Looking for the positives during the lockdown
by Jonny Fulton, FoxWylie
If you’re reading this blog, then there is a good chance that you’re involved in the events industry and as such you will all have experienced some or all of what I have been through over the past few months.
I started my business in 2016. I have worked in events since 2001 spending quite some time freelancing, so the next natural step for me was to build up my own company. It started as many do, just me working out of a lockup. We grew to a team of three by 2019 and as of last summer I had put a real focus on sales and marketing to grow the business.
That started to pay off in December as we started to get new enquires through and completed a couple of new jobs for new clients in January and February. March through to June were looking great with work we had previously done coming around again along with several new jobs. To add to this, we were starting to look at several events for the Autumn.
We, like so many others, went from there to nothing in a matter of weeks. By the 9th of March, every future booking we had either cancelled or postponed indefinitely. I reacted quickly to this and cut costs everywhere we could, stopping software subscriptions and magazines, giving up our office and even discussing redundancies with staff.
This was a particularly low point for me personally, having put everything into my business for the past 4 years only to see it disappearing from under my nose - and there was nothing I could do about it. Fortunately, the government support kicked in and we went into hibernation mode. This took the immediate pressure off and allowed me to appreciate how fortunate I was.
On the second of March my wife gave birth to our second child. As my wife is an ITU trained nurse I felt relieved that she was on maternity leave and not on the front lines. Meaning that we had time as a family to enjoy together. A rare gift for someone working in events being able to spend 4 months with a new-born. My son who is 4 has had the best time with Mummy-Daddy days every day and the weather for the most part was glorious. We moved into a new house just before Christmas and as such there were still plenty of things that needed sorting; those jobs got sorted. We also live on a farm, miles from anyone and so our lockdown experience was certainly a long way off what many people experienced.
In the back of my mind was the thought that this isn’t going to blow over any time soon and events will not be back for even longer. With this in mind I realised that we would have to “pivot” to survive. I asked the team where they thought their skills could be used outside of the events world and we quickly decided that moving from being a purely events-based agency to a wider brand engagement agency with a heavy focus on digital and virtual events was the solution for us. With everyone now on furlough the goal was to learn the skills needed to make this happen.
There has been a huge number of courses available for amazingly good value in just about every subject you could ask for online. We each put our heads down and started learning. By June I felt ready to launch this new chapter of FoxWylie but with the team still furloughed and still no sign of any events I couldn’t justify it. I started back up on social media and started pushing virtual events, and fortunately we managed to pick up a few virtual events including a food festival. It felt truly wonderful to be able to bring some of the team back, all be it for only a few days, to deliver an event. Around about this time the government announced that we would be able to offer flexible furlough to our staff. The timings here was perfect as I felt that we were stagnating and really needed to get things moving.
We officially launched our new website on the 1st of August, this was a hugely proud moment for me as I had spent 4 months learning HTML, creating our website from scratch. I am super proud of my team who took the bull by the horns and learned new skills including social media management, ad words, SEO and becoming very well acquainted with the Adobe creative cloud so that our company will survive.
Learning to build websites properly has paid off being able to get these kind of results
We are far from home and dry, and the end of furlough still plays on my mind as the cliff edge, but we have started having enquiries come in for our digital services especially the SEO as this offers clients a cheaper way of getting found than paid advertising. We have been speaking to clients about a few small events in the Autumn and we are also getting some real interest in our virtual and hybrid event offering. The majority of interest is coming from my network of business connections outside of the events industry. I am grateful for the time I have spent networking and building those relationships in the Milton Keynes business community.
Expanding our services beyond events had been something I had been looking at for some time, but the feast or famine world of live events meant I was always too busy getting the current project delivered or concerned with where the next one would come from. Lock down gave me the opportunity to take a moment to really think about the business and look at where I wanted to take it.
So whilst we may still end up becoming another victim of covid-19, we will not be going down without a fight.
Jonny Fulton is Founder and MD of FoxWylie a brand engagement agency based in Milton Keynes.
You can find out more information abut Jonny and FoxWylie team here: