Former state rep finds community connections good for events business
Chris Malloy experiments with LED lighting outside his studio in a Nashua mill building. Malloy built his client base largely through volunteer work. (SIMÓN RÍOS /Union Leader Correspondent)
NASHUA — Chris Malloy, 32, was elected state representative at age 22. After one term he would leave politics for finance, and make a name for himself in business. But his founding of Community Events, which stages outdoor movies and has expanded into other services, started with his brief stint in state politics.
“Pelham and Hudson are typically more conservative towns,” said Malloy, a Democrat from Pelham, “and I was running during George W. Bush's first congressional election, right after 9/11.”
Despite the odds, he raised and spent $8,000 and pounded pavement sufficient to beat out his Republican opponent. Earning just $100 a year as a state representative, he heeded the advice of a mentor who told him to get out of politics and find a “real job.”
Before his exit Malloy organized a single community event that would prove fateful — working with Pelham police and Chunky's Cinema, he put on an outdoor movie event for the people of Pelham. Though the showing of “Shrek” drew a huge crowd, he had no idea it would eventually lead to him quitting his job four years later.
“For better or for worse, that's been the way it's worked out for me,” said Malloy, a tall, serious, dark-haired figure, sitting on a coach in his new studio in a Nashua mill building. “I'll be approached with opportunities, and I'll jump into them if I think it's a good idea.”
Community Events still puts on outdoor movies. But as the company has grown Malloy has added sound engineering and event production.
A resident of downtown Nashua now, he said that when he left his job at Fidelity in 2008 to dedicate himself to his company, working in a cubicle was an ill fit. He followed his gut.
Since then the business has doubled in size each year, with clients ranging from the Redhook Ale Brewery to Democrat Maggie Hassan's gubernatorial campaign. The event he's most proud of was the screening of “Rocky” on the steps on the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“It probably took me two or three summers to make $10,000 from doing outdoor movies,” he said, illustrating how much the business has grown, “and that's what I spent in additional equipment this week alone.”
Malloy's business model is based on a mix of volunteerism and monetization. Always ready to put on events for groups like the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Front Door Agency, his community involvement has allowed him to build a formidable clientele.
He works closely with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. This summer they shut down central city streets nine times, Malloy said proudly, offering movie and music events to downtown Nashua.
Chamber President Chris Williams said Malloy's approach has come naturally to him. “He has discovered that the model of providing pro bono services and donating discounted services to the community at large first, and then privatizing those … has worked well for him.”
This fall, Community Events has worked with the chamber to host a series of political debates, most recently between the two gubernatorial candidates.
Malloy is part of a small community of entrepreneurs who work symbiotically with the chamber, Williams said, citing two other young entrepreneurs who do the same. With a young mayor and a young chamber president, Williams believes the city-nonprofit-private sector dynamic is Nashua's “secret recipe.”
“I think Nashua and every community can benefit when they have young professionals who are full of energy and creativity like Chris Malloy, and then can work with them in a positive partnership,” Williams said.
Malloy acknowledges the entwining of business and volunteerism. And they make for a rewarding combo.
“Maybe a year or two into your business, when you work so hard to get your clients and meet new people, when people start calling you and saying I was at an event and saw your company there and want to work together — it's very satisfying. It means you did things right.”
Tactically it's a good way of doing business, he said, and that's how he started off. “If I can provide a service to a nonprofit, they benefit, and I benefit from the exposure.”
Now that he's established, Malloy says he depends less on charitable events — still, it's part of the company's nature, and that's not going to change.
In the future Malloy wants to have the resources to take on national campaigns and break into bigger markets like Boston and New York. He also hopes to bring big city trends into the Granite State for the first time.
But still a fledgling entrepreneur, Malloy seems to have more questions about where he's headed than answers.
“Where do I want to go? And how do I get there? And does the path I'm on get me there?” With each community event he runs, Malloy is increasingly confident in his path and where it's leading him.
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Simon Rios may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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