Serena Holmes Tigris EventsSerena Holmes didn’t start Tigris Events, the business she now runs – instead she worked her way up to the top position at the company over a period of 15 years. Holmes started at Tigris Events in 2004 as a young woman fresh out of university and slowly worked her way to the top position of President & CEO. After so many years working in the event world, Toronto, Canada-based Holmes says its the diversity of the work Tigris Events does that keeps her hooked. 

Holmes’ story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:

Unlike some other entrepreneurs, I actually didn’t start the business I own and operate. I graduated from university in 2004 and was looking for extra work. I was hired by Tigris as a brand ambassador shortly after the company was created. Within a few months, the founder asked me to come on board as an account manager. I was offered partnership the year later – then bought her out when she decided to leave the company unexpectedly in 2008. I had done promotional work throughout university so it became a great back up plan when the career I had studied in school didn’t work out. Now here I am more than 15 years later!

I don’t think success can be attributed to one thing only. From a business perspective, success is meeting and exceeding our client’s goals and objectives while giving work opportunities to thousands of young professionals across the country. While the work itself may not feel entirely fulfilling, these overarching things do. Right now we have a handful of goals. We have been trying to figure out a software solution to automate part of our business but haven’t yet found one that will satisfy all of our needs. We even invested a lot of time/money to build a custom platform but that didn’t work out as planned. I think that is one of my biggest regrets but I’m optimistic we will find something eventually.

On the personal side, having control over my schedule with the freedom and flexibility to come and go as needed and take holidays when I want is great. While I worked my tail off for the first 10 years, I have a much better work life balance now. I also have the ability to offset some expenses through the business and can take advantage of some unique investment opportunities which I feel will lead to long term financial freedom. All of that is success to me.

On the business side, there have been many successes so it’s hard to choose just one. We have won 11 awards since 2014 which is huge to be recognized for our work. We surpassed one of our biggest sales goals in 2015 and have been growing steadily ever since. We have launched in the United States and are continuing to grow there. On the personal side, I was able to pay off the mortgage on my home at the beginning of 2017. That was a big goal for me to do in just over 10 years. Now I’m able to use my home equity line of credit for lots of strategic, passive income opportunities as an added revenue stream to Tigris.

One of our top challenges has been accessing credit. For the most part, clients have been really great about issuing deposits – but all of the sudden, in the past year, several have resisted paying deposits at all. Some clients have been pretty significant and still won’t pay a deposit. As such, we’ve applied for a bigger line of credit which was turned down by our primary bank even though we had contracts in place to support the need for it. Fortunately, I have a large personal line of credit to fall back on but it’s not entirely ideal to mix business with personal if I don’t need to.

I don’t feel I’ve had any significant personal situations that have affected the business or any associated decisions. This said, I believe commuting is a huge waste of time so I opted to place the business within a 5 minute drive from my house. The time I’m not spending commuting, I’m generally working. The downside to this is that since we aren’t in the downtown core, sometimes it can be challenging to attract top talent.

I don’t really have a role model per se. Instead, I have worked with a handful of mentors over the past several years who have helped me make sense of the business, given advice to help grow, manage operations, employees and scaling. I think anyone who donates their time like this is someone who should be admired.

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