FREELANCER LONELINESS AND HOW TO TACKLE IT

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 17.13.09.png

Small Business talks to Claudia

She shares her experience of freelance life, the loneliness of it and tips on how to combat it.

Freelancers cannot be lazy when it comes to overcoming solitude. Like new business, it’s part of the job and one that you can’t pick up and drop down. It needs to be part of your routine.

Claudia set up CLO PR 18 months ago and overcoming loneliness was the hardest part of the new job. The worst thing is not having anybody to bounce ideas off so you’re just left wondering if what you’re doing is actually any good or if it’s all rubbish. As a team player, this didn’t sit well with her. Check out out how she overcame it.

http://smallbusiness.co.uk/freelancer-loneliness-isolation-2545287/

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: ELIZABETH BANANUKA

If you run a business and you understand the importance of diversity but aren’t doing anything about it, what’s the matter with you? To me it’s simple: you’re either the agency of the past or the future.

What drove you to create BME PR Pros?

I started thinking about the diversity issue in 2015 when I attended a panel event on global communications and international development. I was the only black person in an audience of more than 100 white comms professionals. It struck me that there was a real disconnect and underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the industry. But more than that, a complete irony given the discussion focus – reporting stories from the global south. From there, my frustration snowballed. I went to events put on by the PR community purporting to challenge the diversity problem but I found many were disempowering, vacuous or both. Diversity always seemed to be attached to some kind of reward or CSR initiative. I realised that nothing is going to change through a trickle of quarterly meetings and – in my opinion – some pretty poor initiatives.

I felt I could do better and lift the game on how BMEs are viewed and I wanted to root for talented BME PR professionals. It still surprises me that in such a creative industry, diversity has not been tackled. I suspect a lot of agencies - big and small – don’t want to see change. Don’t get me wrong, I know incredible agencies doing great work where they just get it. But, to me, the Weber Shandwick’s, Golin’s Manifest London’s, M & C Saatchi PR’s, Ketchum’s, Dynamo’s, Cirkle’s et al are the exception and not the rule. I believe far too many don’t show a will for it. And there is such a low benchmark for what we consider to be effective diversity initiatives.

I believe if an agency had a dream client knocking on their door with golden budgets but the deal was pinned to creating a diverse team of people, that agency would find those BME candidates. It’s sad that money could be the rare incentive to change the status quo.

Here’s the thing; the business case for diversity has been pushed for years and years. If you run a business and you understand the importance of diversity but aren’t doing anything about it, what’s the matter with you? To me it’s simple: you’re either the agency of the past or the future.

What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up BME PR Pros?

I’ve learnt the lesson of self-belief. The ability to do something entirely on your own. I’ve worked ridiculous hours, unfunded. I currently pay for every aspect of BME PR Pros including the website myself and with no-one next to me to make this initiative a reality. I’ve made no room for self-doubt, I’ve tried to believe that it’s going to be amazing. It’s not like an entrepreneur setting up a business is eager to fail or launch a mediocre business! I’ve had to force myself to believe I could do something good that would work. I couldn’t afford – financially, emotionally, mentally – to consider failure.

It’s been a very lonely business but I believe there is a whole load of talented BME PR Pros out there and I felt it was important to celebrate them and I felt compelled to do it. I still do. Being a consultant, I have much more freedom to make this work and I can talk uncensored and unfiltered. I am able to be authentic and vocal about BME issues. We work in a vanilla and muted sector, where some employers I’ve had would be very uncomfortable around the topic and wouldn’t have been happy to have me doing what I’m doing with BME PR Pros. I feel I have a responsibility not to censor myself for the good of other BME PRs striving to progress.

What's been the biggest milestone so far?

The happiest moment was on 4th December last year when the BME PR Pros / PRWeek Mentoring Scheme mentors got together for the first time for the PRWeek photoshoot to accompany a feature on the launch. Seeing these passionate, talented, generous, diverse individuals come together, who had taken a leap of blind faith to be part of the scheme and my little initiative, brought it to life for me.

