Ebony Tobin was 22 when she co-founded event management company Vivid Minds Events Limited 17 years ago. Today, she continues to run the boutique agency and now runs a second company, Vivid Minds Weddings.
Here she shares her journey to starting her own business and what she loves about event management.
What does your job in event management involve?
We organise mainly corporate events in London, anything between 100 guests up to 1,500 guests. This could be staff parties, client parties, networking events, receptions, dinners, product launches, award ceremonies or even family fun days for big corporates.
I basically take my client from conception to the completion point of an event. I work on a client brief, finding suitable venue options that would work well for their event. Then I bring everything together; catering, theming and styling, production and entertainment, working to a budget and managing the project.
On the day of the event the client just turns up and it’s all ready. I run the event and I’m the last one to leave the site as well, so it really is beginning to end. We’re a small agency there’s four of us, so it’s very hands-on, we all do everything.
Usually, I meet clients in person to discuss their events as what we do is so people-focused, but a lot has been done on Zoom lately which is, unfortunately, a sign of the times! We have been busy diversifying our services as we now manage virtual events, conferences and award ceremonies for our clients. Even though large in person events cannot happen right now, some events still need to happen so we are really excited to be able to help our clients continue with their large events online.
We have also just launched ’social distance parties’ which is effectively an online party package, which is very exciting.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I love live events and working on a bespoke event in a historic or unique venue is amazing. My favourite part of live events is when we are working somewhere really special, and the setup part getting everything perfect for the client.
After 20 years of working in the industry, I still get butterflies waiting for my client to arrive as I am so excited to see their reaction when we have transformed a space.
Tell us a bit about your path to getting where you are now.
I studied GCSEs and A-Levels at school but at that point, I was ready to work and I wanted to earn my own money. I’ve always been driven to work from a young age so I went straight into my first role in advertising at 18 years old. Then I worked for a London-based events company for two years when I was 20. I worked underneath the head of events there, Caroline, and learned so much from her. Caroline and I then set up own events company, and Vivid Minds Events was born, and we have been working together ever since! Our company has now been running for 17 years!
I didn’t go to university as I was keen to get to work at 18 once I left school, and earning money and doing something I was passionate about was more of a draw to me at that time. I have children now and I will definitely encourage them to go to university though, as I think it is a stepping stone to so many things.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to go into event management?
I would say if you are young and have just finished university or even school, then applying for internships is a good idea, or researching events companies that you would like to work with and contacting them directly to ask about any opportunities. Our industry is very hands-on so showing willing and enthusiasm is really important, and being prepared to get your hands dirty is a must.
If you are studying at university, working on live events as part of the working crew on the event is valuable experience as you see the ins and outs of a working event, and you can do this alongside your studies.
What do you look for in an employee?
Enthusiasm, someone who is hard-working, calm natured, level headed, innovative, patient, and a team player as we are a small knit team. Having good manners and being well-spoken is also important as we are all client-facing.
I think there’s a misconception that events is quite a glamorous job, but that bubble gets burst pretty quickly. You have to deal with the highs and lows of events.
Be prepared to be a hard worker and be an all-rounder. One minute you could be greeting people and the next pouring wine because you feel like it needs to be done quicker. Your job at an event is to make sure it’s being run smoothly so it’s being on the ball and constantly checking every element of that event. And if you see something that isn’t working properly it’s your job to make it right.
What is your career highlight?
There have been many highlights, but organising a key event underneath St Pauls Cathedral was special. We had a choir performing in the cathedral which was a private concert for our clients which was magical. Another was a private party at Kensington Palace in the State Rooms.
I love venues steeped in history so there is always something very special about working in these places. We have have been lucky enough to work in some amazing venues and I still have to pinch myself sometimes.
If you could go back and tell your teenage self one thing, what would it be?
I think as a teenager there is a lot of pressure to decide what you want to do with your life, but you are still so young so I would say don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Look after yourself first and try to find what makes you tick and what makes you happy.
Travel! See the world, meet new people, get out of your comfort zone because then you will hopefully find your passion. Have confidence in yourself and don’t settle for second best.