The Sunday Times: Events Queen Living Her Fantasy

Featured in this weekend’s Sunday Times was an interview with Jane, talking about award wins, Green Light Events’ beginnings, and where Cogs & Marvel is headed. Check out the article in The Sunday Times online or read on…

 

Events queen living her fantasy

Interview Gavin Daly

Cogs & Marvel’s Jane Gallagher organised a Game of Thrones banquet for Google, and she’s hungry for more

Jane Gallagher points to three new additions to the trophy cabinet at Cogs & Marvel, the Dublin events agency she founded with her business partner Roisin Callaghan. There’s one for best event management company of 2016, one for team of the year, and one for the best corporate event of the year.

The recent Event Industry Awards at a Dublin hotel were undoubtedly less glamorous than the events for which Cogs & Marvel gets recognised for organising. They include a leadership summit for 800 executives of DoubleClick – a division of Google – featuring a Game of Thrones-themed banquet in a glass marquee at Luttrellstown Castle.

“It was great,” says Gallagher, beaming. “In this business, you have to keep coming up with new ideas.”

That was a medium-sized event in her world. In September, Cogs & Marvel is taking over three Dublin venues – the 3Arena, Convention Centre Dublin and the RDS – for a Google sales conference that will be attended by 5,500 people.

The company is organising flights for most of those, putting them up in 29 hotels and booking 10 pubs in Dublin. A fleet of 80 coaches will have to run like clockwork over the three-day event.

Gallagher seems unfazed, perhaps because she has done it all before. Google has been a customer for a decade, and Facebook, Uber and Twitter are all on the client list, alongside Irish companies and government agencies.

“We did 168 events last year,” she says. “We’ve done events in 22 countries. A lot of it is repeat business.”

From a brightly decorated office in Sandyford Industrial Estate in Dublin, Cogs & Marvel is on a growth spurt.It is targeting revenues of €23m this year, up from €18m last year, and there is a plan to get to €36m in the medium term.

The newest Cogs & Marvel staff member joined last week, bringing the workforce to 50 people, including 10 in a new San Francisco office headed by Callaghan. In the past year, the company has also brought in a chief executive and changed its name from Green Light Events to better reflect its mix of logistics and creativity: the cogs and the marvel.

“I’m the cogs and Roisin is the marvel,” says Gallagher. “Roisin looks at a room and can see a Game of Thrones banquet; I see how many people we can fit in.”

From Greystones in Co. Wicklow, Gallagher’s late father was director-general of the Institute of Public Administration, and her mother is a retired stenography teacher. She studied hotel management in the early 1990s and went off to work in London for about five years with the Tower Hotel group there.

Back in Dublin in 1998, she went into Jurys hotel in Ballsbridge, one of the capital’s busiest hotels. Over six years, she went from operations to conferencing and banqueting, and then hotel revenue manager. A chunk of her job was matching room availability with events in the hotel, which brought her into contact with Callaghan, who worked for an events company. “I remember thinking, I’d love to get into that,” she says.

Gallagher enjoyed the hotel work and praises her former Jurys boss Dick Bourke, but had had enough by 2004.

“I was working six days a week, up to 12 hours a day. I had no life.”

For a change of pace, she upped sticks to Co. Clare and went to work for Fitzpatrick’s hotel at Bunratty. She had just bought a house in Quin, in southeast Clare, when Callaghan came calling.

“The company she worked for was looking for people, and I really wanted to get into the events business,” she says.

They spent two years working together at Beacon Conference & Incentive, which became part of Platinum One, an events and sports management business owned by Fintan Drury. It had big clients including the Ryder cup but, by the autumn of 2006, Gallagher and Callaghan were ready to do their own thing.

“Google had just set up in Dublin and we noticed this boom in tech companies doing cool things,” she says. ” We wanted to offer something young and fun.”

She pauses and laughs. “That was 11 years ago. We were younger and funner.”

Green Light Events started with the pair working in Callaghan’s one-bed Dublin apartment. For Christmas 2006, both of them got gifts of new laptops.

“We didn’t have a penny, we didn’t have a client, we didn’t have an event. But we did believe in ourselves.”

They were doing a start-your-own-business course when a friend mentioned Google was looking for someone to organise an event for 800 people, with a brief that it should be “in the sun”. They tendered for the business, including an offbeat suggestion of Seville, and were asked to London to pitch to Google.