It’s interesting that my biggest milestones around this come down to human interactions. Yes, it’s great the website has now had 100k hits in just over 7 months but to me, it’s the human stuff. It’s having a Skype chat with a BME going through a tough time and getting an email later to find out you’ve made a difference. Or hearing the impact our mentors are having on the careers of the mentees. Or the emails - I can get up to 100 a week- from BMEs saying how inspired they are by the mentors and mentees. Or genuine diversity champions that have heard me and got me, got what I’m trying to do and supported it. Shout out to Colin Byrne and Rachel Friend at Weber Shandwick who were there before I even had a website. That’s the stuff I care for. That’s the stuff that affects me and keeps me going.

The lack of diversity is well-documented in the PR industry. What do you think is the biggest barrier to people of colour getting in and what should businesses be doing to tackle this?

Too many recruitment practices are flawed and old fashioned and too many recruiters don’t get it. It’s a weird sector - we perpetuate the myth of how we see talent and what colour we’ve decided talent must come in. The PR industry wants candidates to assimilate to the cookie cutter profiles made in the past and there is no BME-shaped cutter to use. Too many recruitment processes are subjective. Take the NHS, it’s interesting that when it comes to medical staff and the skills needed being black and white (pun intended) then the staff are very diverse. Then you step into a comms team within the NHS and other healthcare organisations and the comms teams are very white. That is weird to me. How can we have so many agencies and organisations with massive comms teams in a city as diverse as London and yet the sector is 91% white? I think that’s weird and I think anyone that doesn’t think that’s weird, is weird.

Why can a Nigerian guy be a doctor in the NHS but not a Director of Communications? Or a girl with a hijab a dentist but not a Head of News? It’s really simple: if BMEs don’t apply for your jobs then you need to rethink your recruitment practices. If you have a BME retention problem, you need to look at your working culture. I’m not willing to accept that talent is not there. This is not a BME problem but a sector problem.

I am very aware that many of my white counterparts will have access to more opportunities than my BME counterparts. There is also a BME pay gap – not just in PR but across sectors – and it is much larger than the gender pay gap. And it’s not easy being a lone BME in a large organisation.

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 19.44.49.png

The rise of #metoo and #timesup has created an important opening in discussion on gender equality but it has also put fear into young women of what they may expect to experience in the working world. What would you say to those wanting to pursue a career in PR?

Prejudice and discrimination shouldn’t impact your dreams. I always say to BMEs just starting out that they deserve to have the same dreams and aspirations as a straight, middle class, home counties white guy from Oxbridge. Yep, maybe they’ll face more obstacles and their starting line may be further back, but they too are entitled to have the biggest dreams and aspirations.


It feels like female solidarity is slowly starting to crest a wave. Do you think women are feeling more confident to stand up and be heard right now?

I do. We have a lot to thank Twitter for. It’s been a powerful campaigning tool for minorities, women, LGBTQ and many others. And not to mention some vocal individuals (a shout-out to Reni Eddo-Lodge, Afua Hirsch and Laura Bates). Our sector needed it. Women have been on the receiving end of atrocious harassment by some agency staff, journalists and clients – I can tell you some horror stories. I also think a lot of agencies need to be much more responsible for guiding young people. And of course, there’s a strong drinking culture and an expectation on young staff to ‘look after’ clients at client parties and award ceremonies. Young people are vulnerable to the pressures to perform both professionally and socially and I think the sector needs to be kinder to them.


You hold down a day job on top of building BME PR Pros. If this side-project turned into something greater, would you be eager to give up the day job?

I wouldn’t give up my freelance life altogether, but I’d love to get to a sustainable position where I could be working on BME PR Pros in working hours, rather than my evenings and weekends. I don’t want to exploit the format though, this initiative is non-profit making and is driven by a mission to support BMEs in the sector. To me, it’s about ensuring our talented BME mentees get the careers they deserve and the sector gets to benefit from their talent. I want it to be pure. I’ve been overwhelmed by the desire of people to help. Over 130 people have offered to be volunteers just this year and I’ve struggled with the demand. I’m not keen on exploiting BMEs and wouldn’t want anyone to work free.

