Tammy Urwin

Wed Oct 24 2012
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Urban Events organise prestigious events for their clients, attracting top sports persons and celebrities. Director and Co-founder Tammy Urwin talks about her experience in the UK and how this has enabled her to develop her business in Dubai.

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Hi I am Tammy Urwin, the founder and director of Urban events.
We are a boutique events company based here in the UAE, but we operate internationally. We are responsible for an array of events that you may or may not have heard of - high profile events such as the chequered flag ball in Abu Dhabi. We also do a number of sporting events both here ...Show entire transcript »

Hi I am Tammy Urwin, the founder and director of Urban events.
We are a boutique events company based here in the UAE, but we operate internationally. We are responsible for an array of events that you may or may not have heard of - high profile events such as the chequered flag ball in Abu Dhabi. We also do a number of sporting events both here and internationally and also responsible for a lot of clientele events. For example gala dinners, award ceremonies,
from 1500 people down to an intimate soiree for 5.

What is the story behind the creation of Urban events?

I started the company when I arrived here in Dubai in 2008. I have got a strong background in events and particularly sporting events from the UK. So I brought with me my little black book of sporting contacts and talking to potential clients here, I found there was a real niche for corporate-style events which are calendared, whether they can entertain clients, get involved in sponsorships and having the luxury of working with us 12 months in advance and working on their calendar.

What were you responsible for in the UK?

I was responsible for running and operating over a 100 events a year. All throughout the UK and Ireland. Working with sporting legends such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Pele, Martin Johnson.I have been very lucky.
We were lucky enough to work with a number of organizations and companies Chelsea Football Club, Manchester United. The Professional Rugby Association, Golf Association. So, major sporting bodies which have a huge influence on sport globally.
How did you identify your target audience?
I was actually lucky in that I identified the opportunity before I moved into Dubai. A lot of organizations come over or a lot of small businesses start up once they are here. As I mentioned, I was working in the UK and I had the opportunity to come and experience some events here. Then I got talking to a number of potential clients and I am delighted to say they have gone on to be great friends now and picked their brains about was there a niche

We took for granted in the UK that these kind of events were happening here and also looking at people’s events objectively and asking how could I add value, how could I increase the rate of return, the level of exposure. When looking at budgets, what could I bring to the table that they weren’t receiving already?
So it was when talking through to those clients here and putting together a three-year business plan, but looking at a 12 month events calendar
Interestingly enough, my objective was to come and run our own events, that organizations could get involved in. But I am delighted to say that as a result of our events and our clients experience, 50% of our business is now clients coming to me, to ask me to organize their events for them.

What have been the main challenges in setting up your own company?

It’s little more rose-tinted four years on. I think the initial how to set up. There’s a lot of paperwork, there’s a lot of bureaucracy that you have to go through, rubber-stamping. Rubber-stamping and getting support on how to do that, in the quickest and most cost efficient way.
I took advice from people, I also sought professional help and while that’s really difficult as a brand new start-up business. In the long run that probably saved me time and money by going to the experts and working with a start-up company, to help me with my paperwork.
The set up here is slightly different from other places such as the UK. So you have to be in certain zones. So you have to make a decision.
Do we have a sponsor? Do we go free zone?
I took the decision to go freezone, and then there are the processes within that as well. Finance wasn’t too difficult because I had relatively low start-up cost and I had clients lined up before I arrived here as well. So I was looking into the future in terms of how I wanted to be and how I was going to achieve that.

Was there anything in particular which assisted in the startup process?

I think what is quite unique and helpful here is how people are willing to open their address book for you.
And whether it’s because it’s an expat community predominantly people remember when they first arrived. . But there are only 2 degrees of separation here. People can be so helpful when you first arrive you have a business idea, people are very welcoming and they are happy to make the introductions. .
So I think that is quite unique to Dubai and the UAE.

What advice would like to give other start-ups?
My advice to somebody thinking of starting up Would be: have a good plan..
You need to feel passionate about your product or service in order to communicate that to other people.
But also have a plan: where do you see it’s going to be. Where will your market be?

Don’t be afraid to vox pop people, I am a massive believer in this. Just because you think an idea is fantastic. Once you run it past a few people for sanity check. Actually you may come back with a different opinion or they may support you or they may help you to refine and tweak your idea slightly.
So I am a massive advocate of sound boarding whenever you can, having support, whether domestically, that person that you’re gonna sound board off when you get home.
Whether it be partners within your business or another thing that is quite useful over here is networking British Business Group, Sapco, Heels and Deals.
There’s a plethora of networking groups here where you can throw ideas and getting mentoring as well. There’s a lot of people who are your position or were in your position a few years ago who are happy to give you advice.

Most importantly you have to be passionate about what you’re doing, because if you don’t have self-belief in it other people are going to see through that straight away.
So I pride myself on being passionate about who we are, my team and what we deliver.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running your business?

It is a lot of hard work and I think looking at setting up their own business, you have to eat, sleep and breathe it. But you should want to, that way it is not a hardship. Obviously it’s risky. I have a team of people that I am responsible for, so their livelihood, their welfare depends on me as well. The feeling that we get as a team, or when I look at my team in the moment of the event, not at the end, but when everybody is absorbed in what they are doing.
Whether it be a party, whether it be a conference, whether it be a massive activation. When everybody is in the moment, that’s when I stand back and I feel proudest about what we do and I can see everybody enjoying it
And one of the great things is the moment of the event is when our clients come to us and say: “thank you haven’t met our expectations, you have exceeded them, we couldn’t bring this alive beforehand, but this is absolutely fantastic”.. and the sense of pride that my team have as well.
Whether it be a big event, a small event, a high profile client. It doesn’t matter who. It’s a sense of achievement when we can see we have not only achieved what we have set out to, but as I said exceeded expectations.

Who has provided you with inspiration to run your business?

I am actually inspired by a lot of female entrepreneurs. You only have to look at the success of things people consider niche. A great example is Net-a-Porter. When that was set up, the founder was told:

“No one is going to buy their clothes online”.
Look at it now. It’s probably one of the biggest fashion success stories. So there are a lot of amazing female entrepreneurs out there, businesses large and small, carving it their own way.

And that’s what inspires me.

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