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There is no denying that times are challenging for all of us who work in the events industry.

Despite the restrictions being placed on the industry we are seeing many of our customers adapt and find new ways to work.

Karen Thorp-Cleaver, owner of award winning UK rental business Tipi Unique, tells us the story of how she and her team have adjusted to the ‘new normal’ and her belief that the events industry will recover…


In search of silver linings - by Karen Thorp-Cleaver

Fresh off the back of a super successful Wedding Show with dozens of clients making big plans for their wedding days, and our team experiencing the MOST love for tipi celebrations, news hit that would change the course of 2020 in ways we could never have imagined.

March 23rd, a date that’ll go down in UK history! Shaken, with the foreseeable 12 weeks’ worth of weddings and events impacted, but encouraged by support of ANTA and friends in the industry - we’d tackle it head on and every decision would be made with empathy and a commitment to keeping dreams alive, somehow!

Early summer rolled around (by this time we’d opened up our calendars and systematically moved 2020 weddings into new dates across 2021 and 2022). Allocating a proportion of spring 2021 dates worked well, as did altering tipi configurations to retain the most popular tipis for peak and in-demand dates - genius idea shared by Jamie over at Serentipi!

Behind the scenes, seemingly obvious but fundamental, we’d reviewed EVERY outgoing, seeking payment breaks and contract cancellations where feasible. Installment payments for existing clients were encouraged AND well received, offering some much-needed stability and financial certainty for both parties.

Since we launched Tipi Unique, our aim was to help clients to fall in love with their events, share how unique it could be, and above all create amazing memories. Through COVID, this NEVER changed!

Forever in search of silver linings, fewer events for us meant we could lavish more time to each! And yes, they’d be smaller, and yes perhaps we’d see a shift in the ratio of weddings and parties delivered, but importantly, they’d all be fabulous!

2 2020 Micro Wedding by Tipi Unique Sarah Brookes Photography2020 ‘Micro Wedding’ by Tipi Unique / Sarah Brookes Photography

We remained ‘open’, during COVID, and were on hand ANY time our clients needed us, making it clear we’d be available for their events no matter what! We’ve worked tirelessly, and within changing guidelines to adapt - it was only right to put ourselves in our client’s shoes, helping them find a way forward!

Site assessments and meetings were managed digitallySocially distanced client meetings

Site assessments and meetings were managed digitally, or socially distanced when restrictions eased - pretty easy in a large open field :-). To meet COVID safe requirements, hours were spent preparing different seating options and recommending the best of the wide-ranging Tentipi products, i.e. two Wall Flex sections side-by- side where extra space was needed, or championing the Cirrus 40 with porch (a HUUUGE hit), or Cirrus 20 as the tipis of choice for celebrations with fewer guests.

Importantly, offering our clients flexibility and extensions on timelines for final equipment orders and payments gave them peace of mind; they’d be able to respond to any last-minute updates and amendments to plans.

Our own confidence and agility came from implementing rigorous and regular checks on staff well being and fitness to work, as well as robust sanitising programs. But also knowing that during these times, an event would only be successful if EVERY detail, not just the tipis, were considered.


3 2020 Micro Wedding by Tipi Unique Sarah Brookes Photography2020 ‘Micro Wedding’ by Tipi Unique / Sarah Brookes Photography

We kept ourselves and our clients informed of each new government guideline, with recommendations for how to implement changes. For all of the ever-moving goal posts, and changes to guidelines we’d shower our clients with new options and, if needed, an abundance of talented suppliers who’d respond rapidly and flexibly with fabulous options for their events - little details that lightened their load!


thinking outside the box has opened doorsStaycations have been a popular alternative to international travel in 2020

Taking a moment, seeking opportunity, and ploughing our efforts into thinking outside the box has opened doors, i.e. tipi “staycations” and garden celebrations, additional space and long-term hires, furniture hire, bespoke commissions and more. And encouragingly, we’ve seen our tipi friends innovating in their own ways. Perhaps a nod of thanks to COVID might even be due here!

Amidst a lot of uncertainty and negativity, what’s made the biggest difference is that publicly we’ve tried hard to radiate hope and strength.

We’ve focused our energies solely on positive and inspiring messages - an approach that kept us in the right mindset to know that we WILL see it through, and importantly, we’ll reach the other side with our reputation in tact!

As our industry recovers into 2021 and beyond, our olive branch will be firmly extended to all tipi and event industry friends, offering anything that we can (skills, stock, services etc.) to make certain that we can all be here in 12 months’ time, and all be back to delivering unforgettable weddings and events.

The key to this year’s success, and undoubtedly for the next few years, has to be resilience, and to have in place an ever evolving, multi-faceted Plan A and Plan B if you like!


Karen Thorp-Cleaver – Founding Director of Tipi Unique

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