Women in Business: Kerry Bannigan, Nolcha Shows


Today is International Women's Day, and to mark this special day I've spoken to British native Kerry Bannigan, a trailblazing entrepreneur who has pioneered events and initiatives in fashion and retail to drive economic change, impact small business and spearhead social good.

Kerry’s leading expertise in event management, strategic marketing and business development combined with her passion for supporting entrepreneurship and philanthropy has gained her international media recognition in NBC, Forbes, CBS, BBC, Fox, New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Wall Street Journal.

Kerry’s diverse acumen and vision has led her to an active role in executing government initiatives with the United Kingdom, Turkey, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; including selected by the UK Trade and Investment with the British Embassy to forefront the Fashion is GREAT campaign with Harvey Nichols Istanbul and recently produced events for the Global Sustainable Development Goals at the General Assembly.

In 2006 Kerry Co-Founded Nolcha Events; a New York City based award-winning creative events production agency focused on the fashion, retail and social impact sectors; with a client portfolio that includes New York Stock Exchange EuroNext, Yelp, G8 Young Summit and Procter & Gamble. Kerry is the Executive Event Producer for the Media for Social Impact and Nexus Youth Summit held annually at the United Nations.

In 2007 Kerry created the Nolcha Shows; a leading event for independent fashion designers to showcase to press, retailers and industry influencers during New York Fashion Week; as seen in Entrepreneur, Lucky, WWD, Bravo and MTV and supported by world renowned brands including smartwater, Landrover and American Airlines.

Nolcha Events

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I come from a working class family and a small industrial UK town that offered very little opportunity when I was growing up. I witnessed sweat, blood and tears by hard working parents to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. I was taught no matter what to be kind, be confident, believe in yourself and never be imitated by boundaries. Education was my weapon to get into university in another town and to continue my life experience. I have grasped every opportunity in life with both hands and never looked back. I have a huge desire to travel and all of my adventures have taught me so much from different cultures, countries and outlooks…it pushes you to open your mind and in time open your heart.

Through my life experiences I now place a great value on people in my work life and strive to lead my team not only to professional success but to personal growth and to learn to embrace both together. My experiences have taught me to be patient and understanding as you never know what scars somebody carries or what they are experiencing and why; do not judge and make people feel as safe as possible so that they can jump off of the cliff with you and feel their wings carry them to success.

How has your previous experience aided your tenure at Nolcha?

I co-founded Nolcha at 23 years old, after graduation in the UK and moving to New York City. At 16 years old I worked with the terminally ill and elderly as this was typical for young girls in my town at the time, this taught me compassion and to live life with no regrets. I went on to work in events, marketing and sales throughout my education and knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and build a platform as a voice for the unheard. This ended up being a platform in the fashion industry for independent fashion designers to launch and be recognized.

What have been the highlights and challenges?

The highlights are endless but some key memories are being chosen to head up a fashion program created by the British government in Istanbul for independent fashion designers, TV appearances on networks such as NBC representing fashion entrepreneurship, every time a social impact campaign I work with reaches a milestone and seeing our business featured in Times Square when digital coverage became a big reality.

There are always challenges but nothing that I do not take into my stride, solve and learn from. As a woman in business there are the challenges that we read of often such as gaining respect for your vision and more so for myself as I was a 23 year old female immigrant…however that challenge is over and I find the USA to be an excellent place to make my dreams happen. As the business owner it comes with challenges of funding at the start, team management and surrounding yourself with trustworthy hardworking people.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

Whether as a combination of fashion and events or separately both are industries that require thick skin, ability to work long flexible hours and to be a people person. Always gain experience via internships/temp job to make sure this is what you want. Be prepared for dealing with very creative personalities and have a mentor within the industry as times will be frustrating and you need somebody to guide you that understands the sector you are in.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

People are key to making your dreams come true. Treat everybody equally, respectfully and with patience and compassion. Nothing is achieved alone so always remember to take a moment and appreciate those people around you – both personally and professionally.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

For a long time I did not as I worked day and night to grow my business and I loved every part of it. In order for more time in my personal life I needed to expand my team and have somebody I trust to share my workload which is never easy as the founder. Today I have a fantastic right hand person who allows me to take time to enjoy what I have worked so hard for. I have now learnt that I am a better person for the team, my clients and loved ones when I embrace work/life balance. Whether Broadway, dinner or a walk in the park quality time with people is important and should never be replaced with work.

I make sure to read when I wake up and always at night to unwind. I keep a gratitude journal and I take time to make plans with loved ones and completely block out work. No phone where possible during these catch ups!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Understanding and believing in our value. We nurture everybody else but neglect ourselves, speak up for others but forget our own voice on important topics of pay, bonuses and ideas. Sometimes we feel so lucky to have the opportunity that we do not share our concerns.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentorship teaches me to look outside of a situation from several perspectives and deal with things more collectively and focused. It pushed me to understand the importance of work/life balance positively impacting both my professional and personal life. Having a trusted voice always there to listen and advice is invaluable even if found via several people.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Leaders are set by our own definition. To me this is my mother and my grandmothers who have taught me life is to be lived, hard work pays off and to never forget where you come. These simple lessons are important to my daily ethics and continued success. I have learnt more over cheese on toast with a cup of tea with my gran’s then in some leadership conferences!

Being raised in a country with a Queen at the helm and a strong history of them I always believed as a little girl it was possible for me to do anything and to this day I still admire our Queen’s – even if for nothing more than making me believe a girl from a small town could have huge impact too if she dared to dream.

What do you want Nolcha to accomplish in the next year?

I want Nolcha to continue to support female fashion designers from around the world to launch in New York City and be a voice and a place for them to unveil their work, expand their businesses and to grow professionally and personally. Nolcha will continue to strive to support social impact campaigns as we produce their summits and conferences; bringing people together for live experiences and watching major action and positive impact is an incredibly inspiring role to play.

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