs]. I don’t even know where we were going, but we were waiting for the subway to go to a meeting. I think it was during Media Awards season, and we were just burnt and tired. I just distinctly remember Jason turning to me and saying, ‘Can we do this forever?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to go wherever you go.’ That, to me, was the seed where we started to think about it. GLAAD ultimately became our first client. We really adored our bosses at the time and they’re still friends of ours and they really supported that transition.
Jason: One of our other first events that we worked on was the National Magazine Awards.
Margaret: Imitation of Christ was another one that we did early on. We had some funny ones right out of the gate.
Jason: A party at the Museum of Sex was another. That’s how it started. And so I said to her, ‘Let’s do this.’ It was 17 years ago, and so we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were really brave. Would I have the courage to do that now? Probably not!
Margaret: We loved doing events. We just didn’t know how to run a company. Those are two different things!

Did you work out of each other’s apartments? What was the situation?
We sublet office space from another company who had the most beautiful office. When we started, it was Margaret and me and we had one employee. But our clients would meet with us in our office, and they would walk in and be like, ‘Oh my god.’ It gave this false sense of success.
Margaret: It was really important to us from the beginning to establish it as a business. And for us, that meant we had an office. And a real number that’s not our cell phones. So we set up the infrastructure.

STAMP Event Co.

The STAMP Event Co. Team

What does STAMP bring to the table?
Everything we do as a company, every event we do as a company, is purpose-driven. It could be a mission for social justice, or LGBTQIA+ community, or any of those things, or it could also be when we do an opening night for Broadway, or a premiere for a film. We want it to feel like there is a reason we’re doing this that’s bigger than just having a party. That is what motivates our work, always. There is always importance to it, and while we love social events and love attending them, it’s not what we do professionally. We do public-facing, purpose-driven events.
Margaret: From a guest experience, that informs everything. We’re very intentional in the choices that we make. But I think on the client side, what we are offering is that ‘rest easy at night,’ [feeling] right? We’re going to take care of all the things that need to happen for an event so that you can focus on the things that only you can do.

And now you bring experience!
Jason: When we first started and opened our doors, we were much younger, and people were like, ‘Can you really handle this?’ And now, you know, that’s never a question. It just all of a sudden went away, probably four or five years ago.
Margaret: Expertise, experience, and then layer that with our own process; our really intentional, thoughtful process. It just means that we can pretty much navigate anything you throw our way, in terms of an event. Intentional or not, we’ll be ready for it. I think that gives a lot of our clients a safety net.

What’s the work dynamic like between the two of you?
Jason: I had an Uber driver in LA once ask me what I do for a living. I said, ‘I own an event company.’ He asked me if I had a partner in all this stuff, and I said, ‘Yeah, we’ve worked together for 23 years, we’ve owned our company for 17 years.’ We’ve grown up together, and so we’ve had our ups and downs. But now, what it is is really making space for each other and if I say to Margaret, ‘I want to do this, this is really important to me,’ even if she disagrees with it, she’s says ‘Look, if it’s important to you, then let’s do this and let’s figure out a way.’ I think it’s really about setting ego aside, putting the business first, always, but also making space for each other and ourselves.
Margaret: I couldn’t picture doing this without a partner, but very specifically Jason. I always joke that I have two partners in life: my life partner and my business partner, and I treat them equally. You have to go into it with respect. You have to go into it with open communication and the willingness to be right or wrong, and learn from each other. The willingness to call each other out. So, to me, it’s very much like what I bring to my marriage.
Jason: The other thing that we do, just as a tactical thing, which I think has made a huge difference for us, is we schedule two one-hour blocks a week where we just talk to each other. Sometimes forty-five minutes of that hour can just be, like, ‘Oh, girl.’ But making that time, that intentional space to have that—because so much goes on everyday, we have a bunch of employees, we have clients, we have all that stuff—and having those two one-hour blocks, it’s just so much better. And it gives us that opportunity, and I also realize too that I internalize a lot of the stress from everything. But I realize that sharing my thoughts with Margaret automatically makes me feel better. Even if we don’t come to a solution, she’ll just validate, like, ‘Yeah, that’s tough.’

That’s so sweet.
Margaret: Jason was my first and only friend I had in New York. I didn’t know anyone when I decided to move to work at GLAAD. Our relationship has really evolved. In the early stages of running STAMP, we definitely fought. It was hard. We didn’t know what we were doing. We definitely came to things differently. And to be honest, now, I feel like we’re almost too much on the same page about things! I want us to continue to grow and think differently. Sometimes we’re very similar. But also in the pandemic, I realized I miss seeing him every day. There’s stuff that you don’t get just by Slacking or making an appointment to see each other twice weekly, but I want to be in space with him because I think we’re better that way.

