How I got where I am today: Events director

Published: 24 Oct 2014

Where are you from?
Banchory. I grew up at the foot of Scolty Hill. Spending my younger years with Scolty and the surrounding hills is the most fantastic playground a child could have.

What did you want to be when you were young?  
A nurse, I remember using shoe boxes for my dolls, placing the boxes in rows pretending they were my patients.

What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
On the day I left school I flew to America and worked at a summer camp in New Jersey, and on returning to Scotland I moved to Edinburgh to commence my registered general nurse training at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh. Once qualified, on a very dull, wet and cold Sunday afternoon, I made the decision to go travelling. Three weeks later I was on a plane to Australia.

Mhairi Morriss

Wow. What did you do once you got there?
I only nursed for three weeks, then a different challenge came my way in the form of work at a race-horse stud, riding the newly broken-in horses up to the point of their first race. Riding up to seven horses a day I managed to get blisters in places you really don’t want to know.

Ouch. So what did you do after?
On returning home a year later I knew I wanted a change of career from nursing. For the summer I worked as a lifeguard at the outdoor pool in North Berwick. It did not turn out to be the Baywatch dream I was hoping for as the weather was so bad the council issued us with unflattering bright orange oilskin jackets.

I once again returned to the classroom, this time to embark on a business studies course. Combining my nursing and business qualifications I worked as commercial manager for the British Red Cross in Edinburgh and in my spare time I organised a fund-raising ball, The Hot Cross Bouncing Bunny Ball.  I remember standing in the middle of the dance floor at 2am surrounded by 500 people all having a fantastic evening and that was my light-bulb moment. I made this happen, I enjoyed the process and I knew I could do it better than others. Events management – my course was set.

Match Point Hospitality and Event Management was my next port of call. Working on exciting, adrenalin-fuelled events such as the European Mogul Challenge, a series of head-to-head skiing bump races in the Alps, British Beach Volley Ball Championships, World Doubles Tennis Legends Tournament, Edinburgh Softball League and Golf Days.

Drawn to the impact brilliant marketing can have on a business and a hunger to sharpen my growing skillset, I joined Drambuie Liqueur Company as a member of their marketing team. I thrived on the responsibility for Drambuie’s presence at The London Ski Show, GQ Active Show, CLA Game Fair, Scone Game Fair, and Tax Free World Exhibitions in Hong Kong and Cannes.

Sounds fantastic. What next?
By now my appetite was whetted. I wanted total responsibility for the events in my charge and I took the leap. I parted from Drambuie to go self-employed, trading as MAP55 Event Management. Now I was where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do, and doing it very well. Xerox UK was my first client. Jobs included exhibitions, product launches and training days. For six months I managed the Xerox Showliner Project, a mobile exhibition lorry travelling round the UK, from Inverness to Exeter, visiting 36 venues including castles, car parks and airports. Another aspect of the event was launching their new products from the Bafta Theatre in London with simultaneous satellite down links to Xerox offices all over Europe.

So that must take us up to your current job?
After a career break to have a family the call to return to my first passion, making “it” happen for others, was too much to resist. The summer launch of my new start-up, JOMM Events, catapulted me back into the driving seat, delivering a precision-perfect event management service to the corporate sector.  

Whether conferences, cocktail parties, award ceremonies, away days, product launches, golf days, clay shoots or  venue finding JOMM Events has the crystal clarity of understanding, strategic industry knowledge, professionalism to raise your game to the next level.  Customers want their events to be a sought-after fixture on the social calendar, and that’s where I come in.  We have had a flying start, co-ordinating nine events for our first client. Aside from JOMM events my sights are already on a bit of fun and adventure along the way with the setting up and creation of a ladies shooting club. The inaugural clay shoot will be on the November 23 at Raemoir House Hotel.

What’s your pet hate?
People not doing their best when clearly they have the ability to do the task so much better than they have, and people being continually negative.

What advice have you ignored?
Don’t work too hard. I am very lucky in that I do love what I do so it can be very easy to forget to slow down sometimes.

Best achievement so far?
Running the Cape Wrath marathon, being 19th overall and first lady home in 3hours, 48minutes and 27 seconds. The event includes a ferry crossing and some 2,500ft of climbing, making it one of the most unique courses in the UK.

What do you want to achieve in the rest of your career?  
For JOMM events to be successful, gaining clients by recommendation and reputation, to work hard and have a heap of fun along the way.

What's your idea of the perfect retirement?
Being outside enjoying the glorious seasons that Scotland has to offer, the dragonflies dancing on the Dragonfly Pond at Culbin Sands in the summer, endless walks surrounded by the warm, golden autumnal colours of the endless harvested fields in the Deeside countryside, skiing midweek without ankle biters whizzing past far faster and with far more style than I will ever have, and having time to sit still in the middle of our beautiful garden appreciating the amazing surprises that a spring garden brings.

What have you actively tried to avoid in your career?
Being stuck in a rut. Clients are looking for that something different so I have found the perfect career, as each project is unique.

What's your best career advice?    
Keep going until you get to where you want to be. You may not know where that is until you get there.  If you are really not happy it is only you that can make the change.

Is there any day in your career you would like to live again?
Being flown to Paris for dinner as a thank you from a grateful client.

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