Meet Yemisi Mokuolu

Director
Hatch Events

Hatch Events is a dynamic events management company working with clients to develop and deliver arts, training and experiential events.

Hatch Events’ main area of expertise lies in producing unique events that advance creativity, broaden culture and expand the arts. Recent productions include conferences, festivals, arts seasons, marketing stunts, launches, training programmes and seminars.

Founded by Yemisi Mokuolu in 2004, the London based company is currently working on the strategic development of the Asabaako Music Festival in Ghana and the Out of Africa initiative to promote and profile African arts in the UK.

Why did you decide to start your company?
In 2002, the advertising and experiential events sectors were going through a recession, so I decided to take time out to expand my events management experience and pursue some personal projects. Eventually, my hobby took over and turned into a business.

How was your company name conceived?
Through intensive and focused brainstorming. At the time, I was working in direct marketing and so it was natural for me to carry out a very basic branding exercise to come up with the company name.

In short, I determined what it was that I was trying to do. I researched the market for the types of names that were being used by other events management companies; this led me to running through nouns, verbs and adjectives that encapsulated my company’s remit.

“Hatch” seemed to fit the basic premise of my business, which was to create new, life-changing, boundary breaking and innovative events.

What was your career path prior to starting your first business?
None really, as I practically graduated and went straight into starting my business.

I temped as a secretary from the age of 16 to get me through college and university. On graduating in 2000, I took a job as an office manager, in order to pay the bills while I developed my career as an arts commentator.

I was employed at a direct marketing company, where I discovered I had a natural talent for developing ideas, project managing, producing events and most importantly, motivating people. It so happened that the advertising industry suffered a massive recession and everyone in my department was made redundant accept for me.

I ended up, at the age of 23, having to carry my boss’s role who sat on the board. By carrying the responsibilities of a board member, I was able to observe, at first hand, how to and how not to run a small private business. In addition, I was also volunteering as a trustee of a women’s refugee and there I gained an understanding of how a charity business operates.

As soon as I knew I wanted to operate independently, I did two things; I spoke to business owners and went on business start-up courses. These were excellent for giving me the know how to start my business. However, theory does not compare with experience and I would have really benefited from having had a strong mentor.

Did you always know that you would start your own business?
I think I always knew that I would work independently, whether as a freelancer or a consultant. Both my mother and father own their own businesses and virtually all my siblings and cousins are consultants.

It was only after I turned 18 that I knew for certain that I would run my own business. I really wanted to make art more accessible and knew I could achieve this through the written word and by owning an arts club. So, I went to University to study History of Art and Journalism, and basically thought I’d become a really influential freelance arts critic or arts commentator.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a number of projects at the moment. Hatch Events is delivering the strategic development of the Asabaako Music Festival in Ghana and running volunteer management for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s InTRANSIT festival.

I am consulting with Oval House Theatre on their audience developments strategy and delivering an information session on crowd funding creative ideas.

I’m also facilitating Tommie Smith’s visit to the UK with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, managing the Out of Africa platform that promotes and profile African arts in the UK and also looking for new business contracts!

Can you describe your typical working day?
To ensure that I keep on track and achieve my objectives I do my best to stick with a daily structure with a work plan.

It goes a little something like this; I drop my daughter at her childminder and use the train journey to update my day’s work plan.

I arrive at office and respond to emails. I then carry out the actions on my work plan in order to deliver my existing contracts and also take time to develop new business.

When I leave the office I use the train journey to assess the day’s actions. I collect my daughter from her childminder, make dinner and put my daughter to bed. I then complete outstanding actions from the day’s work plan and spend time with my partner.

Do you have a favourite business book?
No. I absorb information more readily through listening. Therefore, I enjoy going to lectures. I especially enjoy listening to my peers.

Currently, I’m really inspired by operating the principles I have gathered from author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nick Jankel, CEO of WeCreate.

What have been the highlights of running your own business?
Giving myself the space to create and develop the Out of Africa platform which promotes, profiles and develops African arts via live events, training programmes, a newsletter and social media.

Through Out of Africa I have been able to produce cutting-edge performing arts events and training programmes that have inspired and captured the imaginations of hundreds of people.

Ranging from transforming Carnaby Street into an Afrowonderland over eight days, managing the UK’s widest read newsletter dedicated to promoting African arts and chairing a seminar on Entrepreneurship in Africa at Oxford University.

What is the hardest part of running your own business?
There are loads of hard parts to running a business or working independently. It takes guts, determination and stamina.

However, the hardest part for me is having a key partner pull out of a project at the eleventh hour; mainly because I’ve invested so much time in building the relationship. The disappointment can be close to grief depending on how vital their role was.

However, I’ve grown resilient and have the ability to quickly get past the anger, accept the situation and put in place solutions to overcome these disappointments.

What has been your proudest business moment so far?
Turning my competitors into partners. I work in a completely oversaturated sector, added to which we’re currently battling through a recession. So my conclusion was that partnership really was the only way to survive and excel.

I think this conclusion came easily to me, as I personally never saw my competitors as competitors. I now enjoy a very health working relationship with former competitors and in turn have watched them develop partnerships with one another.

I have entered and successfully won partnership bids with them and in time look forward to achieving the same as a consortium.

However, the thing that makes me the proudest is knowing that I have helped to construct a network that provides vital emotional, intellectual, economic, technological and skills support to each party involved.

What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
I’m extremely self motivated. I just love doing what I do so much that I need very little motivation. I just need to be creative and have a place to freely express myself. So the need to keep that going constantly motivates me.

But, when things get hard, the people who really keep me going are my partner, mother, sister and friends. Their belief in me and my ambitions for my business are powerful, and when I start to doubt they always know what to say to keep me motivated.

I’m inspired by great art and great sport. I watched Nadal get through to the quarter finals of this year’s Wimbledon. The effort he displayed was so sensational that it gave me the injection of energy I needed to get through a very tough time at work.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting an events business?
Be really clear on what you have to offer to the market place, as it’s completely saturated. What are you the best at? Are you the best conference planner? Do you know exactly what a bride wants? Do you get the best venue discounts or do you carry out the most effective risk assessments?

Also, make sure you have a great network and contacts, because that’s what clients are really buying. They are buying who you know and not what you know.

Fast forward five years, where do you think your business will be in 2016?
My aspiration is to be running my own venue providing a top quality, high profile, international platform for African artists.

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For more information visit www.hatchevents.com. You can also find Hatch Events on Twitter and Facebook.

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Yemisi Mokuolu was interviewed by Octavia Goredema, founder of the Twenty Ten Club.

The Twenty Ten Club is an award-winning social enterprise designed to connect, inspire and support Black female entrepreneurs. You can also find Twenty Ten Club on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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