I need to find a balance. I didn’t get into this to fall into volunteer management but I don’t want to close the door on goodwill and support. I came up with this sitting alone in my flat. Naïve – perhaps – but I just saw myself working with clients and then in my free time organising events, developing initiatives and uploading web content. I started working alone in January 2017 because for years, when I tried to work with others, they either weren’t interested, couldn’t or didn’t want to give the time or they just didn’t get it. So, I worked on it solo and I got used to that. It never occurred to me others would want to get involved and I didn’t plan for it.

Working solo is exhausting but working by committee can be too slow a process for someone like me. I feel a sense of urgency around this and don’t want to waste valuable time on bureaucracy, meetings and minutes.

I also don’t want to create a new diversity echo chamber where the BME issue is dominated by me. My ideal is that others are inspired to create their own initiatives and in 18 months BME PR Pros won’t have to exist and I can finally sleep.

I have a responsibility not to censor myself for the good of other BME PRs striving to progress

What's the one thing that's shocked you in your mission to raise the profile of diversity?

Well, to be honest, it’s the number of people who want to get involved for their own profile or the profile of their business. I’m not for sale. I’ve been careful who I work with and interact with because my integrity is important to me. My primary audience are BME PR Pros. I can’t and won’t sell them out for an agency with an appalling diversity track record wanting to throw money at me. Every diversity champion I shout out has – to me – passed the BME PR Pros unspoken code. They’re beyond the tedious, boring, kill me now “why is diversity important” nonsense. They get it, are doing something and want to do more.

For all the wonderful stuff that has come out of this, I also see and hear some pretty awful stuff. It’s a constant reminder that diversity is far from fixed. PR is still very old-fashioned and for me, there’s a confidence issue. There are far too many people scared to voice an opinion away from the norm and too weak or indifferent to create change.

I don’t think diversity is challenging but I do think lack of opportunity, the gender pay gap, the BME pay gap, inequality, prejudice and lack of opportunity are. If you live in a diverse city like London but find diversity in the workplace challenging, well I think you need to ask yourself some tough questions.


Where do you get your inspiration?

I’ve got lots of good people around me to inspire me every day. My parents are amazing and both very different – a perfect combination of ying and yang. We came over here as immigrants and my mum has worked very hard to put me in a place with loads more opportunities than she had herself at my age. My family is a bit of an oddity as we’ve never really fitted in. Unlike other relatives who are Rwandan, Tanzanian or Ugandan, we are a mix. And unlike other relatives we are the only ones here. I’m aware how freeing it can be to not fit in but also how divisions can lead to such horror. My Dad lost family to Idi Amin (there’s a road in Uganda called ‘Bananuka Drive’ as a tribute to my paternal grandfather) and my Mum lost relatives in the Rwandan genocide. I guess this motley background has shaped my thinking and the fighting spirit of family members inspires me.

My friend Nyree Connell is another person. She always rooted for and respected me professionally and she got BME PR Pros immediately. And Daljit Bhurji has been incredibly generous with his advice - I would have lasted but a day in PR without his unflinching encouragement.

I’m also inspired by grassroots diversity initiatives. I love the work of Women in PR and Ethan Spibey’s work on InterComms. I love what Krish Jeyakumar and Rowan Ellis are doing with Ruckus Retreat and Mercedes Benson with Social Fixt.

And of course, there’s all the positive feedback about the initiative, which keeps me going and inspires me.

Finally a quote which hangs on my wall, “If I knew that the world would end tomorrow, I would still plant new apple trees today”. There are different versions of it and some are attributed to Martin Luther and others to Martin Luther King Junior but this is my favourite version.

What's in store for the cause this year?

The plan is a whole load of new content for the website, a really big initiative which scares me but I need to keep telling myself “you can and will do it and it will be amazing”. And a series of panel events like we did last year. We’ve also got a high scale conference scheduled for spring next year which I am very excited about but I would be ruining the surprise to tell you more about it now!


Find out what the BME PR Pros are up to next by catching up with them on Instagram & Twitter!