“The call came back: ‘They are going to go with you, and they are going to go with Seville.'” says Gallagher. “It was like, ‘OK, how are we going to do this?'”

Six days a week for a number of months, Gallagher would collect Callaghan at 6.30am and drive to Google’s Dublin office, where they worked until 9pm. On Sundays, they met at 8am. “We worked so hard,” she says. “It was all new to us and new to them.”

With no real systems in place, the registration and organisation had to be done manually. They chartered planes and organised fibre broadband in the Seville venue. Friends and family pitched in to help and the three-day event in the summer of 2007 went without any big hitch. “At the end, we were in this little cupboard and we burst into tears. We did it.”

Over the next three years, they organised several more events, all outside Ireland. Callaghan had her son in 2011 and Gallagher’s son was born in 2012 but they didn’t slow the pace, she says.

By 2014, they had six staff and were doing 40 events a year. Gallagher recalls dispatching one new employee to Dublin airport on her first day for a US flight. “It was great but we were killing ourselves. We didn’t have time to think.”

In 2015, they brought in Killian Whelan, an experienced businessman and husband of a good friend, as company chair. He advised that one of the duo should focus on events and the other take a step back to look at strategy.

“He said, ‘If you want to build a company, you need to build the engine room.’ We wouldn’t be here without Killian.”

Gallagher kept the events focus and Callaghan drove strategy, including setting up a travel agency in-house in 2015. The company also began hiring specialist creative staff, including a production director and graphic designers. “Recruitment was the scariest part,” says Gallagher. “You could hire people in January and not know if you would have enough work for them.”

The work clearly did come. In the year to the end of August 2016, pre-tax profits almost trebled to €2m, accounts show.

Dave Smyth, a former head of ad agency Ogilvy & Mather in Ireland, joined as chief executive last September with a plan to double the size of the business. Two weeks later, Callaghan moved to San Francisco to set up the US office.

“American companies love the way we operate,” says Gallagher. “We’re quick because those companies are quick.”

It’s not all glamour, however. There is travel, weekend work and late-night phone calls. “We did a five-day event in Singapore and didn’t step outside the hotel and convention centre once. We had to buy coats because of the air-conditioning.”

The name change came after they hired consultants to look at how the business was perceived. THe message was that they were well regarded for logistics but less known for creativity.

“I thought we might change our logo,” she says. “When they suggested changing the name, I said ‘Over my dead body.'”

It grew on her, however, and the rebrand was launched in January.

Gallagher and Callaghan own 40% of the company each, and Whelan and Smyth own the balance. The relationship with Callaghan is “like a marriage”, she says. “We’re lucky because we have each other. We’re both perfectionists but we clash at times, don’t get me wrong.”

Having taken seven years to get to 10 staff, the company will hire up to 10 people by the end of the year and is also looking at acquiring events. It bought the Social Media Summit last year and ran it for the first time in April for 600 people.

“By next year, there might be something else we own,” she says.

A base in Asia Pacific could also be on the horizon in future but Gallagher is in no rush to get on more long-haul flights. “I’m not going,” she says, smiling.

Since the name change, some people have mistakenly congratulated her on selling the company, but there are no plans. “It’s too early. Give it another five years, when I’m hitting 50, and we’ll see.”

 

At Cogs & Marvel, we believe that every time you get a group of people together, whether they be staff, customers, partners or consumers, you have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with you. You have an opportunity to turn passive admirers into an army of advocates for your corporate brand. Cogs & Marvel is an event agency that creates brand experiences to delight in the moment and inspire lasting change.

Want to inspire change in your audience? Get in touch with the Cogs & Marvel team.

 

Event Industry Award Winners 2017

On Friday night, we were awarded Best Event Management Company at the Event Industry Awards. Naturally, much celebration ensued.

The Event Industry Awards have, for the last eight years, looked for the best of the Irish event industry to recognise the work of teams and individuals and award excellence. In the last number of years, we’ve been awarded Best Event Innovation, Best Event, and Best Event Team to name a few, aspiring to the country’s top accolade of Best Event Management Company. This year, we earned it.

The award for Best Event Management Company, following the earlier announcements of our wins for Best Event Team and Best Corporate Event (for Google’s DoubleClick Leadership Summit), reflected the strides we’ve made as a company in the past twelve months. But these awards are more than a mark of achievement for our company; they honour the daily achievements of our people, both in Dublin and San Francisco, at every level, who make up Cogs & Marvel’s greatest strength – our team.

