Dunbar brings this first-hand empathy into his new business, Take a Seat Events (takeaseat.events). His bespoke events management company creates and markets shows across London, working directly with venues and artists. Since the company’s founding in October of 2014, its shows already have earned recommendations by Time Out London and are regularly sold out. Not bad less than one year into the business.
The 23-year-old spoke with Name.Kitchen about his company and why you'll never hear him actually say "Please take a seat" to concertgoers.
Not many people can brag about launching a business at 23 years old.
Not coming from a background with money at all, I've literally built everything from nothing. I've always been very independent, pretty much as long as I can remember. I was a full-time caregiver for my mother, so that made me very mature from quite a young age.
You also have been surrounded by the arts – as a former musician yourself and with your job at the Leicester Square Theatre & Museum of Comedy. How did this exposure inspire your own business?
I'm very lucky to have a number of friends around me who are all creatives, be it comedians, people in bands, spoken word artists or whatnot. Many of them feel like they don't have the space to be creative. I know a lot of bands that have had to pay through the roof to play at venues and have been seriously out of pocket doing it. So the aim with Take a Seat was to really revolutionize that and to create something a little better.
By working directly with a couple of venues where it's not about me, taking all of the money. It's about really building a good connection with the venue. I've worked with many promoters in the past [when I was in a band]. It's a shame that the majority pass all financial risk onto the bands, while spending very little time on 'promoting' themselves. It's left us with a generation of musicians who, in order to perform their music, regularly have to 'pay to play' -- by buying say, 50 tickets for £5 each in advance from the promoter, and only receiving money if they sell beyond that. Usually promoters will create a poster for the event, perhaps list it on their website, but it's rare that anything more is done.
What do you do differently?
We put effort into all aspects of our promoting, including providing a session with a photographer to create a great flyer, which can be used for all future shows too. We utilize contacts at Time Out to make sure the word is out there. We use Facebook advertising, effectively run our social media and a mailing list.
But aren't you still serving as a sort of promoter or agent?
I would consider myself to be more of a networker than an agent. I work directly with the venue and, yeah, there's money in it for me. But to be honest, for me, it's more about the passion of making it succeed, rather than the money. If I were thinking of money then I would have to be doing events three or four times a week. Right now I do, probably about six a month. Hopefully that'll increase over time.
In a short period of time, you’ve already partnered with some cool venues for your events.
I've been very lucky to open a couple of amazing venues, yes, very central to London. I work with Proud, which is in Camden [a neighborhood in London], in a really quirky venue. They've got a 500-capacity main house, and then they've also got a 200-capacity Cabaret Room. Then there’s the Phoenix Artist Club.
Every single show that I've run with Time Out is a Time Out-recommended show, which is fantastic. I've only run a handful, but every time it's always Time Out-recommended, which obviously helps boost the name.
Speaking of the name, how'd you land on it?
I just loved the idea of when someone comes into a venue or into a new restaurant, they want to be welcomed. They want to be told, "Oh, come on in. Come, take a seat." The simplicity is what sells it. I really don't need to expand on when you say, "Take a Seat." You just get it automatically.
Has it doubled as a catchphrase for the business at all?
I find myself making a conscious effort not saying “Take a seat” to people when they arrive. I'm like, "Please come into the venue and find a chair," or something like that. I don't want it to be cheesy.
How did you take the business name online?
I Googled “Take a Seat,” and there were various ‘dot-co-dot-uk’ [.co.uk] websites available. I think they were, like, US$5,000 to buy the domain. Then I discovered that I could have ‘dot-events’ [.events] as another option, and I thought, "Well, this is fantastic, it's so condensed. I need this ‘dot-events.’ Perfect."
Why was it perfect?
It's quite obvious what it is. You know it's something to do with events, and it’s not limited to, say, just music or film or art. Pretty much all of the arts and culture scene can fit within ‘dot-events.’ And we’ve run a variety of things – from introductory singing workshops to live comedy.
So you weren’t bummed about not securing a ‘dot-co-dot-uk’ [.co.uk] domain?
As soon as I say, "Oh, I'm director of takeaseat.events," people definitely take it more seriously. They get the branding straightaway and think, "Oh, right. Yes, this obviously sounds very official and very proper." Whereas if I was to say, "It’s ‘take-a-seat.co. uk,’" it just doesn't have the right ring to it. That sounds very boring and formulaic.
Probably not the tone you want to set as a events company working with creative types.
Right. It’s great because you're creating your own new thing, and you're not fitting in with everyone else and all of their websites. You stick in people's minds ... "Oh, that's the company that has that interesting and unique website name."
Plus, if I [had chosen] something like ‘dot-co-dot-uk’ -- and if I was to end up doing something outside of the UK -- then it defeats the point of having ‘dot-co-dot-uk’ as a website. It just makes it more difficult branding-wise. But 'takeaseat.events' is applicable on a worldwide basis.
So you’re already thinking about an international expansion then?
My dream has always been to move out of the UK. [This business] is something that I'd love to take with me!
Learn more about this business by visiting the website www.takeaseat.events.