THINKING IS GOOD. TALKING IS GREAT. DOING IS BEST.

13Aug2018LowRes-39.jpg

A Manifesto powered by CLO PR and Mac&Moore

CLO PR and Mac&Moore have teamed up to turn words into actions and to alter the landscape for the next generation of women in work. We have created a manifesto and an action plan based on three pillars of doing things properly, doing things differently and creating a platform for people on their way up.

If every journey begins with a single step, this manifesto is ours. We’ve thought about the route, planned the journey, talked about how we’ll get there, so there’s nothing left for us to do except for getting started. We want to create long-lasting, impactful and infrastructural change across both traditional workplace structures and the new but rapidly developing freelance economy.

A united front

Why bother teaming up at all? We’re both established businesses working in the worlds of marketing and PR, why not just get on with it ourselves? CLO PR creates positive impact through targeted and award-winning PR, allowing businesses to be kick-started and reach their target audiences in a long-lasting, memorable way. Mac&Moore currently provide creative and strategic marketing to businesses of all sizes who want to create strong foundations and truly stand out from their competitors. We feel that through the complementary skill sets of the two businesses, alongside a matching mind-set, our efforts will be far more powerful united. We’re hoping it won’t stop there, with several other tactical partnerships in the pipeline.

We must start somewhere

We’ve chosen to create an action plan in distinct, specific areas where we feel like we can make the biggest difference. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, and that’s where we want to start. By recognising the individual areas in which we can create the biggest ripples of change, we’re striving for those ripples to reach out and connect with others to create waves.

Creating positive action

The core function of both Mac&Moore and CLO PR is to work closely alongside businesses who are looking to build something great. We are never afraid to challenge the status quo, confront the thought process behind certain ‘norms’ and tackle the potential issues blocking brands from achieving explosive growth and success. It, therefore, made absolute sense for the focus of our actions to be in this space. We’re working closely with some incredible businesses looking to create supportive, successful and inclusive cultures that allow all people to thrive and contribute. To do that, we’ve had to recognise and identify the problem areas and work together to resolve them. This can be difficult and uncomfortable at times, but no real change started without a little discomfort. By confronting issues head on and engaging people, rather than isolating them, we can create sustainable impact.

We need to ensure these businesses are built on solid foundations, and here to last, so that this better way of working can benefit future generations, not just our own. As three individuals we are also incredibly experienced in our separate but connected fields, and that’s why we're stepping in as a trusted voice with the right tools to share our knowledge. We aim to build a bridge to allow others to succeed in this present and precarious climate.

13Aug2018LowRes-44.jpg

Our manifesto is built on the following three pillars:

DOING THINGS PROPERLY 

- There is so much choice out there now that the working world is changing and evolving. Our extensive experience can help build trust in clients and partners.

- The value of partnerships. We curate strong teams with the right skills to do the job properly.

- We’re always learning. The traditional training/career paths offer learning and development but where do you go to advance your knowledge when you work for yourself? We can help both each other and acting as a trusted source of information for juniors stepping into the field. We’ve been inspired by so many others creating specific, positive change in their own fields already such as The Other Box, 72 and Sunny and many more.

DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY

- Always challenging our own bias and echo chambers by listening and opening ourselves up to the experiences of others

- Stepping out of the London bubble, we recognise that successful businesses and people thrive outside it. We want to support those who are looking to take their business to the next level

- Engaging and including men in the conversation, not isolating them. We recognise the reality of the current state of play and by working together to educate, inspire and empower, we can make the best progress towards real, tangible and sustainable change

A PLATFORM FOR PEOPLE ON THEIR WAY UP

- Providing workshops, resources, mentorship and events to those working in the freelance or small business community

- Offering the social stop gap that is currently missing when you work for yourself (watch this space for a very exciting festive event coming soon where we’ll be partnering with the glorious Jess Sims at The Doers to make some serious magic!)

- Championing and hero'ing people who are doing incredible things in their field but who might be on the tipping point of achieving amazing success and need a bit of help to get them there.

