Meet the Team

David Heron

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David Heron

Head of Sales

After an early career in Film and Publishing, David finally found his way to the world of incentives and events, joining the Black Tomato Agency in 2011. Privileged to have lived in six countries (Brazil, Hong Kong, Norway, Netherlands, Malaysia and UK), and visited countless others in his 38 years, David has found his perfect profession in the world of travel.

David’s boundless energy – even after 2 hours sleep thanks to an ever-growing family – keeps us all entertained. And he looks a little bit like James Blunt.

Best travel tip: Don’t be afraid to go to countries in low season. Get great value on hotels and who cares if it’s not 30 degrees when it is a pleasant 20.
Strangest Talent: Superhuman peripheral vision. Useful for spotting friend or foe from 100m and taking appropriate action
Top of the bucket list: Lions Tour in South Africa

Pia McKenary

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Pia McKenary

Head of Operations

Pia joined us as Head of Operations in spring 2017 bringing with her a wealth of experience in travel and events. As the daughter of two travel professionals, Pia was quite literally born into the travel industry. She never stood a chance. Legend has it that she’s been carrying out site inspections since she was in nappies.

Having been everywhere and done everything, she’s earmarked an idyllic vineyard in South Africa as the spot where she’d like to unpack her bags on a permanent basis (once her children have flown the nest in about two decades’ time).

 

Ritual drink on the plane: Bloody Mary – although one sent her to sleep en route to Australia meaning she missed out on all the Business Class perks she’d spent her air miles on.
Best travel tip: Always pack baby wipes – not only do they help mop up that inevitable Bloody Mary spillage but can also be used to polish shoes and laptop screens.

Emma North

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Emma North

Project Director

Emma joined The Black Tomato Agency in 2011, starting out in prize delivery before becoming an Account Manager across both Prize Fulfilment and International Incentives teams. In her 6 years at the company she has run events throughout Europe and the US for a huge range of global brands from Unilever to Corona, Mazda to Budweiser and many others in between.

She has a surprising penchant for RnB music. And she doesn’t like rule breakers. Balls should not be thrown in the office, apparently.

Top of the bucket list: Yosemite National Park, California.
Office vice: Black coffee. So much of it. And a stash of mini eggs.

Hollie Parsons

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Hollie Parsons

Project Director

Hollie joined us back in 2008, initially working on the Agency’s prize campaigns but has since made the leap (across the office) to the events team and never looked back. She now delivers complex world-wide incentives and conferences for some of the UK’s biggest corporate clients. Travel obsessed and with the gift of the gab, Hollie is happiest meeting people on-site and getting under the skin of a destination.

She’s the office provider/stasher of treats – and a stickler for manners. Important to say thank you when you steal her favourite chocolates.

Top of the bucket list: Bora Bora, Japan, Guatemala, Patagonia, Botswana…
Can’t travel without: Filling her Instagram page with brag-worthy photos

Sally Yates

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Sally Yates

Project Director

Having graduated with a degree in Events Management in 2009, Sally joined us early in 2014 with over 5 years’ experience in incentive travel, particularly in the automotive, insurance and retail sectors. She’s run events from Dubai to Zimbabwe, raced kayaks, Americas Cup yachts and supercars, taken on Central America by helicopter, raft and tube, been chased onsite by baboons, elephants and an angry hippo and coordinated 600 guests in an immersive whiskey tasting experience – all without touching a drop.

She has an excellent collection of coats.

Best travel tip: Never take the easy option and have room service, always go out to explore.
Bucket list: Horseback riding on a deserted beach.

Micky Robinson

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Micky Robinson

Head of Marketing & Communications

Disillusioned by her early career in corporate law and litigation, Micky’s first foray into the group travel world was in 2010, running a graduate ski operation and responsible for all graduate sales, marketing and operations throughout the French Alps. She joined the Black Tomato marketing team in 2012 and is now Head of Marketing and Communications for the Black Tomato Agency, in charge of website development, print collateral, PR and all creative comms before, on and after group events.