This last year has proven that there is nothing that we can’t do. We’ve doubled our team, we’ve opened our first office outside of Ireland, and we’ve embraced our next chapter as Cogs & Marvel – a new name steeped in ten years of Green Light’s history and experience. And, as a team, we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this journey.

With the strength of our people behind us, watch this space to see where the next ten years will take us.

 

At Cogs & Marvel, we believe that every time you get a group of people together, whether they be staff, customers, partners or consumers, you have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with you. You have an opportunity to turn passive admirers into an army of advocates for your corporate brand. Cogs & Marvel is an event agency that creates brand experiences to delight in the moment and inspire lasting change.

Want to inspire change in your audience? Get in touch with the Cogs & Marvel team.

EY Entrepreneur of the Year – Irish Times Profile

Featured in today’s Irish Times, Jane and Roisin talk about setting up shop, the obstacles they’ve overcome, and Cogs & Marvel’s plans for the future. Read on for the full profile…

 

Events and brand experience agency not shy about putting on a show

 


EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award finalists: Jane Gallagher and Róisín Callaghan of Cogs & Marvel

 

Established in Dublin in 2006 by Róisín Callaghan and Jane Gallagher, Cogs & Marvel is a fast-growing creative events and brand experience agency. The company, formerly known as Green Light Events, aims to deliver a big, bold wow for its clients, which may explain why it has become particularly popular with companies in the technology sector.

Róisín and Jane began by operating out of Google’s Dublin office to manage the tech giant’s 2006 EMEA sales conference in Berlin. Since then, the company has grown to the point that it now employs 44 people across Dublin and San Francisco, where it recently opened an office. Clients of the company include Uber, Indeed, Facebook, Dropbox and LinkedIn.

Cogs & Marvel more than doubled its workforce last year, as revenues climbed to almost €18 million from €10 million. During 2016, the company ran events in 22 countries across four continents.

The company recently brought in Dave Smyth, former managing director of Ogilvy & Mather Ireland, as chief executive to lead the company in this period of accelerated growth.

 

Describe your business model and what makes you so unique.

We create and organise events from desk to destination. We have in-house departments to deal with all elements of events and recently set up a travel agency to ensure we could get our delegates the best travel service.

 

What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?

Successfully running our first event for over 800 people in Seville, Spain, in 2007. It was our first event for our new company, for which we worked 16 hours a day for months trying to pull it together. When all 800 people had arrived safe and sound and on time from 17 countries, we celebrated (quietly) at the back of the conference room! The event was a massive success and was the true announcement of our arrival into the market.

 

What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

We spent the first six years working flat-out and struggling to cope with the workload that we had. We had no personal lives. To overcome this we forced ourselves to stand back and look at the business as a whole. We changed focus in order to progress, tactically expanded the operation and scaled up our workforce by 200 per cent.

 

What is the best piece of advice you received when starting out?

The greatest advice we received was scale, scale, scale. Grow the team and hire the best people you can. Don’t be scared to hire people better than you – you’ll learn from them and they will help your company be the best it can.

 

Describe your growth funding path.

We are very lucky to be self-funded. We set up the company with capital of €20,000, using our personal credit cards to pay for some of the elements for our first event. Today, we are paid in advance for most of our events which allows us to pay deposits to suppliers and for expenses incurred in the event planning stages.

 

Where would you like your business to be in three years?

We have been on an amazing expansion path over the past few years and we want this to continue.Our short-term plan is to grow our brand in San Francisco and then expand to the east coast and APAC region (Asia-Pacific). We already work there so having a base makes strategic and financial sense. Longer-term, we are hoping to create our own events that we own. We recently acquired Social Media Summit, a conference aimed at agency digital marketers and SME owners, with plans to grow it in Dublin and abroad. We are also looking at a number of other large events.

 

The original article can be found here.

 

At Cogs & Marvel, we believe that every time you get a group of people together, whether they be staff, customers, partners or consumers, you have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with you. You have an opportunity to turn passive admirers into an army of advocates for your corporate brand. Cogs & Marvel is an event agency that creates brand experiences to delight in the moment and inspire lasting change.

Want to inspire change in your audience? Get in touch with the Cogs & Marvel team.