Wow, here we are 18-months in and we feel very humbled to be recognised as UK New Consultancy of the Year by the PRCA’s DARE Awards. It is a great start to our agency’s life, but there is plenty more for us to achieve. Our intention is to be a PRWeek top 150 agency by 2020.  

Let me share some of our story to date…. 

A hive cannot survive without its loyal bees  

They say a Queen Bee cannot survive without her loyal bees working together to thrive, and that’s true of our agency. What started as a one-woman band at my kitchen table in January 2017 has now grown to be an energetic, ambitious agency of ten equally ambitious professionals. The kitchen table has been replaced by a shared workspace and the agency ethos of managing and nurturing reputations for companies of a similar ideology continues to thrive 18 months later.  

The nectar doesn’t always taste sweet 

We haven’t always had luck on our side or come up smelling of roses as we try and build our own reputation. The technology has been hacked, twice. I was called out for jury service bang in the middle of on-boarding a new client. We have had to take one client to court for non-payment. But we have grown and learnt from these experiences. Yes, we’ve lost pitches. Yes, we keep a keen eye on the finances. Yes, we’ve put the hours in. However: 

  • In those pitches we’ve lost, we were the only start-up agency against the big guns of Hotwire, MHP and Harvard. In 18 months, we have gained and retained 16 clients and 4 projects  
  • While keeping an eye on payments every month, we’re on track for £600k this year, up from £250k in our first year and proud to have closed our first full year in 2017 with 22% profit  
  • As we continue to grow, we’re always looking for our next hire to ensure we’re looking after the team. No-one works on more than five retained clients 

The core of every decision is guided by our values: energy, bravery, respect, passion, collaboration and loyalty. This keeps us honest and will retain our culture as we continue to grow with our ambitious clients. 

The harmonious and thriving hive  

We are a people first company. So, before telling you about our loyal clients, we will start at the heart of our hive – our team. We have built the agency to be a land of opportunity, hence the name. Our recruitment is not down to degrees or previous experience; it’s about sharing our values and oozing ambition. 

The leadership team is driven by three empowering women, each adding a different specialist background skill set. Each, I’m proud to share, contributing to the broader industry, being celebrated as successful practitioners in their own right. I am involved in some very rewarding mentoring programmes as well as chairing the PRCA London Group. Jo Cresswell, our associate partner, has been selected as one of PR Week’s 30 under 30 and also sits on the PRCA Council. Kirsty Reid, who joined from Comic Relief is building a new consumer division and has already been asked to judge several awards. The rest of the hive includes, Lindsay Stanley who leads New Zealand; managers Hannah Winter and Rachel Proctor and executives Harriet King and Luciana Ianari. Charlie O’Rourke looks after finance and Connor Taylor a new intern. 

Development is important to us – how can you grow an ambitious and talented agency without continuing to nurture our team? We share our learning monthly, this can be anything from ways to think more creatively, to pitching skills and consultative selling. Added to that, each team member has a £1,000 annual training budget to continue their professional development. 

We also know how to have fun and deservedly treat the team.  As a reward for hitting our revenue target in 2017, we took the team to Marrakech for a weekend of planning, creativity training and deserved downtime. Outside of annual off sites, we offer a much-loved employee benefits scheme, which includes birthday off/duvet day, quarterly pamper package and 25 days’ holiday plus a further two weeks’ holiday trading.   

Beeline for growth  

Since January 2017, we have gained and retained 16 clients and 4 projects. We’re incredibly proud of our consistently healthy pipeline. These range from ambitious scale-ups, to big players in the telecoms field. We work with companies who, like us, have a strong story to tell, are passionate about people and are mixing things up in their space.  

We teams are built around client needs, not traditional hierarchy. Everyone is actively focused on delivering for clients. We don’t bill on time, we focus entirely on creating results.

In the initial stages of building the agency, we drew upon our technology expertise and network to bring in clients. This could have proven difficult in attracting other new business, but down to our tenacity and vision we have managed to go up against some big hitters for big brands including Coca-Cola. Winning Big Commerce, Butterfly Twists, Lotto Social, The Ambition Plan, Celvam Capital, Turo, IGF and Cytoplan so far this year. Infrastructure is in place to enable us to be a major agency player within the next 5-10 years. 

As we continue to diversify our offering, we are building a creative platform for current and prospective clients. We recently led an ideation session with Macmillan Cancer Support to help generate a new concept for this year’s Coffee Morning.  

All our clients have creative campaigns in place using our bespoke CREAM methodology.  

Keeping the money churning   

We are after all a business. Being people first is paying off: 

  • Goal of GBP 250K for the first year achieved by month 10 
  • Year two we are on track for £600K 
  • Staff cost to fee ratio is 2:0, plenty of scope for growth 
  • Closed first year with 22% profit contribution, on track for 24% this year 
  • Set up with no external investment and no debt 
  • Received PRCA Management accreditation in first six months, youngest ever 
  • Recognised by Recommended Agency Register first month 

And now this award for best new consultancy. It has been a magical first 18 months but we are only just getting started!