• Sara

Events with Sara...

Updated: Apr 12, 2018

Here's the interview published on the Leadership Styled website by the amazing Kirsty Mac:

Double S Events creates exciting, adventurous events which have earned award nominations and the approval of some of the design world’s most discerning audiences.

Founder Sara Seravalli’s pioneering exhibitions #DesignPopUp and #AmeetsA – Architecture Meets Art – brought together Scotland’s influential architecture and design communities and were hailed an outstanding success.

Sara’s expertise has been forged over more than a decade of creating, managing and hosting innovative gatherings for clients from across the Europe.

Double S Events specialises in bespoke experiences ranging from exclusive corporate soirées and executive dinners to full scale award ceremonies.

Product launches, venue openings, exhibitions – all created with the flair and attention to detail for which Double S Events is renowned. Delivered on time and on budget, no matter how complex.

Originally from Milan, Sara now works from her base in Scotland. Her Italian heritage is the inspiration for Il Ballo del Doge – a unique networking ball for the building industry in the style of the internationally renowned Carnival of Venice.

We were lucky enough to first meet Sara at a charity event in Aberdeen for Enable Scotland last year and couldn’t be happier to bring you her story…

LS: Could you please explain how Double S Events started and what it is you do.

SS: I founded Double S Events when I moved to Scotland just over 2 years ago. Previously I was in London where I met my husband, who’s Scottish, so after a year of long distance relationship we decided it was time to make the move. At the beginning I tried to look for work in Glasgow, and went through some interviews with a few companies but never received any offers.

The whole process was becoming quite frustrating and depressing, and I decided to start working on an idea I had in the back of my mind while waiting for the right job to come knock at my door.

After my first event, which I organised in Glasgow in March 2014, I decided to stop applying for jobs and give a chance to Double S Events.

Double S Events is an events company specialised in B2B events (exhibitions, networking, charity balls and fundraising initiatives, product launches, etc). We are targeting the building industry and the design communities in Scotland and North of England because that’s what I was doing in London and also because I love design, but I could really work for any market and sector. I have quite a varied background actually: while in Milan, I worked in many different sectors, from big sport events, to trade shows for the beauty industry, renewable energies, high-end and bespoke furniture.

LS: What is a typical day like for you?

SS: Mostly at the office, and unless I’m VERY busy, I tend to stick to the 9am to 6pm office hours. I don’t do mornings very well, and I struggle with after dinner working hours as well (unless I’m in the middle of an event…), but luckily I work very fast so I get everything done during the day.

LS: What would you say has got you to this point in your life?

SS: Having my own events agency has always been my dream, but I wasn’t planning on starting one as soon as I moved to Scotland because I wanted a steady job that would have allowed me to start making friends and meet people and create my own social circle. Sometimes life doesn’t follow your plans and you need to adjust and grab opportunities as they come along

LS: What have been your biggest life lessons?

SS: Get out of your comfort zone. Now if I come across a situation or an opportunity that makes me feel uncomfortable or that scares me, I force myself to go for it. Networking for example: it’s definitely not a natural skill of mine to just walk into a room and start talking to people I don’t know. But it’s a necessary “evil”, so I push myself and just do it. (still feels awkward though)

LS: This magazine focuses on leadership. Who has been a great leader in your life?

SS: My godfather: he is the most knowledgeable person I know and for 20 years until he retired he led the Italian Association of Publishers. While at University I did some temp work in his office: he is no softy but he was deeply respected and loved by his whole team as a firm but fair and very generous boss. Same applied to his colleagues from all over Europe. He is definitely a role model to me.

LS: When times are ‘not so good’, how do you lead? What processes do you put in place?

SS: I persuade myself to stay positive and never give up or despair. Over the years I learnt that there is always a solution to any problem and that things are very rarely as bad as they look at the beginning. So sometimes it’s just a matter of holding your breath and waiting for a better day to come. It always does. When you run your own business it gets very difficult at times because you can’t hide anywhere: if it fails, it’s all and only your fault. You need to keep going no matter what.

LS: When hosting a big event, what gets you through the day?

SS: I am a very organised person, so normally I would have everything scheduled to minimise chaos and stress and to keep everything under control. There is always something that goes wrong though, so you need to keep calm, prioritise, be flexible and deal with one situation at a time.

And after all the stress and the hours you have put in a project, you get to see all the smiling faces of your guests and hear what a great time they are having, and all of a sudden it’s all worth it. It is very rewarding.

LS: What challenges do you come across on a day to day basis?

SS: To remain focused and motivate myself even when I’d rather be having lunch on a beach in Italy instead of being stuck in my office looking at all the rain.

LS: What skills have you really needed in your industry?

SS: To be organised and flexible is really important. Also a certain level of creativity and curiosity doesn’t hurt. But to have good people’s skills is the most important element. You need to build strong relationships that last over the years with your customers, but at the same time you need to be able to be firm when needed.

LS: Best person you have ever worked with and why?

SS: I have been very lucky to work with some amazing people over the years: most of them are now my friends. It’s very hard to choose one as they all have something unique and amazing about them and how they work. My husband for example is the best I know at networking and has fantastic people’s skills. My best friend is the best mixture of professionalism and easy-going attitude: it’s just great fun to work with her but you know the job will be done. Could mention many more of them.

LS: What gives you courage?

SS: Looking back and see what I have managed to survive and achieve despite quite a few challenges and hurdles that I had to deal with over the years.

Again it’s a matter of getting out of your comfort zone: when you do and you realise that you have actually made it, the sense of achievement and boost to your self esteem is priceless.

LS: What brings out your dark side?

SS: Being tired and hungry and with very low energy levels. That’s when I lose the plot.

LS: What are you certain about?

SS: Happiness lies within yourself and if you work hard enough and never give up, you’ll get wherever you want to go.

LS: When you have a big day ahead, what would be your go to ‘lucky’ item, pair of shoes, lucky pants, favourite song?

SS: My husband – he is my lucky star.

LS: How do you create balance?

SS: Not sure I do…

LS: How do you stay calm?

SS: This is something I have learned over the years: when you are managing an event, the calmer you are, the easier it is to deal with all the unforeseen circumstances and challenges. I don’t have a choice but to stay calm or I’ll lose control and when you lose control you get yourself in trouble. Deep breaths, or I try to isolate myself for 5 minutes to recompose myself. Sometimes it doesn’t work though.

LS: What do you dream about?

SS: I dream of happiness and tranquillity.

LS: Who would employ you?

SS: Nobody I’m afraid. I don’t think I’m employable, not on a long term anyway. I have never worked for the same company longer that 18 months before I founded Double S Events. My last boss at Domus Tiles in London was the best one I have ever had because he was really patient with me and would allow me to speak my mind and work on my ideas, nevertheless I felt very frustrated at times as I wasn’t the one in control.

LS: What is taking up your thinking space right now?

SS: I have recently been selected to participate to Entrepreneurial Spark, a business accelerator program sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland: for the next six months it is all about how to scale the business and what’s the way forward. I have been doing very well so far, but it’s now time to press on the accelerator and grow bigger as I want and need Double S Events to be my job until I can retire in Tuscany.

LS: Favourite book on leadership/life/dream-making abilities?

SS: Open, Andre Agassi’s autobiography is one of the best books I have ever read… but probably mainly for the love story with Steffi Graf: does it still count?

LS: How would others describe you in 3 words?

SS: Driven, organised, conscientious.

#AmeetsA 2015 - The Gala Dinner

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