Well, we always love a chat, especially with other event industry creatives… but are we really that fascinating?…. and would our collective experiences be enough to inspire and advise a new generation of startups?
Clare reassured us:
Our audience would LOVE to hear your stories, especially as all of you brilliant suppliers started from nothing and went on to create something great… ! I guarantee that people would find what you have to say inspiring….. Oh and by the way the seminar is already fully booked!
It turns out, Clare was right! Alongside our Alan (Simpson Co-Owner of Hybrid) was Peter Gibbons, the dynamic owner of Lux Technical; Susannah Mountfort, the innovative Founder & Director of Gingerline & Flavourology and Taran O’Doherty the super cool Founder & Sales Director of Yahire. Despite each of these companies contributing to the events industry in very different ways we all had so much to say and all shared remarkably similar backgrounds and experiences.
And here are just three of them:
Having that Eureka moment!
Take Alan. Alan kind of fell into floristry, and I mean that quite literally! As a teenager, rehearsing for the local am-dram production in the Church Hall, he somehow managed to topple over one of two identical floral arrangements put there for a funeral due to take place that afternoon. Embarrassed and shocked, he did his best to reassemble the arrangement and amazingly, and somewhat to his surprise, he succeeded! No one could notice the difference between the original and the one he’d recreated! That was his calling! He enrolled himself on to a YTS and started his floristry training and the rest as they say, is ‘Zero to Hero’ history.
It would appear that we weren’t alone in local theatre acting as a catalyst for success. Peter Gibbons started his journey as a teenager volunteering for a local theatre where he developed his passion for lighting and sound. This led eventually to him buying the assets of a company whose owner was about to retire and Lux Technical was born. He now employs 10 full time staff and creates events for the most amazing clients including Google and War Child.
Susannah Mountfort’s unique idea was to fuse together art, performance, food, drink and design. On The Gingerline, guests are sent to a secret location for an evening of extraordinary performance, narrative, set design and amazing food. She has since created Flavourology and Chambers of Flavour, both offering multi-dimensional dining experiences. She even wrote her own piece of software which monitors dining guests moving through the interactive events space, this was later adapted for Starbucks.
After working for an event furniture hire company for a bit, Taran O’Doherty decided to set up his own business with his best friend from school. One night they both got drunk, pulled out a notepad did some rubbish drawings (his words not ours) and hey presto! Yahire was born. With no business plan or experience, very little money and no way of knowing how to would gain customers Taran and Ben bought 300 folding chairs and 30 trestle tables which they stored in Ben’s mum’s home. Yahire now employs 80 people and is the stand-out name in the industry.
Not giving a monkey’s
So! Sounds simple? Have an idea and hey presto, you’re an entrepreneur. But stop press… all is not as it seems! When asked about challenges along the way we all agreed on these:
#1: Getting people to take you seriously
Youth can be on your side, but if you’re starting up your own business, sometimes it can prevent people from believing in you. Peter came to London in his early 20s and agrees that ‘coming to London when not one of us were over the age of 25, was a challenge. You need people to know that you and your company were utterly capable and able to deliver no matter what.’
Susannah took it as a challenge when working with other non-event industries as some did not take her seriously. She wanted people to recognise an ambitious plan and believe in her idea. Fortunately, ‘the desire to prove anyone who said we couldn’t do it wrong was hugely motivating’.
#2: Being motivated
Having self-control and keeping focussed can be extremely challenging. As Taran explains: ‘As a leader, remembering your goals, and not get distracted is very challenging. After a couple of years, your new company becomes a job, and it can be tough to keep focussed and move in the right direction’.
Setting up your own business can be lonely, even when there are two of you setting out to conquer the world.
Peter advises to ‘Build yourself a support structure: my family, friends and business mentors have been key as it is a very lonely place at the top, and it feels as if you are the only person feeling it’.
At Hybrid we’ve found that as our business has grown, our clients, suppliers and staff all become as precious as our own families, so before you know it you’ve created your clan of like-minded people!
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda, Jedi Master
When Clare asked the panel what it is you need to set up your own business within the events industry: for Alan the answer was simple:
‘Passion. So many people come to us and say:
Oh I would have loved to have done that!
I say either go and do it, or stop talking about it!’
Taran agreed: ‘So many people deliberate or say they are going to do something and find excuses not to, but you have to believe you are capable of doing anything.’
Peter adds ‘Surround yourself with people who challenge you, if you are always hands on, you are never going to be able to scale it up, so bring people in who are better than you. The key to our success has been people, there is no two ways about it.’
So if you have an idea that you think rocks, go for it! What’s the worst that can happen?
With great thanks to Splento for all images