She’s happiest on top of a mountain or behind a camera. And she never ever stops talking about snow. You have been warned.

Best travel tip: Stop a local in the street and ask where they love to eat. Guide books don’t always get it right.
Bucket list: Sail and heli-ski in Norway.

Hannah Ridyard

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Hannah Ridyard

Marketing & Communications Executive

With a background in film and arts events, Hannah made the move into the travel industry in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. Having been chased up a mountain by monkeys in China, jumped out of a plane at 12,000 ft above Australia and survived being stranded in an open top car in Death Valley, Hannah was well-prepared for life as one half of the Marketing & Communications team, where there’s never a dull moment. Day-to-day, Hannah supports Micky in pre and on-site comms, PR and all creative output for The Black Tomato Agency.

Top of the bucket list: Trekking the Inca Trail
Strangest talent: Finding a song for every occasion

Saskia Everard

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Saskia Everard

Branding & Communications Executive

From working behind a desk in Amsterdam, hosting illustrious guests on board superyachts in the Med and exploring Kenya’s graphic design scene; Saskia’s entry into the travel industry was only a matter of time. With a background in graphic design and visual communication, Saskia returned to the UK after her stint freelancing in Africa to be welcomed into Marketing and Communications team here at the Black Tomato Agency.

Saskia hasn’t completely abandoned the boat life however, and currently resides on a charming narrowboat that can be found cruising the canals of East London. And while they can’t compare to the moneyed marinas of the Med, Saskia is determined to make it through at least one winter. We’ll update you if she makes it.

Strangest talent: She can move her ears independently.
Best travel tip: Always bring duct tape.

Alana Buchanan

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Alana Buchanan

Business Development Manager

Alana’s love affair with The Black Tomato Agency began as a client working within the Financial Services market. Fuelled by a never-ending supply of energy, she ran companywide events for a Global Asset Management Consultancy firm, was PA to the exec team and ran office operations and infrastructure for a growing work-family, which grew from 50 to 200 in just 4 years. After one inspirational event with Black Tomato, Alana knew the Agency life was for her and we’ve been going steady since early 2017.

Another snowsports fanatic in the team, Alana’s previous life included a long stint within the British University Snow Sports Industry, working as European Sales Co-ordinator and Operations Manager. True to form, she is still often found frequenting après ski at altitude, desperately trying to look gnarly.

Best travel tip: Try not to view destinations through a camera lens or a phone. Remember to look up and take it all in. And Speak to EVERYONE. Local knowledge is king.
Bucket list: Back country Dolomites safari skiing and husky racing.

 

Jake Pickering

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Jake Pickering

Business Development Executive

After studying law at university and briefly working abroad within financial services, Jake decided to let his hair down (literally) and pursue a career that is closer to his real passion: travel. He joined the Business Development team in 2015 and spends his days inspiring the masses with tales of adventures around the world.

Jake has travelled far and wide, all in the name of the Great Incentive, and is always keen to break new boundaries when putting a new programme together. He is one fifth of our in-house 1 Direction band and brings a refreshing Northern accent to our very Shoreditch office. His average sporting talent is summed up perfectly by his most recent attempt at ten pin bowling where he managed a gentleman’s 40, but he doesn’t let that get him down.

Best destination visited: Guatemala
Don’t leave home without: Earphones
Best travel tip: Say yes to (almost) everything

Alex Agertoft

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Alex Agertoft

Proposal Writer

After travelling extensively around South and Central America, Alex went on to study Spanish & International Relations at university; his studies broken up by a year abroad in the Basque Country and followed by further travels. One particularly memorable experience saw him buy a motorbike for $100 off a friendly local and ride all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh.

