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Innovation From The Ground Up

"The region’s businesses are succeeding in inventive new ways."

By Jennifer Solis

Events United’s Tim Messina, right, poses with the Dropkick Murphys’ Ken Casey, whose band was forced to livestream its annual St. Patrick’s Day concert from the Derry production studio. Messina and his team pulled together the logistics for the show in 24 hours.

Business magnate Steve Jobs once said the key to innovation lies in “the ability to see change as an opportunity — not a threat.”

Innovation is more than just having a good idea. True innovators use ideas to foster solutions that add value to their business — and to the community. Whether it’s refining an existing service or launching a new product, turning ideas into solutions is the lifeblood of a small business.

The Greater Derry Londonderry region is one of the most rapidly growing sections of the state in large part because its small business owners have so deftly adapted to new circumstances and changing times.

In a matter of hours this past March, for example, Tim Messina’s thriving business, Events United in Derry, lost 100% of its scheduled work.

Like so many U.S. businesses, the 10-year old company — which produces top-notch audio-video staging for festivals, concerts, corporate conferences and other events across the U.S. — was a casualty of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“Every ounce of work was canceled — all the money just went away,” the 36-year old entrepreneur says. “It was devastating.”

But with a 16-person, full-time staff and large overhead, Messina didn’t have time for a pity party. He knew he had to adapt — and adapt quickly — if he was going to be able to save any of what is typically the event industry’s busiest season of the year.

His first step was to review his assets. In addition to lots of audiovisual equipment, he had his Studio Lab, a state of-the-art shared workspace he had launched for creative entrepreneurs.

Members working at their desks at Studio Lab, a creative workspace.

Messina realized the Studio Lab, equipped with high-quality cameras and the technology to create digital displays as backdrops, offered the ability to become a virtual stage that could provide clients with broadcast-quality, top-level production at minimal cost.

“We could invite talent here so they don’t have to be exposed to large groups,” Messina began thinking. “They could stream live or record here.”

Within a day, Messina and his team were hard at work putting his idea into action — innovating to literally save the business, while also providing a new and valuable service to clients and the community.

“We just wanted to pay our team and keep them employed and also help out people whose events were canceled,” Messina says.

Events United’s first gig in the era of social distancing was with the Dropkick Murphys — the popular Celtic punk band that was forced to revamp its St. Patrick’s Day show — its biggest live concert of the year — due to the coronavirus.

Messina’s company had been hired to handle the audio-control system for the band’s live tour. But instead, the company transitioned and assisted the band in livestreaming its March 17 concert from its Studio Lab in Derry to more than 10 million viewers worldwide. Messina and crew stitched the logistics together in just one day.

“It was crazy,” he says. “But it brought people something positive — they were dancing around their living rooms.”

The performance went global and was written up in Billboard magazine.

“It was a real big deal — and set a precedent that this kind of thing can be done,” Messina says.

Events United team with Dropkick Murphys band on St. Patricks Day

For professional landscaper Sean Tumblety, 34, a precedent-setting idea landscapers in the area, business has been steady for Tumblety, who started out on his own and now leads a team of 10.

Tumblety grew up locally, so he feels driven to get the word out about the advantages his company has to off er people in terms of protecting themselves, their families and the environment. The fact that most residents in the area rely on well water is also a motivation for using organics on their lawns, he says.

“Most people just don’t think about it,” he says, “I want to be in the community because education is such a big piece of this.”

Kelley Beavers, a business development manager for Bank of New England in Londonderry, says she sees firsthand the resourcefulness of the business community in southern New Hampshire, particularly when faced with adversity and upheaval as they have been during the unprecedented times brought on by COVID-19.

“You need to adapt to whatever challenges you are faced with, be flexible, creative, offer

alternative options ... think outside the box,” Beavers, 33, says.

That’s precisely what she’s had to do in her role at Bank of New England, as well.

“In these crazy times, for instance, I’m reaching out to check on customers, working from home with full remote access to facilitate new accounts electronically, FaceTiming a new client to witness and notarize documents electronically, and picking up bank requests from their mailboxes,” she says.

That ingenuity likely will result in lasting changes for many businesses long after the threat of the coronavirus has dissipated.

Dropkick Murphys on stage at Studio Lab, Events United

Messina is already starting to experience a shift in his business. Since the success of the Dropkick Murphys’ St. Patrick’s Day concert, Events United has begun working with local houses of worship to help them offer virtual or livestreaming services to their parishioners.

He’s assisting corporate clients who aren’t able to physically visit the Studio Lab, too, by turning their live projects into ones carried out virtually using resources such as Zoom or Google Hangouts when individuals aren’t able to be physically present at the Studio Lab.

Events United is also working with the rock band Godsmack from Lawrence, Massachusetts, as well as the Manchester-based junk rock band Recycled Percussion, whose energetic and innovative incorporation of nontraditional percussion instruments such as power tools, aluminum step ladders and panel doors earned the group a spot on “America’s Got Talent” in 2009.

Messina is collaborating with Eventbrite, an event organizing website, on a platform that will allow him to monetize this new way of doing business.

He believes the event industry was in need of change even before the pandemic emergency pushed forward the urgency to adapt.

For some companies, the changes that emerge from this time period will simply be short-term solutions. But for enterprises like his own, the crisis will pave the way for newer, longer-lasting approaches to how business is done.

“A whole lot of companies are innovating right now,” Messina says.

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