Serena Holmes is the President & CEO of Tigris Events, a multi-award-winning brand experience agency specializing in dynamic personnel, promotions, marketing, and events. She’s been awarded Canadian Events Professional of the Year by CV Magazine and has worked with major brands such as Apple, Facebook, and Burt’s Bees. Over the last 15 years, Serena has executed over 12,000 successful brand-building events.
She first started her career in event marketing in 2000. In 2004, she joined Tigris and bought out the founder 4 years later. She now manages over 9 full-time employees and 2,000 part-time staff across the country. Outside of her career, Serena is passionate about travel, wildlife, sustainability, and philanthropy.
Tigris has been recognized as one of the top event planning agencies and has won several awards. What sets Tigris apart from other agencies?
It’s not what we do that matters but how. We offer our clients quick and clear communication (our goal is an hour or less to reply!) and go above and beyond to deliver their needs and meet/exceed their expectations. We are in the people business and are great at people. They want to work with us to be easy and excellent!
You initially started working at Tigris and then made the decision to buy out the founder four years later. What brought on this decision?
Looking back, we had already invested so much time and built a great reputation for ourselves. I was confident I’d be able to build on the foundation we’d started and be successful. I also wasn’t sure what else I’d do with myself if I wasn’t in this industry. While I work hard, I also really love the flexibility that comes with running your own business.
Tigris has a focus on brand marketing and promoting businesses through event planning. What can you tell us about the importance of brand and business marketing that can contribute to the success of a company?
Every business is different and what we do for other businesses varies a bit from what we for ourselves. For and food/beverage, consumer packaged goods and technology, getting your product in the hands of your consumer is pivotal to drive awareness, sales and growth. For us, as a service-based business, we benefit more from digital marketing, namely organic SEO. Our efforts in this area have more than quadrupled our business in recent years by being available for businesses looking for our services.
What are some of the strategies you use when it comes to helping companies plan events that can promote their business and brand?
It honestly depends on where we come into the equation. Event staffing is still a huge part of our business. On that front, we are still “planning” events but doing so in tandem with brands, businesses or other agencies. We strive to secure staff who meet the brand profile – both personality and presentation – so we can execute the events. On the planning side, we have been involved in product launches, grand openings, street festivals and special events. It’s important to incorporate innovative ideas to interact with your consumers to create long-lasting unforgettable experiences. The more emotion you can provoke from a brand experience, the better.
What would you say is the biggest challenge when it comes to planning events that focus on brand building?
Some of the biggest challenges can stem from budget limitations. Creating unique experiences is not inexpensive and depending on how far you want to scale the event, you could face restrictions if your budget is not flexible enough. In addition, there is a lot of competition especially in environments like a street festival or trade show so you have to work that much harder to try to stand out
In your expert opinion, what is the number one benefit that brand building and business promoting events can have on an entrepreneur? How can it contribute to their success?
Brand building and promotion are all about creating awareness and credibility. The more familiar people become with your brand, who you are and what you stand for – the easier it is to build trust and ultimately, attract the kinds of opportunities that will contribute to success.
As a dynamic leader who has built a successful award-winning business, what advice can you give to entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs can significantly benefit from mentors or coaches who can help them get to their goals faster rather than struggling to figure things out for themselves and often times, making costly mistakes. I’ve had 4-5 mentors over the past several years and my only regret is not finding them sooner.
On a final note, what has been the biggest accomplishment of your professional career? What are you most proud of?
Great question! There are many things – but I think I am most proud of being recognized as business clients and team members alike can depend on. When I worked as a brand ambassador in the early days of my career, it was easy to be taken advantage of or see the same of others. A company could promise you one thing then do another. At Tigris, we have offered hundreds of thousands of hours of work to young adults – and pride ourselves on paying them well/quickly and being true to our word with anything we intend to deliver. Integrity and trust should be a given but unfortunately, this isn’t consistently the case.