Boom! The moment I’d pictured and carried around with me for 18 months had arrived. Five minutes earlier I’d been the Pied Piper backstage with the young generation. Waiting for the first few bars of the opening number. Now I was centre stage. Dressed in a Barnumesque costume complete with Top Hat and cane, red tails and fish nets, basque and boots. In the middle of a sea of super talent. Dancers from PW Performers who’d opened The Execs Factor to This is the Greatest Show. It was a pinch-me before I wake up moment. The dream was a reality.
I knew my mum would be proud. I knew my daughter was proud. I was on the stage at the Hilton Metropole because of them. My mum Monica died at the age of 31 of complications caused by Crohns. I was 2 years old. Then I became a mother. And history repeated itself. In reverse, as my daughter Megan was diagnosed with Crohns in 2013. Aged 15. She spent 3 months on a liquid diet while revising for her GCSEs.
Boom! Welcome to my nightmare of guilt, panic attacks and a severe crisis of confidence. Two years of living in Dante’s inferno. Who wants to hang out with demons forever? Not me. So I launched my own business. Spoken. And started to create beautiful brands. And produce engaging websites. I stepped out of a downward spiral and stepped into the Brighton business community.
What a tonic. New people. New challenges and new opportunities. I reconnected with myself again. Hello Lisa. I decided to confront Crohns head on, raise awareness of the condition and fundraise for Crohn’s & Colitis UK. With a little help from my friends.
I met Leah Mooney at BNI. We clicked. So much so that she agreed to write a madcap alternative tongue-in-cheek panto starring a hotch potch of Brighton business owners and friends. They were all more than happy to leave the boardroom behind for two nights to be Ugly Sisters, Princesses, Dwarfs, Widow Twankie, Voldy, an Evil Queen & Sidekick, Genie, Chav Cinders, Buttons, an Internet Troll, Maleficent and a Fairy Godmother.
Hi Ho! Tycoons in Tights raised £4,000 over two nights. I was delighted. It was a success. But it wasn’t an extravaganza. I wanted my next venture to make an indelible mark. I wanted it to tingle with twinkling lights and ticker-tape. White smoke. Glitter. Glitz. Glamour. Sequins. Sparkle. Celebrity. Singing. Dancing. I pictured an evening of unadulterated entertainment that would be The Greatest Show London-by-the-Sea had ever seen.
I was inspired by the story of Phineas Taylor Barnum. The mastermind of a circus that came to be known as The Greatest Shown on Earth. Which became the inspiration behind The Greatest Showman. A 2018 blockbuster with box office sales of $435 million. An original musical that celebrated the birth of show business and told of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. Forget big thinking. I had my giant thinking Top Hat on.
The idea of the Execs Factor was a blatant X-Factor spoof. Not that I thought Simon Cowell would mind for one minute. 8 acts. 4 judges. 2 presenters. I writer. And me. The Ringmaster (or Mistress). Hand picked from the local Brighton business community.
Hands up those who’ve never sung their fave song in front of a mirror. We’ve all done it. When no-one’s watching. The Execs Factor was an opportunity to perform in front of a crowd as Tina Turner, Freddie Mercury, Beyonce, Kate Bush, Moulin Rouge can can girls in ruffles, Agnetha, Anni-Frid or Madonna, Stevie Nicks in suspenders or a pastiche of Barnum’s best of the best.
Credit for the Execs Factor light bulb moment rests with the Yin to my Yang. Katie Gibson. When two likeminded individuals with shared values and a common work ethic find themselves in the same room that’s when the magic happens. Katie has walked beside me on this journey every step of the way. We’ve been Thelma & Louise, Cagney & Lacey and Betty & Wilma. She’s steeley and canny, driven and determined with super human organisational powers with a glass half full approach to life. Whenever I felt a storm brewing Katie was the sunshine that made the rainbow appear.
The other two members of my gang were Leah Mooney and James Dempster. What a double act. On and off stage. They helped me see hurdles were there to be jumped. Obstacles were there to be overcome and challenges there to be addressed. When I was tearing my hair they encouraged me take a step back, take a deep breath and take stock without going stir crazy.
In business it used to be a case that it was what you know that was the golden egg. Swifty supercecded by who you know then who knows you. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Freddie Mercury aka Mark Newman was big mates with a spitting image Simon Cowell look-alike, Andy Penfold.
My panel of Execs Factor judges was complete. Joining Simon was the larger than life Steve Darby - with fingers in pizzas and pies and hands on the streering wheel of cab land of Brighton. Katie Gibson, the powerhouse blonde bombshell from Pier Recruitment. And Totally Hela. The ultimate Connectress and leader of a tribe of female founders of trailblazers and changemakers.
The panel and the presenters were my cohorts. Partners in crime who joined me in pulling in a crowd of 239 guests, putting on a show and raising £10,000.
I have always recognised great things in business are never done by just one person. They’re done by a team of people where ME becomes WE. Teamwork makes dreams work. Camararderie is the secret sauce that leads common folk to achieve uncommon results.
Now It’s time for me to step back and ask the following to all take a bow as they were instrumental in turning my vision onto a reality, making the impossible possible and The Execs Factor the talk of town. Thank you. You are all my secret hot sauce.
- Leah Mooney - Leah Mooney Content Writer
- James Dempster - Cobb Digital
- Katie Gibson - Pier Recruitment
- Hela Wozniak-Kay - Totally Hela
- Andy Penfold - Simon Cowell lookalike
- Steve Darby - City Cabs
- Andy Stenning and dancers - Clearline Recruitment
- Mark Newman and dancers - Silverstar Cleaning
- Ashlea Piper - Focus Group
- The Girls - Mercedes Benz of Brighton
- Jordan Mackay and the girls - Mishon Mackay
- Jon Rush - HR Smart
- Nick Ford - Nick Ford Photography
- The Gang - Phileas Fogg
- Chichi Revolver
- Cherry Shakewell
- Dolly Rocket
- Sharon Starr
- Lauren Gibson
- The Team - Mascol Events
- James Johnson - Picture Book Films
- PW Performers
- Jez Kay – justjez.com
- Theo Wozniak-Kay