From weekly launch parties to lockdown life: How PR powerhouse Jordan Odu refocused and relaunched after the pandemic
When it comes to knowing the hottest new bars and restaurants in Leeds, Jordan Odu is the man to ask.
It isn’t just that he’s a purveyor of the finer things in life - though he wouldn’t turn down a midweek cocktail or two - it is that his decade long career in the industry that has made him the man in the know.
After founding his marketing business Pink Gorilla more than 10 years ago, he then joined forces with Deborah De Vittoris of Hairy Lemon Events in 2012, creating a PR and events powerhouse.
Together they have established one of the most reputable agencies in the north of England and are well-known and much-loved for throwing some of the best events in the city.
But when the pandemic hit, Jordan suddenly found that he went from a stream of parties and promos to total lockdown.
With bars shut and events cancelled, Jordan sat down with Rebecca Marano to talk about how lockdown forced him to slow down and refocus - and why he’s more excited about the future of Leeds than ever before.
Jordan Odu, 38, grew up in Roundhay, a place he still calls home today.
Growing up, his dad owned a hairdressing salon and after sixth-form Jordan opted to follow in his father’s footsteps by training to become a hairdresser.
In a move that would become his first foray into the events world, he began flyering for clubs in Leeds city centre on an evening.
“I started flyering for some extra money and to get into the bars and clubs. Then I started doing door hosting at Fibre and other places,” Jordan explained.
“I realised hairdressing wasn't for me so I started working at Accent menswear in town and hosting nights with some of my friends who were DJs at Dr Wuís in Call Lane, which is now Neon Cactus.
"I met Deborah and started working for her doing door hosting at the launch events she threw around Leeds, and then she got me a job working as the PR manager for Gatecrasher as it launched in Leeds.”
From there Jordan worked with other brands such as Revolution as part of its launches at Electric Press and Call Lane, as well as doing other jobs like hosting weekly student nights.
However, he decided to try his own thing and founded Pink Gorilla Marketing, working with brands like Back to Basics, Oracle and Tiger Tiger.
Throughout this time, Jordan was still working closely with his good friend Deborah, and after a few years, the pair decided that it would benefit both of them to combine their businesses.
Combining their contacts and skillsets proved successful and the pair went on to spearhead creative campaigns and events for brands like Harvey Nichols, Mulberry, Diageo, Guinness, Arc Inspirations and Adidas.
Then, a few years in, the pandemic hit.
“We went from 100 to zero when everything locked down because people pulled all the budgets,” Jordan explains.
“We lost most of our clients.
“So we just stopped and took a pause, refocused and regrouped. What is the world going to be like afterwards? Should I go get a job doing something else?“
It was a difficult time for the business but as the hospitality industry began to adapt, Jordan and Deborah also sought out new ways to keep going.
First, they began to help out with their clients’ at home delivery boxes, focusing on influencer marketing and social media. This change of strategy led to them picking up new clientele.
Jordan said: “We were so busy before. We had parties a couple of nights a week, different bar launches and events, we didn't have time to go into the other markets.
“When Covid hit we started doing more socials and picking up different types of clients in retail, property and lifestyle brands like gyms and fitness clubs.
“It gave us the chance to work with people we wouldn’t normally have worked with
“It was really hard going for a while but I’ve enjoyed the challenge of flipping the business on its head and changing direction.
“We've ended up probably busier than we were before, but in different ways.”
The future of Leeds
After a difficult year for everyone, Jordan is looking forward to seeing Leeds come back to life again.
Jordan said: “It went from seeing hundreds of people on a Saturday night to seeing one person at home.
“That was a big shock to the system
“It's really amazing seeing people again.
“It's weird but it's exciting walking back into the city centre, and you see the buzz of people back in the office or meeting up with friends.
“I love the buzz of everything coming back to life.”
Part of this excitement is returning to work with his old clients as they relaunch but also turning his hand to something new with his newer clients.
Jordan said; “I'm trying not to do as much as I did before but it's proving pretty hard with what we're doing, which is really exciting projects with all different companies.
“It's a really exciting time because we're working with different brands and companies and trying something fresh.
“In Leeds, I feel like the bars and restaurants were really cautious but they've all been good and safe with reopening. Now they're excited to see people, get back busy, and just get back to life, really.
“It's been a long road. I think people are really ready to get back out there, and with Christmas coming up the excitement is just going to grow and grow.”
Venues and events to watch out for
There’s plenty of new restaurants, bar relaunches and events to look forward to this year.
One new venue Jordan recommends is the OBA Kitchen & Bar in the Merrion Centre. He says the food, which is a Korean and Japanese fusion, is “amazing”.
Craft Asylum #2 also relaunched as SALT Craft & Cocktails, a New York inspired drinking destination with SALT’s renowned keg beers and cocktails on tap.
Bowling alley and bar Roxy Lanes is also relocating to The Light shopping centre and the new gaming hub is a whopping three times the size of its current Bond Street base.
The Warehouse, in Somers Street, has also undergone a huge refurbishment to make it a more flexible live events and music space.