We're all a bit fatigued after a full year of the Pandemic. There's been so much bad news everywhere we turn.
The team here at Drogheda Chamber have supported and celebrated the resilience, creativity and courage of our entrepreneurs over the last year. And now it's time to celebrate those that have been nimble in adapting to the changing situation. Those that have pivoted. That have used the lockdowns as opportunities to future fit and develop their businesses further.
Over the last couple of months we have been interviewing some of these businesses and sharing some of the positivity and good news that we see.
This week we are talking with Karen Devine & Con O’Donoghue from Whitelight Events.
Tell us about your pre pandemic Business status
We established our business in early 2012. Con had valuable experience in project management and events while Karen has extensive communications and events skills.
We had built a reputation for excellence, delivering really complex projects and events with seemingly effortless ease. While we made it look easy, we really did work very hard and left nothing to chance. We manage large projects and events such as Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur, the National Lottery Good Causes Awards, the Universal Design Grand Challenge and many more high end corporate events.
Originally called WhiteLight Consulting, we’ve recently rebranded to WhitelightEvents.ie.
What was the initial impact on your business & how did you react?
When Taoiseach Leo Varadkar locked down the country in March 2020, it had an immediate impact on events.
We had a full diary of work for the whole year. So the first challenge was to take good care of our clients and to ensure that they felt supported in the uncertainty. Only one of our projects cancelled outright. The remainder rescheduled or immediately moved to go online.
For us, the most important step was to remain calm and focused. Panic paralyses and that can be fatal for an SME. Staying focused on action and innovation unleashes creativity and opens up opportunities.
What changes did you make in order to cope or pivot / and to adapt to the situation?
We had always produced really high-end corporate events. So we took our production skills from the physical world and transferred them to the virtual world. We embraced all the different platforms and technologies available to us.
Virtual Events can feel very flat. So we really focused on the experience of the participants and the viewing audience. We used creative and interactive formats that would inspire, entertain and engage.
Some of our virtual events were huge productions in stunning venues with large technical teams and big budgets. But we recognised that some clients also needed professional help with planning and producing in-house company events, consultation processes and other ceremonies. We created our own in-house studio that allowed us to create and manage live, real-time corporate events.
Throughout COVID, we looked on the challenges as an adventure because change brings opportunities to innovate. Staying positive kept us action focused and agile.
What supports, grants, aids helped the most?
The first thing we did was contact the Local Enterprise Office Louth. They were incredible. They lined us up with a mentor. We developed a COVID Action Plan and he analysed our plans and helped to direct us.
Thomas McEvoy and the LEO team then organised “Navigating Your Business Through COVID-19” looking at key issues such as finance, innovation, technology and mindset and managing change.
We undertook COVID Compliance Training so that we could protect our clients and technical teams during live productions.
How are you feeling about business as we begin to plan to emerge from the lockdowns, and as vaccinations roll out?
We really are very optimistic about the future. We think that virtual events will be part of the events landscape into the future. They create so many possibilities – people can watch from all over the world. We can approach international speakers to take part without them having to leave their homes. We can use technology to create connections and build business networks. And they reduce the carbon footprint of events.
We are event managers. And we love managing events. So ultimately we do want to get back to physical events. We love the magic that happens when you bring 500 people together in a room.
But from now on, we think that our business will be a mix of real and virtual events and we are embracing the opportunities and adventures that this brings.
Finally … What's your top piece of advice for other businesses?
Talk to your Local Enterprise Office. No matter what stage your business is at, they have a support to suit. And they really are lovely people too! Localenterprise.ie/louth
Also - Nerves and excitement both have the physiological responses in the body – racing heart, butterflies in your tummy, sweaty palms, brain fog. But nerves paralyse you and excitement energises you. It’s up to you to decide which one you want it to be!
If you'd like to be featured in this series - We'd love to hear from you @Drogheda & District Chamber.