How The Pandemic Presented Madigan McGovern The Opportunity To Launch Her Sought-after Events Company, McG Projects

by Freya Drohan

The logistics of event planning and execution have never been easy per se, but the ever-evolving lists of restrictions and protocols as a result of health and safety concerns have wreaked havoc on logistics over the last two years. Yet, one skilled and savvy event organizing maestro took the changing landscape in her stride. Here’s how Madigan McGovern parlayed years of industry experience into a boutique agency, McG Projects, that answers the questions clients didn’t even know they had.  

What did you originally want to be when you grew up—did you always envision doing what you do now?
I wouldn’t say I necessarily envisioned a career in event management; however, I grew up loving the fashion world and knew that I eventually wanted to work in the industry. Finding my way to events and narrowing down that focus happened somewhat on its own after spending the first year of my career working in PR and having the opportunity to experience client shows and events during NYFW. I’ve always been a natural planner, whether in my friend group or family. I truly struggle to not take over once itineraries, timelines, or general logistics become involved.

Tell us about your first-ever job.
My first job out of college was with Cynthia Rowley as the PR assistant & showroom manager. During my time with Cynthia, I had the opportunity to work on her Spring Summer 2016 NYFW presentation and ultimately manage events with CuRious Candy, a Willy Wonka-meets-Tim Burton candy shop located above her Upper East Side clothing boutique. In addition to functioning as a true candy shop, CuRious was mostly used as an event space for children’s birthday parties. From identifying key event objectives with the client (or in this case, parents) to developing a strategy focused on their goals, I loved every aspect of the work that went into event planning.

At KCD, you were involved in some of the biggest events in the industry. How did your role prime you for going out on your own?
The ability to go out on my own and the success that has come with McG Projects is a direct reflection of my time with KCD. I joined KCD in 2016 as the PR coordinator working directly for Rachna Shah, partner & managing director of PR& digital. I think I learned more during that first year working for Rachna than I did all four years of college. After two years, I was promoted to PR events manager which was a role that the company created for me to focus on all PR client events year-round. Additionally, this role enabled me to initiate and build KCD’s first-ever PR Events Department with my then-partner and mentor Lauren Paris, vice president of PR & events. As you mentioned, KCD handles the biggest events in the industry and the fact that I was able to learn through directly managing multiple Met Gala red carpets and after-parties, numerous seasons of Michael Kors runway shows, multiple Vogue Forces of Fashion conferences, and an iconic Versace Runway Show (to name a few) has been the opportunity of a lifetime filled with endless stories to tell.

What are some of the most invaluable lessons learned during this time of your career? 
I learned so much throughout my almost-five years with KCD, but the most invaluable lessons that will forever stick with me effective time management and a proactive work ethic. The ability to manage and prioritize your time is a skill that develops with experience but is especially important when working with multiple clients, projects and deadlines. Being proactive is an important skill to possess for many obvious reasons. In this role, it is crucial to have the ability to initiate every next step of a project rather than waiting for someone, such as a client, to ask for it. You must fully own your process.

Was it daunting to make the decision to go out on your own?
Once I realized that I could go out on my own, I made the decision and got started so quickly I hardly even gave myself time to dwell on any potential risk. At the start of the pandemic, the city had almost no time to adapt nor apply new processes in accordance with the lockdowns and restrictions. Observing the restaurant industry’s various attempts to figure out how to safely accommodate guests and manage the massive increase of take out/delivery orders turned into my ‘aha moment.’ I found myself constantly re-working the flow processes for restaurant arrivals, check-in, and so on until I realized I could create a business within the event industry directly focused on the management of guest experience.

 

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Did you always know you’d start your own company?
The idea of starting my own company never really crossed my mind until the pandemic. Aside from my ‘aha moment’ previously mentioned, I began to envision it as a reality after watching so many others in my industry go off on their own over the last two years.

What was the process like launching your own business? What lessons did you learn that you wish you’d known sooner?
The process of launching McG Projects was much quicker than I would’ve liked. I basically made the decision to go off on my own, quit my full-time job, and launched McG Projects over the course of about three weeks. Luckily, I have a big circle of incredibly talented friends and colleagues in the industry, some of whom also started their own company, that I went to for advice. I’ve had to learn quickly along the way but believe the ‘sink or swim’ moments have always been pivotal to my success. One lesson I wish I’d learned sooner is how to build a website… I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials throughout that process.

What were some positive things about launching the business during the pandemic?
I officially launched McG Projects in August 2021, ahead of that September’s New York Fashion Week. Overall, the event industry had been slower as a result of the pandemic, so having that extra free time to think through my business strategy and what I wanted to focus on in advance of that September’s NYFW return was certainly a positive.

What do people come to McG for? 
My clients approach McG Projects for special project and event management with a strategic focus on guest experience from start to finish. McG Projects offers an array of event specific services such as timeline development, guest list management, guest communications, staffing plan development, and front-of-house management. Not all clients have the budget nor need to partner with a large agency on a project basis, which is where I plan to stand out in the industry. Partnering with a boutique agency like McG Projects offers the benefit of a more customized solution that is unique to each client’s needs without the added costs of a larger agency. I work with each client individually to identify their project objectives and develop a scope of work directly linked to their goals.

 

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Tell us about some of your recent projects!
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work on a wide array of major events since launching McG Projects in August. A few of my recent projects include the Christian Siriano Spring Summer ’22 runway show, September’s Met Gala celebrating the opening of In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion, and a celebratory dinner hosted by Dom Perignon x Lady Gaga at the Museum of Modern Art. With some exciting upcoming events confirmed for 2022, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store…

We all know events can be super stressful—even attending, let alone organizing! How do you stay calm?
This is most likely an unpopular opinion, but I enjoy the stress of event planning. It keeps me going. Developing a detailed strategy and timeline from the beginning lays a strong foundation for a seamless event—but this isn’t to say there aren’t kinks along the way. So long as you understand the client’s goals, closely manage your project strategy, and take the time to pre-troubleshoot any potential “day of” pitfalls you can walk into any event calmly and confidently. Post-event, I usually like to decompress with an Emmett’s thin crust pizza.

What are you most proud of?
The relationships I have developed, and continue to develop, with clients and partners. The industry is competitive and can be unforgiving, so the ability to maintain these relationships and prove myself through the success of McG Projects is extremely fulfilling.

What’s been a ‘pinch me’ moment?
Before McG Projects, I had the opportunity of working on The Met Gala from 2017-2019 with KCD. Being able to partner with the incredible teams involved in planning one of the most iconic events of the year this past September for the 2021 Met Gala was the ultimate ‘pinch me’ moment. Being a part of The Met Gala has always been such an honor but finding myself back at the museum as the founder of McG Projects is a feeling that I will never forget.

What are your dreams for McG in 2022?
I plan to focus my efforts on business development and brand awareness as I continue to expand both my projects and relationships within the industry. I have never been happier in my career and, to put it simply, would say the dream is to just keep going.

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