Alex comes to us from a leisure travel background, having spent a few years crafting bespoke trips around Latin America. He joined The Black Tomato Agency in 2016 and spends his days writing up once-in-a-lifetime proposals, contributing to the blog, dreaming up innovative marketing campaigns and ensuring nothing leaves the office without being checked by his eagle-eyes. You can blame any spelling mistakes on him.

Desert island luxury: In real life – a hand-axe. In an alternate reality – a pocket-sized Ray Mears.
Strangest Talent: Can rap the whole of Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-lot… acapella.
Top of the bucket list: Road trip through the southern USA in a classic Mustang listening to nothing but Robert Johnson.

Oliver Launn

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Oliver Launn

Proposal Writer

Ollie joined us in April 2017 with one mission: to put together inspiring incentive programmes all over the world. Previously an Account Manager at Clive, Ollie comes equipped with extensive experience in all manner of events and can now be found plotting wow-factor itineraries in every corner of the globe. With the help of Alex, the other half of our proposal writing dream duo, Ollie is our go-to guy for unique itineraries with an injection of creativity. Just think of them as the Ant & Dec of the incentive world. Minus the National Television Awards…

A dedicated member of the Beyhive, we’re expecting a lot more Beyoncé on the office Sonos now that Ollie’s on board. So a win all round.

Strangest Talent: If being the world’s worst Prosecco bottle opener counts, then Ollie is the winner.
Top of the bucket list: The fjords in Norway, with close competition from Tokyo.

 

Lizzie Herring

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Lizzie Herring

Project Manager

Lizzie had worked in the travel industry for the last seven years with stints at the Las Vegas tourist board and British Airways before joining The Black Tomato Agency in early 2015 and quickly becoming one of our star players, even though she doesn’t like hugs. In her 2 years at the company she has run events from Europe to the US and beyond, with highlights including leading a fleet of muscle cars across the Mojave desert, a convoy of Cinquecento’s up the Amalfi Coast and a caravan of camels in the Atlas mountains.

Jet lag tip: Run, gin, sleep, repeat
Don’t leave home without: Trainers
Top of the bucket list: Panda cuddling in Chengdu

Lauren Anthony

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Lauren Anthony

Senior Project Manager

After finishing her studies in Events Management in 2012, Lauren took on the Automotive industry as a PA before discovering the world of group incentives. Over the last five years she’s worked predominantly across the automotive, telecoms and IT sectors, operating in some luxurious venues and inspiring locations, and is always keen to expand her destination knowledge.

Joining the team as Senior Project Manager in February 2017, Lauren is now a true London commuter, learning where the trains stop along the platform and avoiding eye-contact with fellow passengers on the tube. She doesn’t like holidaying in the same place twice as there’s always somewhere new to explore.

Last thing to pack: An extension cable – nothing worse than no plug socket near the bed.
Jet lag tip: Stay awake until at least 9pm, or stay in bed until at least 6am.
Don’t leave home without: Power bank charger – my phone is my communication as well as my camera so needs constant charging.
Best travel tip: Don’t always trust TripAdvisor – people generally only focus on the bad points.

Heléna Vella

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Heléna Vella

Project Manager

Heléna joined us in 2009 as a bright-eyed intern, delving straight into the process of creating and organising competition campaigns. Having conquered the weird and wonderful world of prize management she now masterminds some of our most complex corporate events across the globe, from the glitz and glamour of Monaco to the bustling and vibrant metropolis of Japan. Moving quickly up the ranks in Agency, Heléna currently project manages across a wide range of sectors including automotive, property investment and DSA.

She lives by two travel musts:

  1. Remember that Border Control personnel do NOT have time for sarcasm. The answer to ‘are you carrying anything sharp’ should never be ‘just my wit’.
  2. Don’t catch a flight without a trusty neck pillow. They really work (and there are photos to prove it…).

