The events industry is recovering, but entrepreneurs face challenges

The events industry is recovering from the pandemic, but for entrepreneurs working in the industry, there are challenges ahead.

For those with even a modicum of entrepreneurial spirit, the event industry has undeniable appeal. For one, there is a low bar at the entrance. If at the age of 18 you book DJs and a venue to help your friends celebrate their graduation exams – well, you’ve stepped foot in the waters of the events industry. And who knows, maybe one day you will organize festivals or a world business conference.

But the events industry has suffered greatly during the pandemic. Here in the UK, around 126,000 jobs were lost in the sector in 2020. Unsurprisingly, event companies have seen their income plunge and according to figures from the Meetings Industry Association (MIA), a third of companies have reported losses. loss of income between £1,000,000 and £. 500,000.

While this was bad news for established businesses, it was potentially a disaster for startups working in the sector, but while there were victims, there were also survivors.

Together is a good example. Previously as Fest It, the company has just rebranded and secured an additional $8.5 million in venture capital funding. When I spoke to founders Hugo Campbell and Digby Vollrath, I wanted to tell them about the opportunities and challenges they see in a post-pandemic world.

Vollrath and Campbell have been friends since childhood. As Vollrath reminds us. “My mother said she would give me a pound if I went around and introduced myself to the boy who had moved in next door.”

Vollrath became a music blogger for the Guardian Newspaper, before getting into events. He worked in the United States hosting Britweek music programs in Los Angeles, then worked for Festicket as a Business Development Manager.

Meanwhile, Campbell began his professional life as a journalist and eventually editor of the online newspaper Independent.

A lack of innovation

The thinking behind Togather was a perceived lack of innovation in the events industry. “What I was seeing was a lot of innovation around ticket sales,” Vollrath says. “But very little innovation in creating events.”

In particular, Vollrath and Campbell found that event organizers struggled to find vendors. “The organizers had the problem of bringing together several companies to supply the events,” says Campbell.

As he explains, 99% of suppliers are independents – whether florists, photographers or caterers – and as such they are not necessarily on the radar screens of event organizers. The obvious solution – and the one Vollrath and Campbell ran with – was the creation of a marketplace platform to provide the links. It all started small when Campbell approached London peddlers directly and asked them to join the platform. Last year, the platform hosted 120,000 events large and small, with Nike and Amazon among the most notable customers. Growth has been organic, largely through word of mouth.

Survive the pandemic

The impact of the pandemic has been profound. “We had 1 million pounds of orders. “It amounted to £1million in cancellations,” says Vollrath.

So how did the company survive? Well, Vollrath simply puts it. “We had good investors and we remained optimistic.”

It was a case where everyone involved held their collective composure. The truth is that in 2020, no one knew when the vaccines would arrive or if the first wave of the virus would be followed by a second, third, fourth and fifth. But Fest It/ToGather had completed its funding cycle. “So we started building our platform,” says Campbell.

Maybe it wasn’t too hard to stay optimistic. Even amid the lockdowns, it was expected that once life returned to something approaching normal, the human desire to come together would quickly return. More than that. There would be a rebound caused by pent-up demand. We would all rush to festivals, sporting events and maybe even corporate events.

To some extent, that turned out to be the case. “The events industry was growing 11% year over year before the pandemic. Now that number is 14%,” says Vollrath.

Industry Challenges

But there are challenges. On the one hand, the market is multi-speed. “The fastest growth has been in consumer experiences and life events, such as weddings. Festivals have also returned. The corporate side of things has been slower to return. Perhaps not surprisingly. large corporations were probably cautious about risking the health of customers and customers.

But there was another challenge. Here in the UK, at least two factors have reduced the available workforce. These include the pandemic itself, but also Brexit, which has hit the wider hospitality industry hard in terms of available manpower.

So isn’t there a risk of increased demand from organizers ending up on the reef of an under-capacity labor market? Vollrath and Campbell say they had to be proactive. “There are definitely shortages,” says Campbell. “We have partnered with recruitment agencies to help our suppliers find the staff they need. »

Inflation is another factor affecting the market. Fewer workers means higher wages, which in turn leads to higher costs. “We had to help suppliers with pricing as well as managing staff,” adds Campbell.

So where to go next? The $8.3 will be used to scale up the operation with the goal of becoming a go-to platform for businesses. AI has now been deployed to match the right vendors to the right events. Growth has resumed and this year the company expects to be involved in 200,000 events. They also plan to release the model from the UK.

You could probably say Togather was lucky, having secured funding before all the lockdowns. Other innovators may not have been so lucky. Today, growth is back and Togather is one of the booming businesses. But challenges remain for an industry that nevertheless attracts a large number of entrepreneurs. Dealing with the impact of inflation, rising wages and labor shortages remains a real and ongoing issue for industry players.

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