Hannah-Natalie O’Sullivan was keen to find a better way to bring together the community from across different sectors – so in 2015, she decided to bring Glug, a not-for-profit event that started in London, to Leeds to give people a platform to showcase their business from. Here she explains what makes Glug so well-suited to Yorkshire.
Tell us about your business.
Glug is a community-focused, not-for-profit event that looks to champion creatives from around the world and bring them together in one community. It started in London with two guys – Nick Clement and Ian Hambleton – but there are now 14 Glugs around the world, with events in New Zealand, Beijing and New York.
One of my friends was promoting the London event on LinkedIn and I thought it was really cool. I asked whether there was one here because I went to university in Leicester so all my network was in the Midlands and I really wanted to have something in Leeds. Nick Clement saw my post and asked me whether I wanted to have a crack at creating a Glug in Leeds.
I knew that for my first event, I wanted someone who I had heard speak and who had inspired me. I instantly thought of Jonathan Sands Chairman at Elmwood, which is billed as the most successful branding agency in the world established in Yorkshire. I sent him an email explaining that I’d been inspired by one of his talks and would love for him to speak at the inaugural Glug in Leeds. He said yes – a major coup for our first event.
We did our first event in March 2015 at the Belgrave Music Hall we got 200 attendees and we were totally blown away. It’s just gone on from there, our remit has always been that we want to shine a light on Northern talent.
We don’t want to foster the North-South divide but as a Leeds event we want to bring together businesses and exciting projects to really showcase what’s happening up North. It gives people a platform and the confidence to really go out there and be proud of what they’re doing.
Glug has organically become something that isn’t just for creatives – we get a lot of web developers and digital people coming along to our events for the networking and the talks.
What inspired you to start it up?
It was quite a personal thing for me. I’d worked in marketing for a number of years but I didn’t really have a team and I felt kind of on the outside of the other creatives. So I really wanted an event that wasn’t just big agencies talking, I wanted something that was about individuals too.
The event was always about connecting individuals with the community without feeling intimidated. Often at networking events you get a lot of people that feel on the sidelines if they’re on their own, so I wanted something individuals could feel comfortable going to alone.
Martin Farrar-Smith, who co-hosts with me, came on-board because there was just nothing like Glug in Leeds, we also have Matt Rennie and Emma Sibbles as part of our small but effective team.
Why does tech interest you / How did you get into tech in general?
It was something I fell into because of the developments happening in Leeds. At the minute I work for a telecoms company that serves very niche areas. Being a marketer, you have to be involved in most areas to do your job, and one of those is now tech.
Leeds has a big driving force for tech. Whether it’s because Leeds is cheaper or it’s just easier, we’ve got a lot of tech companies and start-ups. Loads of people are leaving the big companies to start up on their own, and it’s happening quite organically.
What does Leeds have to offer, as a city, to tech businesses?
In the last year, I’ve seen a lot more collaboration with people from different specialisms. Leeds has a really good infrastructure. There’s a lot of investment in physical infrastructure but there’s also a lot of support here for businesses because there’s a lot of people who set up their own business five-ten years ago. That means there’s a fantastic network of established entrepreneurs to help new start-ups, and a good spread of sectors too.
It’s not just all the creatives together in one corner, and all the developers in another, people are collaborating. The city is a great platform to put yourself or your business on at the moment.
What are you excited about for the tech and digital scene in Leeds?
I’m excited about the collaboration and seeing the businesses I’ve worked with get the recognition they deserve. I’d also love Leeds to become successful in its own right and I can really see that coming through and people are really getting behind it and championing it. I think that’s going to happen more and more, and I’m really pleased to see it.
The Leeds Digital Festival really showed the amount people willing to support the city, and put their neck on the line to put an event on. It’s really nice to see people putting their money where their mouth is and that’s something that has grown in the last 12 months or so.
I really want to see young people get involved while they are at university, before they are graduated. Networking can be daunting, but meetups like Glug are a great way for them to meet people that can be of use to them and their career.
What advice would you give for people looking to start up a business in this sector?
A lot of people who are setting up businesses ask about the networking events and which to go to. I think you need to go to a wide spread of business and community events. In Leeds especially, it’s so much about networking and meeting people. Don’t be on the hard sell, just be passionate and talk about what you do, people will remember the person more than the product.
Favourite Yorkshire eatery/bar?
My favourite place to eat is the Ox Club, but I also love Ciao Bella in Brewery Wharf. It’s a little family-run Italian that I’ve been going since I moved to Leeds eight years ago.
What tech do you use?
Working in marketing, I use a lot of things like Buffer and Latergram, but I am on most social media channels. I recently discovered Snapchat, thanks to my apprentice, and I use software like Slack to stay in touch with people for work.
Top 3 films?
I’m an 80’s child so my top film is always Labyrinth, but I also love Blade and Donnie Darko.
What do you drive?
A KIA Sportage.
Perfect Sunday Breakfast?