For a company whose entire business was built around providing audio visual solutions to live, face-to-face events, the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdowns proved the perfect storm.

Having just moved into a new warehouse facility on Bedford Commercial Park with clients including the public sector, well known brands and universities, 2020 was due to be the year Red Occasions Event Production started an exciting new era of growth.

But, with events and conferences cancelled indefinitely, clients requesting refunds and staff furloughed with no sign of any future work, director and founder Oliver Gee, was concerned for the future of the company he created upon leaving university.

Thinking creatively is what the company does best, and with extensive technical and event production experience already in house, an opportunity existed to turn the business towards virtual and hybrid events. Supported by SEMLEP, the company was able to work with a marketing agency to effectively pivot the business into a virtual and hybrid specialist. As this was a burgeoning new industry in its infancy, this opened up a new world of opportunities.

By recognising the power of livestreams and learning how to elevate webinars, virtual meetings and in particular virtual graduations, Red Occasions was able to establish itself at the forefront of the market; focusing on the output of virtual events, and ensuring the technical requirements were covered meant it was able to offer a level of service that many of its competitors were unable to match.

The company’s vision and nimble action, coupled with the ongoing support and guidance of a dedicated business advisor from SEMLEP’s Growth Hub meant it was no longer simply looking to survive, it was in a position to thrive.

Oliver commented: “We found ourselves in a position where we’d just invested heavily and moved into brand new premises, but we had no work. Previously all our work involved supplying lighting, sound, video and production to live events. Almost overnight, we had most of our current and future bookings postponed.”

We’ve got a strong technical basis and equipment capability within the business, therefore after identifying this opportunity, we set about reinventing the company as a virtual events specialist. We got in at the right time, and worked on some very technically difficult projects early on, allowing us to quickly establish ourselves as a go-to provider of virtual solutions for companies, organisations and universities looking to make the most of virtual technologies.”

SEMLEP gave us the confidence to invest in and grow our business, and with our new opportunities we required a large investment into equipment at a time when cashflow was our absolute priority. With SEMLEP’s support, we have been able to make a large investment of approximately £200,000 to rapidly expand and diversify our technical equipment holding. The support we received from SEMLEP was excellent and gave us the confidence we needed to invest and pitch for some major projects.

The company is now the chosen provider of multiple universities to deliver online graduation ceremonies for thousands of students. This required a further investment in recruitment, with three new members of staff joining the team as well as plans in place for further hires.

Universities were suddenly trusting us with the biggest event in their calendar” added Oliver. “Whilst a technical challenge, it has been a great privilege to deliver these events and be part of ensuring graduates still have that moment to celebrate.

As life begins to get back to normal after the pandemic, we are now in the perfect position to transfer across the skills and equipment we have been using in virtual events into the face-to-face environment and hybrid events. We’re looking to rapidly expand our offering and push ahead with our plans towards our next milestones, much quicker than we could have envisaged.

“I enrolled on the Growth Curve programme which gave me the opportunity to meet like-minded business owners and share thoughts, problems and ideas. This became a really important stimulus for the business as talking to your peers makes everything so much more relatable and gives you confidence in your decision-making.

“We have made the most of the funding available to us and invested wisely along the way, thanks in no small part to our business advisor Jacqueline who been a constant source of support from day one.

With the recent return of in-person events, Red Occasions is now seeing growth of live and hybrid events to compliment the virtual offering, and are looking forward to continued growth in the coming months and years.


Click here for more information about the Growth Curve programme.

Click here to learn more about Red Occasions Virtual, Hybrid & Live Event Services.