Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Ali Lord and I am the CEO of HeadBox Australia. I brought HeadBox to Australia from the UK.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have been working in the events industry for over a decade, both venue and client-side in both Australia and London. While working at Dentsu International, I oversaw the events agenda for 21 agencies across the UK and Ireland, managing 200 events a year. I then began working with HeadBox in the UK as my events agency and saw the huge potential of the platform in the Australian events industry.
HeadBox is an event tech platform designed to support organisations in delivering their annual program of events. We’ve developed a beautiful combination of technology and people to make the process seamless (the tech), without cutting out the creativity (the people). Through our proprietary software, HeadBox enables businesses to track and manage their event spend on a local and national level through one platform, delivering oversight and cost savings.
To meet consumer-demand, we’ve developed a product to match venues with consumers looking for event spaces; the ‘Bumble for events’. With currently over 13,000 spaces across the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and now Australia to choose from, we have event spaces of every single type.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We chose Sydney as our first location for the marketplace and where we would run our Head Office from. It was equal parts Melbourne or Sydney in the decision but hindsight has shown we made the right decision. Identifying the skills I needed to launch the business was critical – where were the gaps in my knowledge and skills and what roles did we need fulfilled to get the business up and running.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Omni-channel marketing campaigns have been a key strategy to reaching customers. As our business spans 3 audiences; corporates, consumers and event venues, we need to ensure we’re communicating the right messaging across the right channel.
Introducing the team behind the technology was also key and we were fortunate to host both our Sydney & Brisbane launch events before lockdowns. This allowed our corporate clients to get to know the team and enjoy a fun night on us, doing what we do best.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
On both sides of the business, corporates and event venues, our product and model has been really well received in the Australian market. I’m in a fortunate position to launch a business as a start-up here in Australia but with 6 years refining and improving in the UK. This has meant we’ve launched with a mature product that we know is highly successful. We’ve just got to do the grunt work now.
As we emerge from the recent lockdowns, we’ve been overwhelmed with events which are putting us in a very promising position for a strong 2022.
Our goal this year was to launch in 1 market (Sydney), but just recently we launched our third market (Perth, with Brisbane launching in March) so as we approach 2022, we know we have a high performing team with a brilliant product that is capable of more than we originally anticipated.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
In the early days of launching a business it’s easy to be distracted by ideas or small opportunities but your time is precious so it was critical for me to always be clear about what was worthwhile us exploring and investing our time in, and what wasn’t.
Seeking advice is one of the greatest knowledge growths you can have, but it’s also important to stay true to what you believe in and if advice doesn’t feel right for you or your business, don’t do it.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We’re a data-centric company. Attracting clients is pointless if you’re not going to manage their data in the right way so you can then communicate to them so we rely heavily on our CRM, Hubspot and of course our own products within HeadBox. After all, that’s the engine room.
With a team split across 3 cities it’s incredibly important that we’re digitally connected so we use a combination of Slack & WhatsApp for quick messaging and social banter, Zoom for calls and meetings, Instagram for the laughs and Google WorksSpace connecting us for everything work-related.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
An industry friend recently gave me a book called Uncharted, by Margaret Heffernan. A beautiful book on how to push aside uncertainty and push on with agility.
A podcast which I have shared time and time again is Elizabeth Day’s podcast ‘How to Fail’ interviewing Mo Gawdat. An incredible story where Mo has developed the algorithm for happiness after suffering immense loss. I always prefix it with it sounds kooky at first glance but it’s one of the most powerful and useful podcasts I’ve ever listened to (and I’ve listened to it many times).
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My biggest piece of advice for anyone starting a business is to surround yourself with mentors, field exports and sounding boards. These are the people who will keep you accountable, sound out your ideas and support your big picture thinking. And most importantly, just do it. There is always a reason for ‘not now’ but if you’ve done the due diligence, the next step is the leap of faith in knowing you can do it.