Esther Wright, an RAF spouse from Shropshire, has spent 17 years working in event management and set up her new business to create the sort of events she would love to attend.
Launched in 2017, Fizz Festivals Ltd creates outdoor, musical events which bring together the best of local food and drink producers in a festival-style format. Esther said:
“I set up my first company in 2008 specifically to provide event management to the private, charitable and business sectors. Prior to that I had been working for two large national charities in event management. I love events, and the opportunity to create something unique. After spending nine years helping other organisations with their events, I set up Fizz Festivals so that I could create the sort of events I would love to attend!
“We provide a platform for local musicians to perform alongside well-known names from the music industry, all in stunning locations, creating a magical event to remember. Music plus quality, local food and of course a drop of fizz: what more could you want?”
Esther’s company is behind the ‘Proms & Prosecco in the Park’ event at Chetwynd Deer Par, Shropshire, now in its third year, which features famous classical and pop artists in a relaxed afternoon and evening programme.
Facilitated by X-Forces Enterprise (XFE), Esther drew a Start Up Loan in March 2019, when the company had been trading almost two years. Esther said:
“We were looking for additional funding to allow us to increase our marketing and attract larger audiences to our events. Our loan of £15,000 is being used for specialised digital marketing services via a partner and to purchase branded gazebos which we can use at our events.
“It has been a steep learning curve to this point in the business. In the very early days, I can recall being turned down by a bank for funding as I was advised that only footballer’s wives make a success out of events businesses!”
Esther has a five-year growth plan to enable the business to develop, building on the success of their Proms & Prosecco in the Park events as well as developing the Fireflies Festival concept, which promises a ‘multi-generational music event with a laid-back vibe’. She also plans to extend into off-season events with a winter festival and her new KindleFest event which marks the beginning of spring with cosy firepits, live music, giant tipis and warming drinks.
“We have grown from two events last year to four this year and we plan to double this again to eight events in 2020 at various locations across the West Midlands and North West. Within our business plan, we also have some exciting concepts for overseas events, combining the experience we have in the UK with contacts we have overseas.
“I feel a strong sense of pride for having created an event from just the seed of an idea. When I’m working at one of our events, often in a large field that just days before was an empty space and can see thousands of people enjoying what we have created, it’s a feeling like no-other.”
Esther’s husband is a RAF Reserve working in supply, based at RAF Cosford, close to where they live. He joined in 2016 and combines Service with his day job of running his own logistics consultancy business.
“Because he’s a reservist we’ve not had to move around with his role but, for both of us, the flexibility of running our own businesses means that he can take on additional RAF work as and when required and also take advantage of the many opportunities that being a reservist offers. His RAF experience in supply means that he’s super helpful to have around when setting up the infrastructure for an event!”
When asked about the challenges she has faced in running a business, Esther cited cash flow to be the constantly testing element:
“The cost of putting events on is huge and most of the costs need to be paid up front, whilst the income from ticket sales can be difficult to predict. Strong cash flow management and budgeting is required to manage that.
“It can also be a real challenge to manage the amount of time it takes to run your own business. In the early days, running a business is all consuming, so you can wave goodbye to holidays, socialising etc. It can be difficult to try and keep a healthy balance between work and the other things in life!
“That’s where I’ve found X-Forces to be particularly helpful. Being offered ongoing support and mentoring for the twelve months following our loan was an unexpected bonus and allows us to continue to access specialist support which is tailored to the needs of the business as and when we need it, saving us time and negating the risk of making costly mistakes.”
Esther’s success in business so far has been thanks to her courage in taking the plunge and maximizing opportunities she identifies. Ready with advice for others thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, Esther said:
“It is crucial not to let fear hold you back! If you have a great idea, plus experience in what you are offering and a real passion for what you do, then don’t let the fear of failure or negativity from others hold you back.
“I’d recommend taking every opportunity you can to access free training provided by local growth hubs, universities and funding providers. There is far more support available than you might imagine and it all helps to build up your understanding of what it takes to run a business.
“I’d also advise building a team around you of business advisers, accountants, web designer, etc. and ask for their input regularly. Another perspective can be hugely valuable in trying address a particular situation.”
Ren Kapur MBE, XFE CEO and founder, applauds Esther’s risk taking to maximise success in a growth industry:
“The event sector is exciting right now; we are seeing consumers choose to spend their disposable income on experiences over products. Esther’s business draws on her vast experience, which gives reassurance to the customers and partners involved, but it is her ability to tune into the market interest and take a risk that will bring greatest success. We are thrilled to have supported Esther on this journey and wish her great success with this summer’s events. I’m really looking forward to Esther running an event for X-Forces Enterprise!”
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X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) is an award-winning Community Interest Company that nurtures entrepreneurial ambition in the UK military community, and official delivery partner to the government’s Start Up Loans Company and MoD’s Career Transition Partnership. XFE supports Service leavers, veterans, spouses, cadets and Armed Forces family members to start their own businesses with a full package of training, finance, networking and mentoring. Start your journey by registering today here.