What do you admire most about the other person?
Margaret: There is so much that I admire about Jason. Truthfully, he is one of my most favorite people in the world. That’s from a personal…I’m totally going to cry! That’s from a personal and professional point of view. From a professional point of view as his business partner, I am so grateful that he’s so strategic and clear-minded. We process information super differently. I’m a Libra, I have to collect all the information, and it takes me forever sometimes to get to a decision. And Jason just needs to know, ‘What is it? Where do we need to get to? Give me what I need, and then I’ll help.’ He’s so strategic and clear, and I appreciate that. And he has a lot of integrity.
Jason: I was about to say for me, Margaret has made me a better person by all these years of us working together. What she does, what she has done for me, is like, ‘Stop, take a breath, think through things.’ She’s the most non-judgmental person ever, and so her openness just coming in to all the different communities that we work in, she brings such a broad understanding and acceptance. She moves a little slower than I do—I move really, really fast—and so, we balance each other out.
Margaret: We do balance each other out!

What have been some of the events over the years that you’ve been the most proud of?
Jason: Well, certainly, we’ve gotten to do some really big Broadway openings, which have been so fun. Rocky was a big one that was super cool—the party had a big boxing ring in the middle!
Margaret: ADCOLOR, which is a conference and awards show that we do every year. Because we’ve been doing it for over a decade, and it was initially just an awards show in Miami. They work on diversity in the advertising and media community, and tech. We’ve helped them grow it. Not only is it an awards show, now it’s a multi-day conference, and there’s a lot of sponsorship opportunities so I feel like we’ve been a real partner in developing that program.
Jason: We also work with organizations that are making incredible change for people. We love doing activations for the sponsors at events to enrich the experience for guests. We get to do a lot of weird, cool things. It’s hard to even list them.

What do you think makes a great event?
Definitely the guest experience. From the leading up to it—how they know about it, how they get there, what their entry is—to the actual content of the event. You want them to feel engaged, you want them to feel appreciated, like they’re supposed to be there.
Margaret: I think the most successful events are the ones that feel very authentic to the organization.

We all know what makes a bad event, but we don’t want to talk about that!
Jason: You can’t run out of anything!
Margaret: That is an essential.

Tell me about your consulting part of the business.
Jason: Most of the time, people hire us to produce an event for them. But where a lot of companies and clients land is they don’t know if they should be doing an event: how to do it, how much it’s going to cost, what it can even look like. People can hire us to help consult them through just that first stage of creating a snapshot of what this looks like. Then they can sell it through to their superior, their board, their whomever, and say, ‘This is what I’m trying to do.’ Most people who don’t work in events don’t know how to do that—they’re just guessing. So, they can hire us for a short period of time to come in and work for three weeks to consult.
Margaret: It really started during the pandemic, and a lot of people didn’t even know what to do around virtual. And now, we’re moving into hybrid, now we’re asking questions about COVID. The landscape keeps evolving. Some folks aren’t quite ready yet to make the full investment on a big event, and they’re thinking about doing it in-house, or whatever.

How did you pivot during the pandemic, and how do you feel about your success throughout that?
Margaret: I’m really proud that we are still here, seventeen years later. And not just because we made it through, but I actually think that we evolved. We used it as an opportunity to not just survive, but really thrive. We have grown our team and I also think we’ve grown professionally. We’ve all learned a new skill set, we learned a new vocabulary, we learned how a different way of project managing over Zoom, of recordings, creating events over Zoom. Jason and I are so thoughtful about how we do things, whether it be how we set up our dashboards or how we communicate recording and things like that. It became clear when we couldn’t meet people in-person how important that we set up those processes were, because I think it made our job a lot easier and it made it really transparent for our client.
Jason: There was definitely a moment where we wondered whether we put the company to sleep and let it come out the other side, and then rebuild it…or would we fight and try to get business and learn new things? We learned how to fight, because that’s what we’ve been doing up until this point. Why would we stop doing that now? And if it goes down, I want to go down fighting.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Not only do we have clients that we’ve had for a really long time, but most of our staff has worked at our company for a really long time. People have worked their way up from being an intern to being senior event producers. It’s something we’re super, super proud of, because people love us and love the work, and we’ve all grown together. I like to put that out in the world, because I think it’s a testament to our company.
Margaret: I think that goes all the way down to even just the partners we pick, the providers we pick, A/V companies, show callers, printers…We want to be intentional and mindful of who we’re working with, and not just take anyone on. We know that everyone out there has choice, too, about the companies that they pick to produce their events, and we definitely bring that kind of mindfulness to the table.

The GLAAD Media Awards air April 12th on Hulu

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