How I Got Here - Sarah Kay

Story MD and co-founder, Sarah Kay
Story MD and co-founder, Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay, co-founder and managing director of Story Events, started the business in 2013, previously heading up the team at agency Mask events. She talked to Event about switching careers from design to events, heading up a company at a young age and two contrasting interview scenarios.

What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?

I head up Story and have been here since we founded the business in 2013. My role is really varied and involves overseeing our main bespoke business at Story as well as Venue Search London, our venue finding project, Treasure Hunters, our team-building division and our exhibition The London Christmas Party Show.

Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?

After a short stint in design, I got my first job in the events industry at an agency called Silverleaf. It was a small agency and my role was very hands on – I learnt about the whole events process as well as how to generate new business, develop clients and make the business profitable. Working with Sean Doyle was invaluable as he introduced me to the weird and wonderful world of events and all the fabulous people in it.

How did you get from there to where you are now?

After Silverleaf I took a role at Mask, which was a fantastic creative business to be part of. I learned a lot from my boss Claire Pasquill and after she left in 2011 I took over her role heading up the business. That role catapulted my understanding of how to run a business, which helped hugely when we decided to start Story last year.

Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?

No,  definitely not. Being promoted to managing director at Mask was certainly not something I expected at that stage in my career. I feel proud to have achieved what I have, especially as when I left design I knew nothing about events. I have been very lucky and had some amazing opportunities but I have also worked extremely hard to get where I am.

Would you do anything differently?

I don’t think I would do anything differently. I think you learn from everything you do. I have experienced some really stressful moments along the way but I wouldn’t change how I reacted as now I know what to do when faced with similar situations. My experience has made me more confident of my abilities.

Who has inspired you along the way?

There have been a few people along the way that have inspired me and had a big impact on my career. Sean Doyle initially sparked my obsession with the industry – to this day we can still talk for hours about events. Claire Pasquill mentored me to become great at account management and knowing how to respond to situations and also made me believe I could become a good MD. My mum has also been a big influence; she has such a strong work ethic which I really admire so I’m not a stranger to hard work as a result.

Have you ever had a job interview that went particularly well or spectacularly wrong?

My interview process for the role at Mask was quite a funny one. My first interview with Claire was in a pub garden and involved lots of wine and my second with Sam Gill lasted about 15 minutes where he fired questions at me and then left. It must have been okay though as I got the job.

Is there a piece of career advice you’ve ever been told that has stuck with you?

My dad used to say to me, "If you’re good enough you’re old enough." I think I have come up against a lot of barriers with being in such a senior position at a young age and so I took this advice to heart and made sure that I was always very prepared, very knowledgeable and put the hours in to make sure I was successful so that no-one could criticise me for not being good enough.

What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

I guess that things won't always go to plan but they tend to work out so don’t get stressed about it. I was really thrown when I realised I didn’t want to stay in design - after doing a degree in the subject I just didn’t enjoy the industry. That has lead to me discovering events, which I completely love. I think I have the best job in the world in such an incredible industry and I feel very lucky for that.

How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?

Definitely go for a run – that keeps me sane. That and red wine.

Want to share your career story with us as part of the Women in Events campaignEmail news editor Samantha Edwards to feature in a future How I Got Here.

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