Event organiser Liz Taylor, aka the Millionaire Party Planner, has been a leader in luxury party planning for more than 35 years. She talks to Quays Life about delving into her little black book of celebrity clients to launch a brand a new podcast ‘Events That Made Me’, the events that made her, and staying in business during a pandemic.
Tell us about your new podcast?
Liz: “Events That Made Me is my lockdown labour of love and an exciting new 12-part podcast. I believe throughout all of our lives there’s one specific event that we can say affected the course of our journey. There certainly has been for me. Coupled with the fact that I spend a great deal of time getting to know the people that I work with and finding out what makes them tick, I felt there was a great way to share some of these events and experiences to help others. And so, my Events That Made Me podcast was born.
“Of course, to create one brilliant launch podcast during lockdown was not enough of a challenge for me! So, I created two. They launched together on June 3, 2020, and featured actress and star of Strictly Come Dancing, Catherine Tyldesley, and the inspiring and flamboyant royal florist, Simon Lycett.
“As founder and CEO of corporate and private event planners, the Taylor Lynn Corporation, I have worked closely with a wide variety of celebrities, business leaders, entrepreneurs and inspiring community leaders over my 36-year career. I have earned a little black book to be proud of. So, I opened the pages on those people who I felt had great stories to share. Expect a diverse mix of future guests! Next up, is Eamonn Holmes. A man who talks candidly about the pressures of being on television and staying at the top of the media game.
“Also, don’t miss out on the bonus episode with each podcast, called ‘Air Extension’. In this I explore and discuss key themes uncovered in the interviews. Looking at how you can use the advice given to benefit business or life goals”.
What is the event or events that made you?
Liz: “I have planned many events that I am proud of and made my professional name. Working with Gary Barlow, Children in Need and HRH The Duke of Cambridge to name a few. In personal terms, I think having my two daughters were moments in my life that changed my perspective. Again, when my first grandchild was born. These were times that I looked long and hard at myself and asked: ‘Are you happy Liz? If not – change something,’ And I did.
Can you tell us how you got your first break in the industry?
Liz: “A chance meeting at Manchester’s Midland Hotel gave me my big break. I was asked to organise their corporate client party. I had never planned an event on this scale before, but I was never one to shrink from a challenge. Seeing a gap in the emerging events management market, I set to work on my first professional event and received rave reviews.
“I’ve always been a natural entrepreneur and had just a few hundred pounds in the bank and my second daughter in tow, when I launched her own company, Liz Taylor Associates, in 1985. I later joined forces with industry colleague Dianne Lynn to form the wedding and event planners the Taylor Lynn Corporation in 1995. The partnership lasted until 2008, when I managed an amicable partnership buy-out. That same year I’m proud to say TLC bucked the recession by topping the £4M turnover mark”.
So, what went through your mind when you were asked, do you know anyone who can organise a client party?
Liz: “I knew straight away that I could do it, and to be honest, I knew that I could do it better than anyone else. I was brimming with confidence. My retail background had given me an eye for detail and creativity, and all the organisational skills needed”.
What was it that made you take the leap from that first venture to setting up your own business?
Liz: “It was the thrill. The buzz I got from the success of that first event and realising that I could make this into a business. Don’t forget there wasn’t an ‘events’ industry as it is now. Just a few event companies based in London. I saw an opportunity. I always had a passion for creating fabulous parties, so decided to put that passion to good use. Also, after the first event a number of the guests asked if I could organise events for them, so I knew there was a commercial appetite for it. They liked what I did, and I liked them telling me so!
“I set up using my savings and have never worked with investors – it’s been my own capital invested so that’s made it easier to keep in control of the business decisions and direction. I knew that I wanted to position the company at the top of the market and have remained there since. We may not be the cheapest, but we’ll deliver the best was always my mantra”.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew then, that you know now?
Liz: “That’s a really interesting question. I’ve always been confident in my own skills and ability, so I think it might be a greater understanding of the importance of a company’s financial resilience. Coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the event industry. It isn’t something we could have planned for, but in any business, the ability to be flexible and financially sustainable when something catastrophic happens is vital to survival”.
What’s the strangest event you’ve been asked to organise?
Liz: “Believe me, I have planned some events with packed with unusual requests. We recreated Venice in a Birmingham ballroom (the couple were engaged in St Mark’s Square), planned a Hell’s Angel themed wedding and weddings where pets are the best man and bridesmaids! Only the British bridal market! Three events really stick out though. We created a sensational celebration based on the Penny Dreadful stories; macabre and eerie. I loved the party based on Netflix hit series, Stranger Things, where we transformed underground tunnels in London. And I will never forget the duo of wedding events.
“It was strange because we had limited space, and so on one level we constructed a marquee with a Game of Thrones banquet. Above it, we built a second marquee with a breath-taking wedding reception. A two-day celebration with two completely different parties built on top of each other. A dreamy wedding was transformed into a medieval style party. It was immensely challenging but an exceptional event”.
What is the most unusual venue you used for an event?
Liz: “Hmmm. This is tough. I have planned events in railway arches, nightclubs, on beaches and mountaintops. Every sort of venue you can imagine. I like Victoria Warehouse for its sheer capacity and flexibility. The urban and industrial backdrops also lend themselves so many styles. Villa Ephrussi in southern France was special, as was the Venetian palazzo. But for unusual, it has to be the train on which I planned Antony Cotton’s birthday on. The East Lancs – a fantastic railway and a brilliantly fun venue”.
What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry over the past 30 years?
Liz: “There wasn’t an events industry as such 30 years ago…so I’ve seen huge changes. It’s now considered an industry for a start, with many universities offering event management courses. I don’t think I would have imagined that when I held my first event. The size of the sector, and the number of people involved in it is immense. It’s grown from a ‘cottage industry’ in the UK to what it was pre COVID-19 so that’s probably the biggest change”.
How can the event industry survive the current Covid-19 pandemic?
Liz: “Yes it certainly can. We will have to adapt and change our business models, and what our events look like but it will definitely survive. We have to adapt and be nimble in order to survive and ensure sound business planning at the same time. I have been working with lots of my peers and suppliers offering them advice and guidance throughout the pandemic and have been buoyed by the resilience and strength of character out there. We will have to change and adapt, and I wish I had the ability to look into the future so I could see exactly what the world will look like in 12 months’ time. As I don’t have that skill we have to work with what we’ve got and take small steps in line with government guidelines”.
What guests have you got lined up for the rest of Events that Made Me with Liz Taylor and are you already planning a series 2?
Liz: “We’ve got a fantastic line up including the renowned broadcaster and dear friend of mine Eamonn Holmes. We learn lots of things about Eamonn, and he’s such a great storyteller. I could listen to him all day. We have an eclectic mix of guests lined-up for this series. Comedians. Sportspeople. Businesspeople. Media personalities. Actresses. And yes, we are already recording a second series! Oh, and don’t forget the forthcoming book. Autumn will be busy for me”.
Hear more from Liz on Events That Made Me available at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and more.