As vaccines get underway in Singapore and across the globe, we are in what feels like the final stretch of a pandemic that has lasted a year and very nearly wiped out the events industry.
Yet, as better days lie ahead, events are bound to pick up again, and that will be where experience makers like Sharon Lee Mayol, who founded boutique events agency Pernickety Events, comes in.
The former finance professional has always been drawn to her company’s events arm and it eventually led her to start her own firm. Today, the bespoke events that she and her team create become talking points amongst her clients, leaving an impression that lasts long after they’re actually over.
We sit down with the entrepreneur and and try to get her to spill her magic formula.
I was in private banking in a previous job but I’ve always been very intrigued about the events that we put out. The reason for this is that this particular group of people are obviously very wealthy. They have access to everything and get invited to events all the time.
The challenge was always: “How do you create an interesting enough experience for them to want to come and leave with a deep impression” And so it wasn’t my job at all but I felt like that was where my true interest lies. It’s interesting because when you get to this certain level of wealth, it’s not about buying more things or getting more material possessions, but on getting meaningful experiences.
That for me was what got me really excited and that’s how I found myself setting up Pernickety a few years ago.
We specialise in luxury events with a focus on banks but of course, we also have luxury fashion clients — like Chanel for example. So how do you impress a crowd which has access to so many options?
What makes an event luxurious for me is really the attention to the most minute detail. The entire experience. Let me give you an analogy. For example, you can buy a bag from Topshop or you can buy a bag from Chanel or Dior, and I think the difference between the two is that it takes a really long time and is done by a team of artisans. They are all experts in one particular area, for example sewing the silk flowers that goes into a Chanel brooch or an artisan who is skilled in working in leather and he’s trained all his life to just work on it.
Yes! [Laughs]. Because we’re obsessive. We’re really truly obsessive about every little detail that goes into all the experiences that we create. We pay attention to things that sometimes our clients don’t even pay attention to, and they’re always pleasantly surprised that we do.
That attention to detail starts from every experience — from the minute the guest steps out of the car right down to the bathrooms. Everything that you experience in that few hours is our responsibility. Once we even ran out to replace the waste paper basket because they didn’t represent the brand!
So we received a brief for sustainability from a bank. A lot of the banks would do the same sort of thing where you come to the ballroom, there will be a presentation and dinner, and then you’d leave. With this bank, we were very lucky. Our ideas are as good as our clients — and they were very open to us.
They wanted to demonstrate their continuing commitment to sustainability. They most recently won an award for being the most sustainable and they wanted to do an event that communicated this.
So we wanted to do something that was truly memorable and for them to keep talking about the event after. What better way to do this than to have the event in a greenhouse of an organic vegetable farm. So we took over a greenhouse, transformed this space — and it’s an actual farm. We were surrounded by vegetables that they grow and supply to fine dining restaurants and supermarkets.
Every element in the event had to communicate that message, so we worked with a number of partners to kind of introduce that zero waste, sustainable lifestyle. We had glass jars and the guests were creating their own muesli mixes and they turned their own organic nut butters on this bar which is quite a fun thing to do.
But what was really nice is that we created this living photo wall that featured vegetables that will ordinarily be thrown out by the supermarkets. This photo wall still sits in the HSBC office — of course we had to take out some of the fresh vegetables — but we didn’t want to create something that will only later be torn down.
I wish there was an ideas bank but I think reading widely helps, as well as being interested in what’s happening in the world around us. I take what’s happening seriously, everything from new restaurants and quite often we host events at venues that are not yet open to the public.
I also say this to my team, that it’s important to read widely and have broad interests. We have started what we call “The Finer Things Club”. So it’s a book club with my team, where every last Friday of the month, we get together to discuss a book that we’ve read. So, sometimes it’s themed around what we read. For example, we had a book set in 70s Paris, and then we will have croissants for breakfast.
Find out more about Pernickety Events at www.pernicketyevents.com.