Events Under Canvas was launched in September 2013. The mission was to create magnificent outside events under beautiful giant tipis and sailcloth tents. The company caters for events of all sizes from small garden parties, festivals and grand weddings. Today, it employs 30 staff during the summer season and retains a workforce of ten people all year round.
Events Under Canvas was founded by Jenna Ackerley. The inspiration for the business came while Jenna was on maternity leave. At her cousin’s wedding, she was awestruck by the beautiful tipis hired for the event. But discovered that these had come from the other side of London because there wasn’t a business in the East of England which offered them.
Prior to launching her own business, Jenna had been a manager at Ipswich Hospital and before that she had run a business in Europe recruiting seasonal holiday reps and nannies. Her career background provided plenty of business experience and a passion for customer service and sales. However, as the owner of a small fledging business, she did not have any budget for management development.
Jenna heard about the Women’s Leadership Programme through her mentor who thought it would be a good opportunity. As Events Under Canvas was still an early stage start-up business, Jenna was able to benefit from a fifty percent funded place on the programme; which helps women to strengthen their leadership skills, develop their confidence and grow their network.
The part-funded place is sponsored by The Blossom Charity, which supports women in the East of England to be the best they can be. It is open to female managers and directors working within social enterprises, charities, not-for-profit organisations and early-stage start-ups in the region. The aim is to make the course more accessible to local organisations which may not have had the budget to develop their talent pipeline in this way.
Jenna said: “I would not have been able to justify sending myself on the programme without the 50 percent funded place. I was delighted to be supported by the Blossom Charity to attend the programme and I would not hesitate to recommend it to other business leaders or aspiring entrepreneurs looking to improve their leadership skills and confidence.”
Jenna attended the programme in 2016 and in that year the business grew by 42 percent and in the following year by 60 percent. It has become an award-winning business, including being presented with the ‘One to Watch’ accolade at the 2017 East Anglian Daily Times Business Awards, and has had to move to larger premises in Capel St Mary to accommodate its continuing expansion. Jenna added: “I believe the programme, the mentorship and my own self-reflection has been a key success factor for Events Under Canvas’s growth. The responsibility of being a leader of a larger, busier team could have really taken its toll. I found the course immensely useful for my own development, confidence and support network. Taking the time out to really think about the kind of leader you want to be, to consider your own strengths and weaknesses in a safe environment, and having the freedom to indulge in self-reflection and ideas sharing was really brilliant.”