We are really excited to get cracking, please get in touch and let us know if you want to be involved or have any thoughts … there’ll be plenty of opportunities to connect and collaborate along the way.

In the meantime, make sure you’re following both @weareclopr and @macandmoore on all the socials to make sure you don’t miss a minute… and while you’re there you should 100% follow @thedoersUK as well!

Love and all the good vibes,

Claudia, Nat & Jess 

POSITIVE IMPACT IN ACTION: MIKE STEVENS

Mike Stevens.JPG

MIKE STEVENS, CO-FOUNDER OF PEPPERSMITH

We caught up with Mike, who met his co-founder Dan at innocent, before setting up challenger confectionary company Peppersmith. He tells us why they saw an opportunity to bring positive impact to the category with healthy, sustainable products. There's also a job ad within!

Peppersmith has stayed relevant because we make consistently good products and are true to our values. We try and be human in everything we do.
IMG_1493.jpg

You guys started out at innocent before setting up Peppersmith. Did Innocent teach you some valuable lessons?

For sure. Our time at innocent definitely gave us an unfair advantage. We were involved for a long time in a company which figured out its own rules as it went along and was true to a core set of values. Being immersed in such a dynamic and ultimately successful business gave us the knowledge, experience and confidence that we could do it all again in another part of store.

What drove you to set up Peppersmith?

Working at innocent Dan and I noticed a profound change in just about all food and drink categories. There was a firm shift towards better made, more natural, more healthy sustainable products with a strong brand to tell the story. This was something we understood well from our time at innocent. There was, however, one exception to this, which was the confectionery category. In this area, things were just not moving with the times. It was the same old high volume, low cost junk, which had been around for years. The insight was that if all other food and drink products were fundamentally changing why should confectionery be any different? We then set out to test our belief that the need for better made products applied to all categories including confectionery. 

What has surprised you most about the process?

Good: The help, time and support other challenger companies and the entrepreneurs give to each other. We seem to share a mission and desire to make better products, give people a better experience and ultimately make things a bit more enjoyable. This spirt means that everyone is always happy to help with each other’s challenges.

Bad: The time it actually takes to make anything meaningful happen.

What has been the thing you've most struggled with that you've had to overcome?

Lack of funds. This definitely makes things harder than working for a bigger organisation. Every step we make seems to be a huge investment and/or a big gamble. This raises the stakes and means that failure hurts a lot more than simply getting a telling off by your boss.

IMG_7837.jpg

If you could turn back time, would you do anything differently?

Experience is a good teacher but everything we do is a judgement call based on the information we have at that particular moment in time. Unless its feels like you are making the wrong decision at the time and then you are proved right there should never be any regrets.

Have you needed to raise investment? If so, what piece of advice would you give others looking to do the same?

Yes we have, we needed the cash. My advice is that selling the dream is easier than selling reality. So either raise cash right at the start or when you are sure you are onto a good thing. 

What's the one thing you'd like to change about the food industry?

Retailers having more resources to spend working with challenger brands. In our experience it's not that the retailers don’t want to bring new brands and products into their portfolios, it is just too often a low priority as they don’t have the time or incentive required to do this properly.

We absolutely love the brand here at CLO PR. Why do think it has remained so popular?

I think it's stayed relevant for a number of reasons. Firstly, we make sure we make consistently good products and are true to our values. This means we gain trust. And we try and be human and relatable in everything we do, which I think means that more people are willing to believe in our mission. 

Where do you get your inspiration?

Great people doing great things and being successful. Whether it’s Ben Fogle climbing Everest or Pip & Nut winning another listing, we use this admiration and excitement as fuel for our own fire. 

What's the best thing about working for yourself?

No bureaucracy or politics getting in the way of getting on with the real task at hand.

Who do you admire?

Anyone who is prepared to stick their neck out to do the right thing.

What is Peppersmith up to this year?

We have some exciting new listings coming up, so it's all hands on deck to make sure they are a success. We are also building the team, so anyone out there who likes mints, dislikes the status quo and has an entrepreneurial calling should get in touch.

If you weren't doing what you do now, you'd be....

