Tor, Ted, what's the mood in the hospitality industry?
Tor: Events and hospitality as a whole has been hit very hard. As you can imagine, it's caused havoc for suppliers, venues and clients, with events being cancelled or postponed til later in the year or next year.
Ted: On the plus side, it's forced the industry to wake up to the benefits of technology and start developing an online presence to engage with their audiences. HOPP has always been an online platform, but at the same time, we place a lot of value on face-to-face meetings with our suppliers. Now, we do those meetings on Zoom, and it will probably change the way we do business in the future.
Tor: ... which helps us reach our goal of having a minimal carbon footprint.
Has anything else good come out of it?
Ted: Yes, there's been a huge rise in business support for the NHS and people working on the frontline, and the events and hospitality industry has responded magnificently.
At HOPP, we've just done a ‘digital lock-in’ with two of our HOPP members – the DJ Rufus Besterman and the projection mapper Rupert Newman – creating an audio and visual feast for our audiences! Lots of HOPP suppliers contributed, offerings discounts on food and drink deliveries, and other special offers, and money raised went to Hospitality for Heroes - a not-for-profit initiative which uses local chefs to supply NHS staff with free, healthy meals using produce from local suppliers.
Tor: More generally, initiatives like the digital lock-in are important because they keep the industry talking and creating rather than going dormant. Next up, we are looking forward to creating a Jenks&Co home movie with our suppliers to get them shaking their tail-feathers!
Let's forget COVID for a minute. Tell us how you came up with the idea for HOPP?
Tor: I’d worked in luxury events for a few years and loved the industry but found its breadth overwhelming. It’s made up of so many different suppliers – florists, caterers, entertainers, venues, light, production, photographers – that it can be tough to find the right people for a job, so everyone relies on word of mouth, which is fine – it's a fantastic way to get trusted recommendations – but the idea of a 'little black book' which only insiders have access to felt archaic in a digital age. I wanted to shift power towards clients. So, that was the motivation behnd HOPP: to make exclusive industry knowledge available to everyone.
How did you and Ted start working together?
Tor: I approached Ted because he had experience in finance and in running a company – skills I didn’t have. Having his input from the start was important – it provided HOPP with robust foundations.
Did you have the same vision for the business?
Ted: Yes, we could both see there was a need for an online platform to connect clients with suppliers . But the idea evolved because the more we talked about it, the more we realised that the people who stood to benefit were not just clients, but suppliers too. Especially small suppliers because often they’re so focused on the day-to-day work (whether creating cakes, calligraphy, floristry ...) that they don’t have the time or resources to market themselves. For them, HOPP is hugely valuable – it puts them in front of a wider audience.
Tor: Exactly, we're empowering clients, but we're also energising the industry by giving exposure to brilliant suppliers.
An example supplier page: Rupert Newman
Who pays for HOPP?
Tor: HOPP is free for event hosts and for planners who are researching suppliers. Once registered, they can browse profiles and take advantage of all the other features without paying. Our revenue comes from the suppliers who have profiles on HOPP. They pay a subscription. We decided at the outset not to charge for referrals so that users know they are in a totally transparent environment – we're not trying to steer them towards one supplier over another in order to get commission, because no commission is paid.
If a user likes the look of a supplier, what's their next step?
Ted: If they think one of our suppliers is right for their event, we suggest they make direct contact. Email the supplier, pick up the phone or (post-COVID) meet face-to-face – the contact details are on the webpage. The point is, events are complex things but they're also subtle and they work best when suppliers truly understand what the client wants. Just because HOPP is the introducer doesn’t mean we want to put ourselves between the client and supplier. Far from it – we want them to talk to each other so that the client gets the best supplier for their event. If that happens, we've done our job.
Is HOPP only for hosts who have big budgets?
Ted: Absolutely not! HOPP is a luxury platform but “luxury” is a spectrum. We want HOPP to be the go-to platform for all event planning needs – whether a small dinner party you want some beautiful tableware for (check out Lay London), children’s entertainment for your little one’s birthday party, or a show-stopping floral installation for an upcoming brand activation.
