‘I love the journey of beginning with an idea and seeing it all come together’
Starting your own company is a brave decision, and the road to success is fraught with difficulty. So, why do business leaders start their own companies and what are they aiming to achieve when all is said and done? We spoke to Matthew Shaw, Founder and Creative Director at sauveur. about their journey in business.
When did you establish your first business and what inspired you to set it up?
sauveur. was founded in 2020 during the pandemic. I was made redundant from my previous job during an incredibly challenging time for our industry, and many others. I was confident that vibrant live events would return and saw first-hand people’s desire to come together and celebrate milestone occasions and to share in an experience together.
The inspiration for launching sauveur. is heavily based on my experiences at the time. I imagined a people-led agency that focused heavily on the human aspect of events. Our clients and guests through to our team members and suppliers were at the heart of my plans.
Our first live event took place the day restrictions were lifted for the final time and it was an incredible feeling seeing so many people come together after so long and that moment is what we aim to recreate with every event we do.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur or did the desire develop over time?
I have always had the desire to create things and that developed into an entrepreneurial spirit. I enjoy the freedom of it despite the challenges that come alongside it. Events themselves operate like small companies and I produced large events at university which gave me my first taste of this.
I loved the journey of beginning with an idea, working through all the details and creative approach, and finally seeing this all come together for hundreds of people. It’s a feeling that never gets old!
I certainly knew that I wanted to run my own agency although the pandemic accelerated the timeline slightly. During that period there were little to no job opportunities, so I decided it was time to go for it.
Launching an events agency at a time when your service isn’t actually viable was definitely unorthodox, but I believe we tapped into a sense of longing for what was to come and were then well-placed when restrictions were lifted, and people could come together again.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
I decided to launch in November 2020 as the general consensus was that we were coming to the end of the pandemic and restrictions, only for the UK’s longest lockdown and ban on events to be announced a few weeks later.
Beyond being a very unnerving time, it was incredibly challenging as we had no way of keeping up the momentum from our launch. We weren’t planning any events we could talk about, and any business outreach felt insensitive given the situation at the time.
There were definitely times throughout this period where I felt I had made a huge mistake and any interest in us would fizzle out before we could even get going. Patience and prudence were key. I made sure any of our outgoing expenses were as low as possible and worked on consulting for other larger agencies to ensure cash flow.
It was frustrating not being able to do what we set out to deliver but we were in the same boat as many others and survival was required.
A wider challenge that we face is the important requirement to ensure events can be as sustainable as possible. There is a huge amount of wastage in the industry and this is something we are acutely aware of.
The one-off nature of events does not lend itself to a sustainable approach but this has to change to ensure what we do remains viable moving forwards. We are working closely with our suppliers, reviewing our practices, and taking the time to communicate this clearly to our client to ensure the decisions we are making are leading us in the right direction. This is an ongoing challenge that remains ever-present and one that requires constant thought and work.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you first started out?
I wish I’d had a more flexible approach to how and when you work. It sounds simple but when you create a business, having previously been an employee, I very much approached it as a nine-to-five format.
Whilst it has developed into a more structured job, your early days can be much more varied. There can be busy periods but also quieter periods and it’s okay to follow that flow and adapt the way you work.
I found it very disconcerting trying to create a traditional workday and would have been much better placed telling myself that it’s okay you’re not busy today and to make the most of it by doing something else.
Structure is great and can be very helpful but in the young days of a new business it can be tricky to fit the mould and it’s important to be honest with yourself about that and make the most of a more fluid working schedule.
What is your top tip for other entrepreneurs?
Get your foundations in place before pushing go. What stood us in good stead was having all the tools we needed to work prepared and ready before we started trading. This, of course, depends on your sector but every business will have a certain set of tools, processes, and documents needed to run smoothly.
I spent most of my time before launching working out what these were and creating versions that worked for me and the business. This ensured that once we went live, we were able to move quickly both internally, and in front of clients. Whilst this may be less exciting than the overall vision and look & feel of what you want to do, that won’t matter if the business cannot run smoothly.
What are your plans for the future?
In the short term, my main focus is to secure the business against potential unknowns on the horizon. As a luxury services business, we are all too aware of the potential risks we face with costs of living crises and continued economic uncertainty. Our experience during the pandemic has definitely imparted a sense of caution in ensuring we are well-prepared for any eventuality.
In the longer term I want to harness our expertise in creating incredible experiences and look towards doing more live entertainment. Creating and delivering fantastic shows is one of my favourite parts of the job and I would love to develop this further outside of the events we currently produce.
What would you like your legacy to be?
We are in the very privileged position of having a role in key milestone moments in people’s lives. From weddings to life celebrations, we accompany our clients in creating something truly special for them and get to know them, their families, and their friends along the way.
I like to think that each event we deliver forms a part of our legacy and our clients will have fond memories of the time spent together planning and creating such important moments for them. I went into this business wanting to create extraordinary experiences and memories for people and that is exactly what I would like our legacy to be.