Something as equally as challenging and possibly as ill advised.

Find out more about what Peppersmith are up to here.

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: NATALIE MOORES

_DSC7244.jpg

NATALIE MOORES, CO-FOUNDER OF MAC&MOORE

 

 

The latest kick-ass woman for The Female Focus series features our friend and key partner Natalie (Nat). We're big believers in her and the business she shares with her partner Jess. We caught up with her on setting up Mac&Moore with her mate, the art of poetry and the importance of pushing for equality with attitude.

I do really hope that future generations can be inspired by women in all sorts of fields and industries. More representation means more inspiration!

Did you have a female role model or someone you admired as a kid?

 Nat's mum as a young nurse

Nat's mum as a young nurse

There are a lot of strong women in my family, and I’ve always aspired towards being able to take my place amongst the ‘powerhouse pack’. My mum, in particular, always taught me to work hard and that you should always be able to rely on yourself, which has made me fiercely independent and I’m hugely grateful to her for that.

As incredible as it is to find amazing female role models within your own family, I do really hope that future generations can be inspired by women in all sorts of fields, industries and areas outside their immediate network. More representation means more inspiration!

What led you to start Mac&Moore?

I actually never imagined I would be running my own business when I first started out in the world of work. It was something so far removed from my field of vision that I never believed I could do it. Then, after working for a few years, gaining confidence and conviction in my own ideas I realised that there were a lot of things I wanted to do differently. The best way to do the work I wanted without having to navigate internal politics or have someone else ultimately responsible for your career was to start something myself. I think Jess and I met at exactly the right time and we often joke about me being the Yin to her Yang, but it’s true. We realised very early on that we complement each other’s skillsets and working styles and that meant we could bounce off each other and work in a more productive way than I ever had before. A business partnership needs work, just like any other relationship and we’ve always placed an importance on communication in order for us to get the best out of ourselves and each other.

 Jess (Mac) and Nat (Moore) in Amsterdam

Jess (Mac) and Nat (Moore) in Amsterdam

How do you think your early years have influenced what you're doing today?

I was always a book worm. I remember maxing out my library card every week and then my mum catching me reading with a torch under my duvet way after I should have been fast asleep. I think all those books gave me a real love for language, and a broad vocabulary (and a lot of dark circles under my eyes!). It seems to make sense now that I would be working with words, and I love experimenting with the way things sound when they are put together. I’m a published poet as well as running my business and I definitely think that playing around with words in a poetic format helps me bring something totally different to my clients.

How do you keep learning more whilst building a business?

I am a bit obsessed with learning. I did a Masters straight after my undergraduate degree and would love to do a PhD at some point (Dr. Moores, yes please!). But in the meantime I am always trying to advance my knowledge in some way. Feminism is very important to me and I am always trying to broaden my understanding of the world I live in … and learn how that world fits into the wider world. It’s confronting sometimes to step outside of your own echo chamber but so important to do. We also lived in Amsterdam for six months recently and I made myself go to all sorts of interesting events over there which was great. Jess and I attended an amazing negotiation workshop hosted by SheSays and FinchFactor, also the Creative Mornings were fab!

 Nat, with her mum and auntie, known as 'The Clones'

Nat, with her mum and auntie, known as 'The Clones'

Where do you get your inspiration?

As the creative half, inspiration is vital to my day-to-day work, and I absolutely believe that it can come from the places you least expect. If I need to come up with a new idea I’ll quite often go for a walk. Sometimes being on the move and either trying to clear my head out completely or have a look around me and see if something stirs ends up creating the best work. Reading something that has absolutely no relevance to the project can also be useful so that you force yourself out of thinking in the same way or risking getting stuck on something that’s been done before. T.S Eliot said, ‘good writers borrow, great writers steal’ and I think if you’re stealing from somewhere completely unrelated and rewriting it to suit the goal you’re working on then the output can be magic.

Why do you promote equality with attitude? 

