‘Making people’s events magical is a passion’ | Vicky Meets
Vicky meets... Orlando Vaughan, managing director at Lewis Marquees.
• What’s the history behind Lewis Marquees?
The company dates back to 1830. It was founded by the Lewis family, rope and sack makers who were based in King Street, Emsworth. Later they moved into making curtain sides for trucks, and then marquees, especially for the Navy in Portsmouth. In 1997 the business was incorporated. I joined in 2008, initially as a labourer and then as a shareholder and director from 2014. In 2015 my friend Tom Greene joined as a co-director. Tom left in 2018 to study law, but stayed on the team. Tents are a bit addictive – you get the bug!
• What did you do before you got the tent bug?
I was a singer-songwriter trying to be the next big thing, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I did. But I really did love doing the tents between gigs. For the most part you’re out in the sunshine with a good bunch of lads and the finished result is incredible. It took about a year to sort out the purchase. Owning the business means that the stress is different, especially this year when you’re trying to cram two years of work into three months.
• How was lockdown for your business?
I rather enjoyed the sabbatical of lockdown. As a team we pulled together and worked really hard. Marlon stayed on running sales and Lynne, our office manager, was on flexi-furlough. Our guys were all furloughed. Furlough saved us. We didn’t make a single lay off. But then a guy I was at university with called me. A video of a nurse crying because all the panic buying had left NHS staff like her with no basics to buy in supermarkets had gone viral. My friend set about organising pop-up grocery stores at hospitals for NHS staff. We supplied the marquees. We got a commendation from our industry regulator and I am really proud of the work we did on this and on other NHS projects during Covid. Also, my son was born on February 3 in St Richard’s Hospital. The midwives were great, and so it was nice to give something back. I also got to see my son’s first year, which would never have happened during normal times, so I count my blessings.
• Which bit of your operation was hit hardest?
Weddings. We did just two or three tiny weddings last summer. Next year there are so many – we have one week next June that has six postponed weddings scheduled! But making people’s events magical is a passion, so we’ll put the same huge effort into making sure every event goes well, whether wedding, fete, school prom or corporate event. Our communication and forward thinking is often praised. We can also manage entire events, providing everything from generators and chairs to lighting, dance floors and stages.
• And a wedding singer?
If I had the time I might consider it! I did serenade my wife on our wedding day though.
For more information visit www.lewismarquees.com