 

Archie Muir-Mackenzie

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Archie Muir-Mackenzie

Project Executive

Archie graced The Black Tomato Agency in November 2013, having previously worked in the Sports Gaming industry, setting up and maintaining websites. A Fine Art graduate, he has also worked for Australian tour company Contiki Holidays in Sydney back in 2008. Certainly the most charming of the gang and the only one of us to have a watercolour portrait of himself hanging in the office. It’s something the rest of us are aspiring to.

Best travel tip: Ask for directions
Desert island luxury: Sea plane
Strangest Talent: Gymkhana
Top of the bucket list: Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
Favourite dance move: The Sprinkler

Natasha Finch

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Natasha Finch

Project Executive

Nati arrived at The Black Tomato Agency in April 2016 in pursuit of her passion for all things travel. With a professional background as varied as her collection of languages (four to be precise) ranging from corporate to non-profit work; Nati makes sure the in-room gifts are ordered, flights are booked and all the elements are in place for a smooth event, as well as putting her language skills to good use contacting DMCs in faraway lands.

An international relations graduate, Nati is in her element when she’s out and about meeting people from all over the globe, travelling wherever the wind takes her and taking over the mic at hip hop karaoke bowling (yes, it’s a thing).

Best travel tip: Ask a local – it’s the best way to get under the skin of any destination.
Top of the bucket list: Hot air ballooning over the annual Maasai Mara wildebeest migration.

 

Andrew Rae

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Andrew Rae

Andrew has spent the best part of 10 years providing prize experiences for a host of award winning sales promotion campaigns. As Head of Promotions at Black Tomato, he is responsible for curating hugely engaging prizes and rewards for a vast array of brands, agencies and employees. There are few things he hasn’t arranged or done himself when it comes to unique activities. Private training sessions with Premiership footballers, done. Arranging a dinner for two in a dormant volcano, done. Winning Gold, Silver and Bronze in the same category at an industry awards, done.

He’s even beaten Denise Lewis in a 5 yard dash on the Olympic 100m track before the London 2012 Games. A defeat she said “she will never recover from”.

Ritual drink on the plane: G&T (clear when spilled)
Jet lag tip: Always watch the sun go up and go down
Top of the bucket list : Canadian outback

Chelsea Gurr

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Chelsea Gurr

Chelsea joined The Black Tomato Agency as Business Development Manager in April 2017, in pursuit of a career in the world of travel. She comes from a varied but client-focused background having previously been responsible for all new business at a referral marketing software provider, and a market intelligence company before that.

Don’t let that professional jargon fool you though. In another life Chelsea was actually a trained flying trapeze artist with a penchant for travels across the US. She may have swapped the circus lifestyle for the ever-busy Promotions team, but she’s still flying high.

Don’t leave home without: Sunscreen. Wherever you are going, whatever the time of year.
Bucket list: Making friends with the wildlife in The Galapagos Islands, hiking The Pitons in St Lucia, snorkelling in The Maldives, hot air ballooning in Cappadocia … it’s a long list.

Ellie Clarke

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Ellie Clarke

Prize Fulfilment

They say that the three best things to come of out of Harrogate are tea bags, spring water and Ellie Clarke… in that order. Ellie joins us after recently returning to the UK from sunny Australia, where her love of all things travel was born. When she’s not too busy getting accustomed to her new London life (i.e. avoiding eye contact, not speaking to strangers and rejoicing whenever the tube doors open before her on the platform), she remains true to her no nonsense Yorkshire roots taking down anyone who attempts to mimic her accent.  Ellie believes that Sean Paul is appropriate music for any occasion, whether it’s first thing on Monday morning or the start of Friday drinks.

Office Vice: Her fragrant Aesop hand cream, which she hands out to anyone and everyone.
Strangest Talent: She can solve a rubix cube in less than three minutes and unusually, her sneezes sound just like someone attempting to beatbox.

