Holly Moore: the Wilmslow local on launching an events company during the pandemic
PUBLISHED: 17:03 13 October 2020
Starting a new events company during the pandemic might seem unthinkable, but Wilmslow’s Holly Moore has done it - HM Events is proof that anything really is possible. We caught up with Holly to find out more...
Before coronavirus hit the UK earlier this year, Holly Moore’s events company, Make Events, was thriving. The former Alderley Edge School for Girls pupil founded the brand back in 2012 and in the years following it went from strength to strength, with an impressive £4 million turnover. From their office in Wilmslow, Make Events created spellbinding live celebrations and conferences for some of the biggest brand names in the world, including the likes of Vimto, Twitter and Kellogg’s – but then lockdown hit, and the events industry was thrown into turmoil.
With all future weddings, parties, festivals and corporate events cancelled, it was an understandably hard time for Holly and her team. ‘At the beginning I didn’t realise the enormity of it because nobody did. I did enjoy the first few weeks of lockdown because I’m always running around like a headless chicken, but then I absolutely hated it,’ she admits. ‘We did two rounds of furlough and I was living on my own. I couldn’t find any inspiration to pull things forward. It was a horrible, dark time.’ As we chat today via Zoom, you’d have no idea – she oozes positivity and enthusiasm, but it’s clear that the last few months have been quite the rollercoaster.
However, Holly was quick to realise that if her company was to continue to thrive, then they were going to need to come up with a new strategy – or to ‘pivot’, as she calls it. Alongside large-scale corporate events, she had been quietly hosting private parties under the brand name of HM Events, but this had always stayed out of the limelight. One of her talented team members, Rosie Griffin (who is now head of HM Events) had expressed her interest in taking this branch of the company on, but plans were of course put on hold when the pandemic hit. But as the situation developed, and once small gatherings were allowed again, a private events business suddenly seemed like the ideal solution. ‘When lockdown was lifting, we thought, “do you know what, it’s the private stuff that is going to come off.” I’m friends with Denise van Outen and she contacted me to say she wanted to do a party for her step-daughter’s 21st so I thought “right let’s get the wheels in motion” and we did,’ Holly recalls.
With that, HM Events was launched on 21 August, offering bespoke private events, parties, events décor and props in compliance with social-distancing guidelines; the team skilfully used social media to tell the world about how they were leading the events industry forward, and it quickly caught people’s attention and the enquiries came flooding in. The announcement of the ‘rule of six’ (or in other words, the government’s limiting of social gatherings to no more than six people) was yet another blow, but once again Holly’s team refused to be defeated; in response, HM Events launched their ‘Moore to your Door’ dinner party experience. ‘It’s an interactive six-course dinner for six people, freshly prepared by a chef and delivered to your door,’ Holly explains. ‘You can upgrade to include things like wine, fire pits and tipis too. We come and set it all up for you so it’s totally safe, and then go away and let you have your party.’
Given her success over the last decade or so, Holly’s genius ‘pivot’ strategy shouldn’t really come as a surprise. As we chat, it soon becomes apparent that she has innovation and entrepreneurship in her blood: whilst still at school, she set up her first business, selling scrap books of photos of singers taken from magazines. ‘I advertised in a magazine called Popshop and we got a VHS recorder so that I could make video compilations and sell them too. I would have only been about 11, but I had it in me to do that stuff,’ she remembers. She then entered the events industry, and after gaining years of experience and going freelance, she decided to branch out on her own. ‘It was my dad who said to me that I should have a go at doing it myself. I set up in July 2012 with two clients who had promised me work, so I was able to start the company because they had paid a deposit. The story of Make Events is that we’ve never had a loan or overdraft,’ Holly adds proudly.
In the eight years since starting out at her dining room table, she has built up an empire: Holly now has her own offices, as well as an ever-expanding team of people working alongside her. ‘I think my strength is creating a brand, so I’m really good at knowing what people want. It’s a natural instinct,’ she reflects, when I ask how she’s done it. Make Events have hosted glittering events for some of the biggest brand names in the world, including parties on private islands for Kellogg’s, an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed summer party for The Hut Group and a Christmas market themed celebration for Puma. Holly has also worked alongside stars like Dermot O’Leary, Jamie Cullum and Kylie Minogue. ‘That was my favourite event because I loved her so much when I was little,’ Holly smiles. ‘You do have to pinch yourself sometimes.’
Her sights are now set on making sure both Make Events and HM Events come out of the chaos of 2020 stronger than ever, but with her tight-knit team around her, Holly is keeping positive. ‘I see the team as family. I just don’t think there’s anything that can break us now,’ she enthuses. ‘It’s about bringing in people who are better than you at the things that aren’t your personal strength. […] We’re currently recruiting for a managing director because I’m not commercial enough – I don’t think I’ve ever been afraid of investing in a new role,’ she reasons. Preparations are in full swing for ‘Social Christmasing’ (the team’s answer to festive parties this season), and Holly is also hoping to host a conference in the future, which will tap into both her love of and talent for public speaking.
There’s no doubt that the effects of coronavirus have been a huge challenge for the events industry, but it’s one that Holly has tackled head on. ‘In work, I’m in one of the happiest places I’ve ever been […] I am really proud,’ she says, with the emotion of the last few month evident as she speaks. The success of HM Events seems to prove that there is hope after all – we can still have a party safely, and we can have a good time - and as the brand’s mantra goes, anything is possible.