Q&A with Serena Holmes
Serena Holmes is the President & CEO of Tigris Events, a multi-award winning experiential marketing and event staffing agency based in Toronto. Tigris Events works with top brands such as Bell Media, WINNERS, Toronto Star, Grace Foods, and many others. Serena has won numerous accolades including CV Magazine’s Canadian Events Professional of 2017 as well as the W100 Top Women Entrepreneurs through PROFIT and Chatelaine Magazines.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I got into events, quite by accident, back in 2001. I was working at a gym part-time while I was in university and someone referred me to the owner of a promotional modeling agency. At the time, this industry was not mainstream at all so this was new and exciting for me. I absolutely fell in love with the work! Once I graduated, the opportunity to work with Tigris came about - and a part-time gig became my full-time career.
What inspired you to start your business?
I actually didn’t start the company! I began working with Tigris part-time in June of 2004. The founder asked me to come on board in a management capacity that falls and shortly thereafter offered me a partnership. We began booking events with large brands like Motorola, Rogers and CHIN Radio. Before we knew it, we were operating nationally with over 500 staff on our roster. I took over company operations at the end of 2008 when the founder chose to leave the company for personal reasons.
Where is your business based?
Our head office is located 30 minutes east of Toronto. However, we operate across all of Canada and have recently launched in the United States.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
As mentioned above, I didn’t start the business - I got involved shortly after it was created. This said, the foundation of the company was a bit fragmented and very confusing in the beginning. The founder launched not only one but three companies. After I took over, it took some time to amalgamate the divisions - event marketing, event planning and event staffing - under one umbrella. Now we operate as a streamlined agency under Tigris Events.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Internet marketing and social media have been the most effective ways for us to raise awareness about Tigris. Since we are the brand behind the brands we represent, we have to work that much harder for people to get to know us. Launching our SEO campaign in 2012 has revolutionized our business and allowed us to grow an average of 25-30% annually year over year.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge - but also the biggest opportunity - was losing our biggest client back in 2011. This forced us to look for other ways to increase our client base and revenues - which we accomplished through SEO. Prior to this, we had been largely referral based only. Now we have a steady stream of new leads coming in constantly and transition the majority of them into repeat customers.
How do you stay focused?
I am extremely consistent and self-motivated so I find it relatively easy to remain focused. This said, I like to keep a clean and organized inbox. I use folders for everything and once an email is dealt with, I file it immediately. I only leave things in my inbox that need to be dealt with. I also try to structure my time to complete a task before checking my email or moving along to something new. I also live for lists. I wouldn’t get anything done without them.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
At the end of the day, the service we offer is not entirely unlike what our competition offers but I believe how we do it is. Our communication and customer service is exceptional so every customer feels like a VIP (which they are). We have a sense of urgency about everything we do.
We also strive to make things easy for the people who hire us as well as the people who work for us. Lastly, we try to incorporate unique elements into our events, when we can, to further set us apart. This isn’t always possible if we are only staffing an event, but if we are concepting an experiential marketing campaign or planning an event, this is a great opportunity for us to showcase our capabilities.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Hands down, SEO has been the most effective marketing strategy to grow our business. We have gained approximately 100 more leads every year since we have invested in SEO over the year previous and close nearly 60% of them. It’s been absolutely huge for us.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Find a mentor! This will help you advance your growth much more quickly than trying to figure things out on your own. I didn’t find my first mentor until 8 years in. It was one of the things I had wished I had done sooner.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
App - LinkedIn - it helps me keep track of clients who come and go from the company’s we work with as well as market our business.
Blog - Search Engine Journal - I love reading about SEO since it has such a significant impact on our business.
Book - The Power Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie - this provides a common sense way of looking at the value of relationships to impact your business and career.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
I think our blog is my favorite resource. It brings in the majority of our income and new leads. We don’t simply write about whatever we want - we spend time on targeted keyword research and competitive analysis so our blogs will rank well and be easily found by people searching for that keyword. This is an extremely important part of our strategy.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I have a few but I think the owner of Training Business Pro’s would definitely be one of them. I started taking courses with them back in 2012 - and signed up for a 5-year membership.
Paul was a jazz musician for much of his career and had to find a new path after that career ended. He has been very successful in creating a successful digital marketing training company to help thousands of entrepreneurs and business owners. He’s made a huge impact on my life and my company.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We would like to launch a software platform that we have been developing for the past 18 months. This will help us to automate a large part of our business. We are also continuing our expansion into the United States. Aside from that, our focus will be on growing the business and our team.
How can our readers connect with you?