There aren’t many businesses as endlessly creative as Heaps + Stacks, which creates bespoke experiences for brands from Aesop to Nasty Gal and Google – including everything from pink canape trains to aquatic plants and sandcastles. In conversation with Creative Entrepreneurs, Founder Keziah Wildsmith lifted the lid on how the business actually works behind the scenes and offers some great tips for anyone who would love to start their own event production company.
Keziah started Heaps + Stacks from her kitchen table, after noticing a gap in the market for truly creative brand workshops. Her London team has since created workshops, installations, press days, and VIP dinners for the likes of Estee Lauder, Facebook, Nike, and Ralph Lauren. During lockdowns this year, they started sending ‘creative mailers’ from brands, from Jo Malone crackers to virtual cocktail masterclasses for Molton Brown.
On getting started ‘I guess I always kind of hated having a boss to report to. I always felt like I wanted to do my own thing, and I guess I just did it. I had just turned 26 and as my New Year’s resolution, I was like, this is it. I’m going to start a business. And the only way I knew how was by starting an Instagram account. So I made an Instagram account over Christmas. Just posted like mad into the night.’
‘And then I got a call in March and it was somebody that was producing an event for Google. And they were like, hey, I’ve seen your Instagram account, and looks really cool. Let’s work together’
On landing your first job, whilst still working in a full-time role ‘So when I landed this Google event, I was very much still in a full-time role in a high-pressure environment and I was so exhausted but also motivated to take this opportunity, I was also very aware that I didn’t really have a business yet, you know, I wasn’t registered as anything, no real business plan as such, I didn’t understand tax. I’ve just my Instagram account, and I didn’t even make any of the things on it! I don’t know what our budget template is. I don’t know what we are all about’
On engaging on social media platforms ‘In the beginning, I just followed everything related to events. The events I agency already worked at, I followed. I sort of followed all of them, and any event I saw going on, I’d always look at the hashtag and I would always follow all the kinds of people that were obviously working on the event. And I was just absolutely all over it, like a rash, like a detective every day looking at who was involved and everything and just making sure I followed them and making sure I like some of their posts, commenting, dropping people DM’s all of that’ ‘ It’s really time-consuming and it takes ages but it does pull off, I don’t think people realise how important all that research, following, liking, commenting, engaging is, people take it for granted. And it’s much much harder now, to get people to follow your account, or get a like, people just look at stuff then move on, so it’s even more important that you actually make conversation’
On taking the leap ‘So at this stage, we had taken on a few jobs and we took on our first big project at a festival, it was a tonne of work, and I knew that. But meanwhile, I was still working in a really stressful day job in a role that really needed my full brain power and I definitely wasn’t giving it my full brain power because I was doing my own thing as well. I just got to a point where I was just like, I can’t just wake up at five o’clock every day anymore, you know, it’s waking up so early to try and squeeze in a double job, doing more or less the same sort of tasks, without any break, I just need to wake up a normal time like seven! and then I just thought, you know, let’s just go for it. I can always get another job if it doesn’t work out. At least I tried.’
On starting small ‘By starting small, you understand the process and know how to make it better before you start going big. Basically, it’s about really nailing the foundations of what you do, then going ‘ok, now we can level up a bit’ and you keep going from there now with the proof that you can do all the other smaller things very well’ ‘I think maybe this is actually how business confidence is built’
On the pandemic hitting the business ‘It was really hard because I could see everything happening. And I don’t really know if the team could at that point. And I didn’t really massively want to raise the alarm, but I was just every night crying at home just like, oh, you know, I’ve just worked so hard to get here and now it’s all unravelling because of something we simply couldn’t predict or be ‘business ready’ for. I cried for ages. But once that was done, we picked ourselves up and started thinking of new ways to bring in money for the business. We started working on mailers, press, days, boosted our engagement on all our platforms, we made more newsletters. I guess the strategy that started from Instagram, of very much being in everyone’s faces no matter what worked for us.
On getting inspiration as a team ‘Monday morning we have an hour where everyone sends round things that they’ve seen. So, you know, a cool artist, cool collaborators, interesting spaces’
On the creative process ‘In the old days when we were all back in the office, we would actually sit down as a team and have a proper brainstorm and eat lots of snacks. Eating Haribo in every meeting like a bunch of kids. And nowadays it’s actually like we find that brainstorming on a brief as a whole team doesn’t necessarily work. It can be quite a lot of wasted time. And so we actually find that we get quite good results from sending around the brief, giving people some time to get creative, and then everyone just responds to the email with a few ideas and some pictures. And then we normally go with something that is sort of mash-up of a few of these ideas together.’
On sustainability ‘Sustainability is a huge issue for the industry and one that you could do another whole hour on discussing. And us as a team, you know, we’re all pretty young and passionate about sustainability and its importance. I guess we’re just trying to get that message out there, events can be sustainable with the right choices. We’re just trying to tighten up everything that we do and also explain to clients what materials and ideas will actually work to sell their idea or concept whilst not being hugely wasteful. It’s actually a hugely creative space to work within’
Further learning from Keziah’s talk:
Keziah loves this book: Wasted: When Trash becomes Treasure
and, has read this one four times! No Bullsh*t Leadership: Why the World Needs More Everyday Leaders and Why That Leader Is You
Also do check out Happening, for more event design inspiration
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