Louisa Preskett: The woman behind London’s most glamorous events
There’s nothing like a conversation with an admired businesswoman to fill you with inspiration for the working week ahead. Grateful for the opportunity to talk to some of the most influential women in business, we caught up with entrepreneur Louisa Preskett, founder of Polar Black Events, in her beautiful Notting Hill home to talk business, fashion and all things work/life balance. A self-confessed coffee addict “I am a working mother of two… I need the caffeine,” and a driven entrepreneur, Louisa traded her childhood dreams of being a newsreader to manage events for some of the biggest names in the industry.
When we arrived at her Notting Hill home on a rainy January morning, it only took us a sneak-peek inside her home to understand that she is the perfect hostess. A beautifully set table with croissants and coffee, decorated with a set-up of colourful table books, fresh flowers and photographs of her children (Louisa just had her second baby who’s only 3 months), we sat down to talk about her career and successful business.
A born-and-bred Londoner, Louisa studied English Literature at the Newcastle University before making a foray into the world of Public Relations. Her career has seen her travel across the Atlantic to work in New York and she’s crossed paths with some of the worlds most successful people, including Bill Clinton, “He is inspirational and an amazing speaker.” Today, she is back in London where her clientele consist of big companies such as Barclays, GUESS, Louis Vuitton and Estée Lauder.
Having worked for high profile companies such as Goldman Sachs before going it alone and setting up Polar Black Events, Louisa took a risk setting up during the financial recession. Using the economic downturn in their favour, the company used their expertise, attention to creative detail and unrivalled client service to propel the company ahead of the competition, growing rapidly. The full-service events management company produces high-end events in the private, fashion, corporate and media industries, keeping her one very busy lady!
Why did you found Polar Black Events?
I always had a vision of working for myself. I think you are either one of those people or you aren’t. My father is a composer and worked for himself and I think it was engrained in me from a young age.
You manage events for many high profile brands, how do you ensure everything runs perfectly when managing large-scale events?
Planning, planning, planning. The reality of the events business is that it can be pretty unglamorous at times; Excel spreadsheets, running orders, contact lists. Plan A, plan B, plan C, plan Z and then when all plans are exhausted, thinking quickly on your feet and never, ever letting the client feel nervous or stressed.
Twice a week we sit down in our office and have a brainstorm about each event with our project managers and our creative directors. It’s important that everyone has an overview of every event going on, even if they aren’t running the project directly. We brainstorm new venue openings, creative theming, unusual/quirky details, marketing visuals, new technology, guest speakers, and entertainment – the works.
What’s the most extravagant and/or difficult thing you’ve pulled off for an event?
Nothing is ever too difficult of course! But we have faced our fair share of challenges. From shutting major roads down or helicoptering guests across Scotland in the pouring rain to flying in a client’s favourite flower or food.
Take us through a typical day in your life?
It’s different right now as I’ve just had my second baby who is 3 months so I am mostly at home. I’m an early riser and try to start the day with yoga or a form of ballet Pilates. That time is precious, clearing my head and setting me up for the day. Morning is spent having breakfast with the children and then going through my emails and having a call with Xavier in the office. I try to make lunch a working one, either with a new supplier or client, and my afternoons are varied. I always make sure I have another call with the office at around 4pm, and go through emails or review any pitches or presentations the team is working on. 6 – 9.00pm is time I spend with my children and my husband Jeremy. And if there are still outstanding work bits to do, I will work in the evening.
You’ve just had your second child, how do you manage to successfully handle all aspects of your professional and personal life?
It’s a challenge every working mother faces, and I’m not sure anyone has it sussed. Some days I am completely in control but there are others when you’re hit with a curve ball and it’s tough! You just manage. Xavier, my business partner, and I work very closely. He is fantastic and the backbone of Polar Black Events while I have had my children. He demonstrates the most incredible attention to detail and an amazing work ethic, so I know (and most importantly our clients know) that the business is always in the best and safest of hands. I also have a great office set up at home which allows me to work flexibly if I need to.
What shoes do you wear for presentations and meetings?
I always wear heels when I’m pitching or presenting, usually Charlotte Olympia or my Chloé boots. Manolo Blahnik once said, “You put high heels on and you change.” And he’s right. I instantly feel more poised and professional.
You went from working at Goldman Sachs to founding Polar Black Events. Do you think starting your own business is the way to go today?
Starting your own business is a great way to do what you love and feel passionate about. I had some fantastic training at companies like Goldman Sachs, but ultimately I didn’t feel I could do it forever. As a female, setting up your own business can also be a good way of managing a career and a family. So yes, I think it’s a great way to go today.
What advice can you give readers who want to start their own business?
Go out there and get valuable experience before you start. I believe you have to really know your industry before you can set up on your own. See how others are doing it, and learn from it. Then put a really strong business plan together.
Do you feel that women are well represented in business?
I think we are making progress, but it’s quite slow. If you look at the FTSE 100 companies for example, only 17.3 per cent of board members are women and just three firms have female CEO’s. That said, it is an improvement on where we were even five years ago, so we are getting there.
Do you feel fashion is important in business? How can the way you dress affect your career?
The reality is that people are judged in part on the way they present themselves in business, and that puts fashion in a very powerful position, particularly in our industry. It’s important clients take you seriously, and fashion reflects that. When you are working with a brand, you are an extension of their team, so if we are working with a fashion or luxury brand we need to reflect that in the way we dress. For anyone unsure about their business style, my advice is always to stick to classics like black skinny trousers, or a beautiful pencil skirt and silk top. Then accessorize with colour, like a patterned Liberty scarf or a statement necklace by Lulu Frost. A red lip works every time too!
Have you had a moment where you’ve thought, “I’ve made it?” and if yes, when?
No I haven’t. There is so much more we could do. And that is exciting and drives all of us in the team. I also think it’s important to remain humble throughout your career.
In order to succeed as an entrepreneur you need to…
Overcome your fear of failure and believe in yourself. Someone once said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” I think it was Kennedy. And I am 100% with him.