Harriet Kendall

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Harriet Kendall

Account Manager

Having experienced life as a prize-winner first hand, Harriet joined the Black Tomato Agency’s growing prize team in 2014, with a background in social media consulting. And Disney. Having spent the previous year working for Walt Disney World in Florida (although not as a princess, unfortunately) and another living in Amsterdam, Harriet is first to admit she’s a victim of the travel bug, but has happily settled herself back in London after missing cups of tea and Sunday roasts a little too much.

Top of the bucket list: Floating lantern festival, Honolulu.
Best travel tip: Plan every trip around the restaurants. Good food means a good holiday.
Jet lag tip: Avoid moving walkways in airports, tire yourself out for the flight by walking for a mile instead.

 

Luisa Oliveira

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Luisa Oliveira

Prize Fulfilment

Luisa fell in love with London after visiting a friend in 2013 and never left, even completing her university degree in travel and tourism from this side of the Atlantic. She joined the office as an intern in February 2016 and was quickly made a permanent member the promotions team, where she spends her days making sure that our prize winners’ every wish is granted.

A native of Toronto, or ‘The 6ix’ as it is also known, she is a huge fan of Drake and regularly breaks office Sonos rules to get his songs to the top of the queue.

Ritual drink on the plane: Anything with bubbles
Jet lag tip: Whatever you do, don’t nap on your arrival day
Don’t leave home without: Headphones (for Drake) and socks (for warmth)

Louisa Lau

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Louisa Lau

Art Director

After 5 years of climbing the graphic design ladder, Louisa joined The Black Tomato Group in 2012 as Art Director, producing and overseeing all visual communication for the company and its clients. From packaging and print to digital and video creation, she ensures every project meets the client’s brief, engages the relevant audience and is delivered on time and within budget. Louisa is a self-proclaimed luxury brand enthusiast and has worked with the likes of Coca-Cola, Harvey Nichols, It’s Nice That, Dazed & Confused, and Nokia.

Leather goods and Asian street food are her weaknesses. And pugs. She loves pugs.

Ritual drink on the plane: A glass of bubbly.
Don’t go home without: taking an Instagram-worthy photo.

Astrid Decrop

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Astrid Decrop

Senior Designer

Curious about the world and passionate about design, Belgian born Astrid started her college education in the U.K. completing a foundation course in Art and Design at Maidstone’s University of Creative Arts. Her design career continued across the pond where she spent five years in the Netherlands at the renowned Design Academy Eindhoven and a summer at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC. Eager to add as many strings as possible to her creative bow, Astrid interned at a design consultancy in Paris and a studio in Brussels before joining us as an intern in October 2012. We soon created a permanent role for her and her many talents.

She is addicted to Diet Coke. In a really big way. But it seems to fuel her creative genius, so we let it be.

 

Reis Reffold

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Reis Reffold

Graphic Designer

Reis joined the Black Tomato Agency from a varied background in graphic design that has seen him conquer the art, fashion, marketing and music worlds. However, working alongside the likes of Kasabian and Damon Albarn wasn’t enough to prevent Reis being drawn to the vast possibilities and excitement of the travel industry.

With travel advice that invariably consists of learning how to politely order the correct number of beers in any country he visits and challenge a local to a game of chess in their native tongue, Reis is ultimately fuelled by his passion for design, a love of exploring new places and meeting different people.

Best travel tip: Speak to people wherever you go, even if it means conversing purely in hand gestures and drawings.

Tom Franz

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Tom Franz

Video Producer

Working as our Video Producer Tom’s remit is to create, collaborate and consult on all things moving for the Black Tomato Agency and our clients. He joins us from an advertising background and has produced and directed films for a plethora of prestigious clients, working with renowned National and pan-European brands (BBC, Subaru and Asda to name just a few).

Tom has an insatiable appetite for producing engaging, emotive and relevant film for a wide range of audiences and his work has generated millions of views across multiple platforms. When he’s not busy creating content for the Agency, you’ll find him wondering the forgotten alleyways of East London with his trusty 35mm film camera in hand.

Ritual drink on the plane: Whiskey – plane optional.

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