Alongside the practical training students receive at ICTheatre, a strong focus is placed on being business-minded and learning to create your own work. 2021 Graduate Abby Furness is an incredible example of this and currently runs her own business, providing entertainment for various companies and occasions across the country.
Abby’s business originated during her gap year when she used her fire-breathing skills to perform at various events around the south coast. This is something she had trained in and loved, yet often found venues would want multiple performers rather than a solo act.
At her bursary audition for ICTheatre, she met fellow 2021 Graduate Kirsty Brown and they soon realised they had fire breathing in common. They decided to partner up and start working together at various events around Brighton, meaning they could continue to build and utilise their skills whilst training at ICTheatre.
During her work life, Abby realised she enjoyed taking control of the bookings, organising the performances, arranging costumes and contacting the venues where they worked. As she started getting other girls on board for these performances, she looked into insurance and other practicalities that would keep them all safe when necessary, and realised forming a business was the way forward.
Abby Erin Entertainment is now entering its fourth year of business, since graduating Abby has seen her company flourish. “I loved being at ICTheatre and getting to train every day, but now that I’ve graduated I love being able to invest my time into my business, and keep it growing.”
In May of 2021, Abby started providing entertainment for the company ‘UK Brunch Club’ who host themed Brunch events that feature live entertainment. This company was also in its early stages, and the pair have grown in business together. Abby provides entertainment for all of the Southern locations and now covers eight venues, organising six gigs a weekend during the busy periods.
“It can be a lot, and sometimes it feels like I’m doing a lot of work from home for nothing – but by the end of the weekend we’ll have executed all of the planned events, and it’s the most satisfying feeling to finish.”
“From planning set lists and delivering costumes, to fulfilling contracts and making sure everyone gets paid, there is a lot to organise behind the scenes that you don’t always think about.”
“But I really enjoy the work – I love allowing others to perform, and constantly growing my business. It has also given me the knowledge and skills to explore other ventures and brought opportunities to me from other businesses. These opportunities are more in the musical theatre/singing performance sector – something we haven’t had as much business in before!”
Abby is now getting ready to launch her Mean Girls experience – a brunch experience themed around the iconic 2004 film, featuring aspects of the storyline, popular songs from that era and dance routines from the film that the audience are encouraged to join in with.
Abby is performing alongside three of her colleagues, and they are preparing to start performances in March in locations such as Bath, Cardiff, Bournemouth and hopefully soon, Brighton! “I am really excited for us to launch Mean Girls – it has been one of my biggest wants for a while now, and I’m looking forward to bringing it to life and making it happen.”
I asked Abby how her training at ICTheatre has benefited her in her role as a business owner.
“There are so many areas you train in at uni that become helpful in this industry – sometimes in ways you don’t expect!”
Of course, we had our practical skills, my dance training means I’m now more confident and expressive in the way I perform movement at both my fire breathing and singing gigs. I know I have a solid foundation of technique to use, which boosts my confidence.
My vocal confidence also skyrocketed at uni, and I’m grateful that I had that time to give my voice what it needed to be strong and healthy. But I think my main takeaway is professionalism when talking to clients. We did so much audition prep and business-focused work, that I always feel confident in these environments, and I’m able to be my best self whenever it is necessary.
“Something else that I’ve noticed is that there are always things you feel unprepared for. There are always things popping up that are so specific to a job – like walking and singing with a microphone in a busy restaurant setting – that you’re not likely to learn how to do them until you get to the event. I love using the skills I did gain, and adapting them to the job at hand, and seeing how I can use my training every single day.”
I had to finish by asking Abby for some advice, both for surviving graduate life and running your own business.
“To survive being a graduate, I’d say try and say yes to as much work as you can – even if it’s not for you, or you don’t think you’re ready to do it. Chances are you’re much more prepared than you think and your skills will always back you up – anything you don’t know you’ll learn on the job, and then you’ve got more experience to take forward in your career.”
“Always be your happy, authentic self, because people will want to hire you for your uniqueness.”
“For running a business, it’s similar – be strong in the decisions you make, and act like you always know what you’re doing. Even if you haven’t got a clue, just act like it is all under control, and you will figure it out.”
“Try and do everything you do at 100%. It’s quality your clients want to see, not quantity. Be bold with your actions! Sometimes you’ll have to spend money when it feels like you can’t, or maybe take a job that isn’t wholly what you want for the business, but each experience will help you grow and get to where you need to be.”
Information about Abby’s ever-growing portfolio can be found on her business Instagram @abbyerinentertainment. A massive congratulations to Abby for everything she has already achieved, and all the things that are to come in the future – we can’t wait to see what you do next!
Author: Charley Morgan, ICTheatre Graduate 2020