Event Conversations: Director and Co-Owner of School of Wok

Last Friday I was invited to the School of Wok in Covent Garden to have a look at the corporate events the company offer. This was the first time I have been asked to attend any type of event because of this blog, and in all honesty I was unsure what to expect but as I was already in London and I love good food, who was I to turn down an opportunity to learn some much needed cooking skills! 
To give you some background the School of Wok was set up in 2009 by Nev Leaning and Jeremy Pang and they opened the Covent Garden kitchen in 2012. Jeremy started by teaching cookery lessons all around London armed with a Wok and a bag of ingredients before meeting Nev, who has a background in corporate events, and combining their knowledge and skills. 
Anyone can come and learn at the School, whether as an individual or through corporate events, and all the packages and prices can be found on the SOW website
It seemed too good an opportunity not to have a chat with Nev and ask a few questions about how he started working in events and his tips and advice to others looking to start their own business. 

Nev’s previous work experience & background: 

“I studied recreation and leisure management at university, but it was the events module that made me interested in events and led to me working in venue finding. After working in the corporate world of events I had an early mid-life crisis and decided to change career direction by opening a pub in Bath, all fuelled by my love for food. Opening the School of Wok has enabled me to work within two areas I am very passionate about, Events and Food.”

Nev’s opinion on Corporate Events: 

“Corporate events are changing. When I started in events, back in the early 2000’s, it was all about problem solving and increasing productivity, however corporate events are moving towards fun experiences. It is more about team away days and breaking down barriers, which mean event organisers need to be more innovative about the team building events because clients have done almost everything and they want to experiences new things.”

Nev’s opinion on Event Degrees: 

“Degree’s can help open doors, but attending university is not the be-all and end-all. I set up my own company because people would not employ me, and even if you do gain a degree you might still need to undergo an internship with an events company afterwards, which can be very hard to afford in London.”

Nev’s advice to those wanting to start their own event business: Nev set-up his first business aged 23, his parents home, and he said it took a year for his to find his feet. 

“Take as much help as you can and don’t be too proud to except help when it is offered.”

“You have to remember that it is not about just organising a great event but about selling a product or concept – the business comes first, the great event is for later!”

“You need to get organised and have the structure in place, such as investing and learning sales software.”

“You have to be great at selling, and if you aren’t then employ someone who is.”

Nev on why the School of Wok stands out: 

“The asian cuisine, great brand, brilliant staff and tutors and because of the School of Wok’s strong customer focus!”

I genuinely had a great time learning how to make dumplings as well as the tricks and tips for a wonderful stir-fry (of which I have no pictures because it was too delicious!) I am in no way an avid cook, my motto is more along the lines of ‘I can cook but choose not too’, but I can see why corporate events make up 60% of SOW business – there is a level of satisfaction leaving somewhere having learnt new skills whilst enjoying fantastic food!

The School of Wok’s Twitter & Facebook

A big thanks to Rachel (fingers crossed that is correct), who I met whilst making the dumplings, who very kindly took some of the pictures above – good luck with your course & definitely start a blog 🙂