It’s been almost eight years since she launched the business. Today, Make Events is one of the top event agencies in the UK thanks to Holly and her incredible team.
She joined us for our podcast a week after receiving the WOMANC award from the Talk of Manchester Business Awards.
We had a brilliant chat about her entrepreneurial journey and the secrets behind her success. Keep reading to discover our highlights from the riveting discussion.
It all started around a kitchen table
Holly had been freelancing as an events organiser for a year before setting up her business.
The experience illuminated niches in the market ripe for picking. Of most interest was creative business events for customer and employee engagement. Holly decided to grab this opportunity, creating Make Events from her kitchen table.
This table now sits in Make Event’s extraordinary office in Wilmslow. As does Holly’s shed, where a great deal of business planning occurred in the early days. There’s also two boardrooms named after Tony Robbins and Oprah Winfrey who have inspired Holly throughout her business journey.
The entire office is an ode to the inspiration and milestones that led to Make Events’ success, demonstrating the strength of Holly’s passion and imagination.
Holly’s biggest challenge
“Back in the day, if you’d told me what it would have cost to run the business, I wouldn’t have done it,” says Holly.
Before Make Events, she’d never had a big salary nor had she taken out a loan. So, for the first five years of being a business owner, Holly “counted the pennies from month to month”.
However, as the business grew, profit became more seasonal. One month, the business made a loss of £20,000. She realised she needed solid financial advice to keep the business profitable.
A non-executive accountant from Sedulo helped Holly shift her mindset towards profit. He showed her how business growth requires smart investments and forward-planning.
She trusted his advice, but it was still a scary prospect: “I would think, What if it goes completely wrong? Everyone else will get other jobs. But I’ll be known as the one who failed.”
Getting over this fear was difficult. But it taught Holly a valuable lesson: recognise where your strengths lie and where you need help.
How has employee engagement evolved?
A key element of Make Events is helping companies bring to life their employee engagement. Holly explains how the tactics to engage employees through events has changed over the last decade:
“Today, there's a real desire to learn and grow in your own way. Millennials especially rely on Ted Talks and other live conferences online to expand their knowledge and skills.
“As a result, businesses are utilising events to teach their employees as an engagement strategy rather than throw a big party. But that isn’t to say that conferences can’t be fun.”
Creating fun and engaging learning experiences
Make Events sets the bar for entertaining yet valuable conferences for employees. First, the team does a lot of research into attention spans, break times and ideal lighting conditions to create perfect learning environments for events.
They also borrow fun elements from Christmas and summer parties - such as live music, games and delicious food - injecting them into educational conferences. This ensures attendees enjoy the experience, helping them feel engaged and inspired.
One of Holly’s major frustrations is being bogged down by emails and HR: “When I’m knee-deep in admin, I don’t feel like I’m adding value to the business.” Something all business owners can relate to!
She wants to be better at delegating critical business tasks so she can concentrate on developing new ideas. To achieve this, she is giving her team more freedom to expand their roles based on their unique perspective of the business’ needs.
This strategy has paid off so far. For example, Commercial Director Alex was initially brought on to generate leads. But he has since carved his own role which includes managing digital marketing.
This has resulted in a huge increase in organic business. It also means Holly doesn’t have to manage Make Event’s social media platforms, giving her more time to be creative.
The secret to standing out
“We shouldn’t compare ourselves with our competitors,” said no business owner ever. And then Holly came along …
She has been inspired by the book, “Blue Oceans Strategy”. It teaches entrepreneurs how to outshine the competition by swimming in their own ocean and not looking back. In other words: moving forward in your own way, not basing your decisions on what your competitors are doing.
This has allowed Holly to shape Make Events into her own image. While her competitors are launching events surrounding industry trends, Holly focuses on discussing the business and the brand (her key passions).
Since her work comes from the heart, people notice. They have given her great feedback because they love her authenticity.
A personalised strategy to beat anxiety
Anxiety plagued Holly since her childhood. Going into the stressful world of event management, she knew she had to do something to take back control.
Over the years, Holly has managed to rewire her brain through CBT. But she emphasises the importance of managing your mental health in a way that works best for you:
“Really understand yourself and how you tick. I’ve tried meditation in the past, but it doesn’t work for me because I have a short attention span. Journalling, on the other hand, does. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to managing your mental health.”
Holly’s top piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs
“Spend quality time researching your unique point of difference. I spent a year freelancing to test the waters and it was an invaluable experience. It taught me what I was capable of and what my passions were within events.”