At Virgin StartUp we support a whole range of businesses and industries, and no two business journeys are the same. If you've ever wondered about what it takes to start up an events business, then this post is for you. Selina Donald and Ruth Weldon are the co-founders of The Bulb, an events business doing things a little bit differently, and since starting up they've worked with a stellar array of clients. Here's how they started their business.
The Bulb is a creative events agency – with a difference. We design and deliver our events to have a minimum impact on the environment and a positive social legacy. Through our events, we demonstrate how they can be creative, beautiful and impactful experiences and at the same time, also good for the planet. It’s a win-win for our clients and a unique business proposition.
The early days
We created The Bulb, as all best plans are made, over a bottle of wine and shared ambitions to see a change in the way events were run. Selina was part of the team tasked with producing the fantastic London 2012 Opening and Closing Ceremonies and one of her responsibilities was to ensure that they were the most sustainable Ceremonies in Olympic and Paralympic history.
This sparked the thought that if the four biggest shows on Earth (arguably) can be produced sustainably then why can’t a 100-person brand event be the same?
We spent eight months researching the market and competitors, speaking to key contacts and industry to ensure there was an appetite for our business model: creative, brilliant events that don’t hurt the planet; and then we just jumped straight into it!
We didn’t do any marketing prior to the launch, but on launch we did have a lot of industry coverage and have since made sure that we keep our finger on the pulse with key industry titles. We’re now two years into the business and we’re keen to get that message out to the world.
Finding the first clients
One of our first clients was Vivienne Westwood who we produced a 900-person event for to promote her green energy campaign, SWITCH! This relationship came from previous projects that we had produced. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a strong network of contacts across organisations and brands in the UK and have realised how key it is to utilise and nurture these existing relationships.
We would advise learning as much as possible about the mechanics of running a business beforehand. Go to workshops and have the professionals teach you about legal regulations, cashflow, tax and accountancy, marketing and sales. Read the books, learn as much as you can whilst you are setting up and have a paycheque coming in so you can hit the ground running.
We never knew that starting the business would be such a rollercoaster of emotions. One day can feels like a week with so much going on, but we wouldn’t change it for the world. We jumped straight into the business and we’re pleased we did it that way, our experience and passion carried us through what we didn’t know and we’ve both grown and learnt so much in the last two years.
Achievements and challenges
Our proudest achievement is becoming the UK’s first B Corporation certified events agency. B Corp is a movement created by businesses for business to be a force for good, to redefine success with a focus on three P’s: People, Purpose and Profit. B Corp certification is like a Fairtrade stamp for businesses: B Lab, who are the independent certifying body, assess everything a business does from top to bottom – from how they treat employees and how transparent they are about financial performance to how they operate their supply chains and produce goods and services.
Not only can we tell our clients that we are a brilliant and creative events agency, but we produce events that are good for people and the planet too. B Corp means our clients, suppliers and peers can be confident that we’re not just all talk – it shows we live and breathe our values every day and in everything we do.
The biggest challenge is winning new business. We are a brand new agency and have to prove to brands that we’re worth taking a chance on us. So far we’ve won business with ASOS, Lush and GREAT Britain campaign and there’s some really exciting work in the pipeline – all brands which showcase that our model is the best way forward!
The events industry is saturated with fantastic, creative minds and abilities. You need to cut through the noise and provide a proposition that sets you apart from the rest of the available agencies. What can you do that’s different to the norm? Disrupt and change antiquated ways of working. Evolution is key to staying relevant.
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