How did Thames Valley Capital partner with Anita Lowe and Venues and Events International?
Gordon: We are a FCA regulated private equity firm. We started eight years ago to invest in growth companies in the medium and long term. It takes around seven to ten years for a company to reach its true potential and those are the companies we are looking at.
Two years ago we had a meeting to see what the next big growth opportunity would be and we decided that the meetings and events sector was it. I was introduced to Anita a few years ago and we spoke about the industry and she input her own knowledge into our investment research on the events industry. The opportunity arose when she set up her own agency and she approached us. With a team of ten people and an office in Swindon, we decided to back her.
What is the ambition for the agency?
Gordon: Our ambition is to be within the top 20 agencies for client spend within three years. I believe that Anita’s growth thesis of offering a personalised service rather than a transaction-by-transaction service will attract the top blue-chip clients.
Lowe: The feedback we’ve had so far has been really positive and not just with clients we’ve worked with previously. We’re going to tender with clients that we haven’t worked with before and we’re seeing more interest in this boutique agency approach.
For example, we’re working with Intuit for the AccountEx event at ExCel London next week and they’ve expressed that they want to work with us on a longer-term basis.
We’re already taking bookings for next year. Our clients are working with longer lead times, with events booked for both early and late next year, as well as a number of businesses using our venue-finding service.
How will you be marketing yourselves against other competing agencies?
Gordon: It’s important that we come out to the market as a full-service offering agency, as opposed to having a niche venues and events offering. With this in mind, we have now have partnerships in travel, teambuilding, learning and development and with a creative agency. This is what Anita says we need to be able to offer this kind of service.
The agency started with ten employees; will you be growing your team?
Gordon: We’ve employed a marketing manager and a financial expert who specialises in the industry and we will be appointing an events manager in the next few days. We would like a team of 20 people within the next three years across the whole events management business and venue-finding business. We are in the market for talented people who have a good knowledge of the industry. We’re not looking for starters.
What is the main focus for the rest of this year?
Lowe: The most important focus for us over the next six months is our team and making sure they’re getting the best knowledge and experience in the industry. I believe that this is coming out of the events industry and people are not giving the right advice on venues and events strategy.
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