This week, we’re excited to bring you our first interview with a founder of an Event Management business, Lucy McAvoy!
Lucy started Ninth Events back in 2015 after her first Event Management business venture. Ninth Events is an established business within Manchester’s event industry, offering thought-out crafting, planning and execution to deliver unforgettable events. With the experience she has gained from multiple businesses, you can guarantee that Lucy makes sure any kind of party is planned to perfection. Lucy has also since gone on to found a gin distillery business with her sisters, fittingly named Sis4ers.
An experienced female founder with multiple strings to her bow, Lucy is a woman to watch. Let’s learn more about her journey with Ninth Events.
1. Why did you start your business? What spurred you on?
I started my first business in 2006 following a career break after my daughter contracted meningitis at 3 months old. I took some time out to spend time with my family and once my daughter made a full recovery, I decided I wanted to fulfil an ambition to set up and Event Management business. Although I loved taking time out to be with my family, I also knew the ’stay at home mum’ lifestyle wasn’t for me and I needed something more.
Event Management was an excellent combination of my experience in restaurant management, finance and business and it was a now or never opportunity to start something up from scratch and see what I could make of it. After five years, I became a single parent and although the personal challenges were greater, it was also a massive driver to grow and develop the business further.
2. What are the unique challenges that you have faced as a female founder?
In the early days, it was having the opportunity to get out there and attend networking events alongside having a young family. However, I never wanted to use that as an excuse or barrier to growing my business. So, I attended events when and where I could, then made contact with anyone I wanted to speak to. I used all means possible to grow my network; LinkedIn, meetings, etc.
I would say all company founders face challenges that are probably very similar. But since setting up my third business with three of my sisters back in 2017, I would say it’s been a steep learning curve working with your family. It’s both a blessing and a challenge to say the least!
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3. What were the 3 steepest learning curves in your first year in business?
- Time! Don’t underestimate how long things can take and wanting something to happen ‘yesterday’ isn’t always going to happen. To have that mentality isn’t a bad thing though, as it acts as the driver and keeps the momentum going for those early stages of business.
- Knowing your numbers and watching your budget. It was one of the greatest causes of failing businesses; spending money on unnecessary elements. I had one thought in my mind before I spent any money; Is this going to bring a return to my business? If it was a no, then I didn’t do it, irrespective of how much people thought it would be ‘good for you to do’.
- Being all things to the business. As a founder of a start-up you don’t have the luxury of a full team of staff, so you have to play most, if not all, of the roles. You go from being client-facing, delivering a pitch and presenting the role of CEO, to keeping on top of the daily accounts, rigging equipment and ordering stationery. It’s just the way it is, but the beauty of it is that you truly get the learn the nuts and bolts of the business.
4. What is your favourite thing about founding your own company?
The freedom to drive the company in the direction that I wanted it to go. I challenge myself all the time and even after running my own business for a number of years, I always tell myself I have more to learn. I have my strengths and weaknesses like everyone else, so I try and use them to my advantage and push myself to improve my weaknesses.
I think there’s a freedom with founding the business that allows you to learn from your mistakes and come through as a stronger business person.
5. What is the best business advice you have been given by someone else?
Have passion for your business. If you don’t love it, why would anyone else?
The listener not only has to hear the passion in your voice but feel it coming through the words. You will grab their attention and that’s half the sale!
6. Do you ever suffer from Imposter Syndrome? If so, how do you tackle it and move forward?
Ha, yes! For my very first event (after three months from registering my business) I was given a budget of £200K for a private event. I felt like a fraud as I didn’t have much experience under my belt and I continuously questioned if I could do it! It was a baptism of fire but amazing at the same time. I also get Imposter Syndrome at certain speaking events, I find myself on the main stage thinking ‘why am I here’?! I just work hard and do my job to the best I can, but then I suppose that’s what people want to hear.
7. What’s the best book on business you’ve read?
To be honest, I’ve read many, but most of them are too ’textbook’ for the way a business actually runs in day to day life. Don’t get me wrong, they’re full of great advice and in a perfect world, we’d follow the strategies and have a thriving business. I did read a great self-help book recently though called ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F***’. It was fantastic and all about perspective and focusing on the right things, excellent book.
8. Tell us about another brilliant businesswoman that you think our readers should know about
Whilst driving (which I have to do a lot!) I like to listen to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs and over the years I’ve listened to many successful women’s stories, alongside their music choices that have been part of their lives. Two female business women that have stood out to me over the years have been Jo Malone and Jo Fairly (Green & Blacks). Both of their stories are very different and gives insight into how they overcame adversities and they are very inspirational. It shines through that both have common characteristics; namely, drive, determination, confidence in their business vision and they are willing to take risks.
9. What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting your business now?
Start with a plan and consistently review it. Starting a business has to be fluid but there also has to be clear objectives and they have to be relevant to the growth of the business. It’s very easy to become distracted and spend money in areas that will not bring a return to the business. As I’ve said, it’s this spend and lack of direction that can become the biggest threats to the business.
Since starting an events business in 2006, I have since set up a further two businesses, my second being Ninth Events in 2015 and my third Four Sisters Distillery in 2017. I have used all of my experience from my first business and applied them to my new ventures. With Ninth Events I made my initial objective to surround myself with good people that could advise me on direction and growth. I gained a place on a business accelerator powered by Natwest and that propelled my self-development as a business owner and connected me with fellow founders, which was invaluable for me.
10. If you had a marketing budget of £1,000 what would you spend the money on?
A good promo video and social media. It’s the way forward, certainly for my Distillery business, content is key and good content gathers the right audience for your product or service. They tell more people than you realise!
Let’s get this party started
We hope you enjoyed reading about Lucy’s journey with Ninth Events. If you’re curious about Liverpool’s leading ladies, read our list of the 10 local female founders you need to know about. Or, if you’re super organised and want to read our interviews in order, check out the full series here.