Tor: And I'd add that we're not an ‘all-or-nothing’ platform. Let’s say you’ve got a party all planned out and at the last minute, you feel like you could do with a little something extra to take it up a level. We’re here for that too! No matter how big or small your needs are – we’ve got the suppliers for you.
Have suppliers taken to the idea of a matchmaking service between them and party hosts?
Ted: So far the response has been incredible. We’ve been very selective about which suppliers to include on HOPP, and have targeted only those who we know share our vision and standards. They’re the best of the best. They've responded positively because they can see the value of a curated platform to their own businesses and to clients.
What about the party planners who stand to lose out from HOPP?
Ted: HOPP is not a replacement for party planners! Depending on the type and scale of an event, having a planner can be absolutely invaluable and that’s why we have several epic planners on our platform and strongly advise clients not to plan events (especially weddings!) completely solo. Instead, we want people to consider how they use planners for their events and which areas they might want to take more control of. One of the first Top of the HOPPs articles is on just this subject.
Tor: Also, HOPP is a useful way for party planners to find unique suppliers they otherwise might not have heard of. I know that when I was working at Bentley’s Entertainment, I’d spend hours searching online trying to find cool, new suppliers and then stress about how to carry out the necessary due diligence before using them. HOPP is here for party planners like my past self! Using HOPP, they can find incredible new talent to refresh their networks, and be confident that they have been fully tried and tested.
Will HOPP become an event planner in its own right?
Tor: No! We leave the party planning to the brilliant event planners (many of whom are on our platform) while we focus on being an innovative connecting service.
For clients who require a bit more guidance, we do offer a matchmaking service whereby we have a meeting (or a phone call) to get a clear idea of what they are looking for. Then, we connect them with the suppliers best suited for the job. We do not, however, plan the event. If clients are looking for an event planner, we can point them in the right direction.
Tell us about the 'Supplier Showcase' which HOPP has planned for Autumn 2020 at West Wycombe Park.
Ted: COVID-permitting, this is going to be a brilliant opportunity for suppliers to showcase their talent and for clients to meet the best in the business in one place. All the suppliers on HOPP are welcome, as well as marketers, brands, personal assistants, engaged couples, party planners and party hosts – if you have an event on the horizon, you aren’t going to want to miss this! We’ll be sharing more information nearer to the time, so stay tuned!
What new features have you got up your sleeve for HOPP?
Tor: Well, our main focus will always be on connecting clients to suppliers, so new features will be geared to that, but we’re also a source of tips and advice on all things ‘events’. In our Top of the HOPPs area, we feature articles by experts from across the industry and soon we’ll be offering podcasts too. For event hosts, we’ll be introducing a range of online tools to make the planning process easier. Think timelines, budget calculators, mood board templates, table plan diagrams and much more.
A Top of the HOPPs article addressing a perennial bugbear
What did you learn in the 18 months you have been incubating this project?
Tor: Well, firstly, everything takes a lot longer than you think it will! We have an incredible team helping us but we certainly underestimated how long it would take to get a digital platform up and running. Looking back now, I suppose it shouldn’t have been such a surprise that building an innovative website like HOPP wouldn’t be a speedy job.
Tor, what is Ted good at and what is he bad at? Ted, what is Tor good at and what is she bad at?
Tor: Ted is brilliant at seeing the bigger picture. He’s a realist and helps to manage expectations and streamline workflow to help us strategically implement some of the mad ideas that I have! He’s great at managing and coordinating our team and bringing together a lot of moving parts. In terms of what he’s bad at – working on an empty stomach? You don’t want to get in the way of Ted when he’s hangry.
Ted: Tor is full of energy and ideas. She has such in-depth knowledge and experience of the industry which really allows her to think outside the box and come up with revolutionary ideas. She is definitely a ‘glass half full’ individual and this positive attitude helps us overcome even the trickiest challenges. She’s also a people person and her infectious personality helps us to build really strong relationships with all of our suppliers (many of whom she’s now friends with).
Tor has also earned herself an affectionate nickname amongst the team – ‘Tor the Terrier’ – due to her energy and, on the rare occasion, stubbornness. Luckily, these are attributes that are ideal in a start-up environment!
Thank you Tor and Ted!