When we first started Mac&Moore we created the hashtag #GirlsDoneGood. At the time, it was a distilled way of describing ourselves, we had overcome a lot to get to the point of setting up our business and we wanted to be confident and celebrate that. As the business grew however, so did the number of other #GirlsDoneGood we wanted to champion and shout about, and it sort of transferred to being the starting point of a mission to go beyond client work and be fierce advocates for female empowerment. Two years on, we feel as though #GirlsDoneGood doesn’t go far enough. There’s deep-rooted injustice, discrimination and prejudice across cultural, racial and gender lines meaning that you can’t simply talk about one issue in isolation. So often the conversation about feminism excludes women of colour, trans women or disabled women, and we’re well aware that we need to constantly continue to learn and listen to ensure we’re advocating equality for everyone, not just anyone who looks like us.

What do you think is missing from businesses in building true diversity?

I think there’s an element of acceptance missing. That comes from listening. A lot of people know that they ‘should’ be on board with gender equality and diversity now, but I’m not sure everyone actually believes in it wholeheartedly. I’ve seen plenty of conversations online or heard people still disputing the gender pay gap for example, which means there’s still work to do on education. People need to really listen to those around them who can offer a different perspective (whether that’s gender, race, culture or ability) and absorb what they hear without internalising it or getting defensive. That’s where a lot of these types of conversations break down and I think once we can move past that, it’ll be much easier to adopt and we’ll start to see a shift in the tide.

What advice can you give to businesses that want to make a mark through their marketing?

Don’t underestimate the power of great copywriting. A lot of business owners think they can write their own brand copy, and I totally appreciate that if costs are tight, most people can write far more proficiently than they can design, for example. But there’s a big difference between getting the words down on your website and those words persuading someone to buy from you, or get in touch, or even remember you. If you do go down the DIY route, make sure you’ve completely nailed your brand personality and tone of voice before you start so that what you write is reflective of your brand and always consistent. If you do have some budget to invest, get a skilled copywriter on board and you’ll see a big difference!

 Performing poetry

Performing poetry

Name the best piece of marketing in your opinion and why?

I have always loved Guinness’ marketing. The very best ideas are so simple but they just work. The ‘Made of More’ campaign they did in association with English rugby was such a smart idea in its absolute sheer simplicity.

Similarly, The Fearless Girl campaign really packed a punch. That was a great example of the importance of context within marketing. Placed anywhere else, she wouldn’t have had the same impact, but by standing up to the charging Wall St bull, the conversation around gender equality and female empowerment was framed beautifully.

What's your biggest learning so far since starting Mac&Moore?

There have been two big ones and they almost contradict each other.

No one’s going to do it for you. There are so many different elements to running a business that you just don’t need to involve yourself in when you are employed by a big company. Both Jess and I wear a LOT of different hats, and sometimes that can feel exhausting. When you’ve spent your whole day working on a project and have to spend an evening catching up on finances or filing it can feel never-ending. But no one is going to do it for us … and I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing now for the world!

Go with the flow. Mac&Moore has been our sole source of income since day one, so we really took the plunge. That means some pretty scary days when you’re not sure where the next bit of work is coming from, or if a client doesn’t pay your invoice on time. It takes a lot of practice not to freak out in these moments, and remember that the most important thing to do is continue focusing on providing great work… things have a habit of working themselves out and stressing yourself into a stomach ulcer is not going to be useful to anyone.

Who's a woman you watch or someone you admire in 2018?

I really enjoy Marisa Bate’s writing for The Pool. I think what that platform has done in general is really inspiring. They’ve changed the game on ‘writing for women’ and proved that you can still publish articles about the best moisturisers without assuming it’s all we care about. The variety of content displayed and the subject matter is engaging, compelling and I usually start every day reading their email in bed!

I also think Amika George has done an incredible job raising awareness and driving action around period poverty. I first discovered her whilst researching our #20GirlsDoneGood campaign early this year and have been following her progress with great interest. It just goes to show that you’re never ‘too young’ to be taken seriously and I think she’s an amazing role model for girls everywhere not to tolerate injustice and to take action when something about the world angers them!

Name the quote you live by.

‘Above all, be the heroine of your own life, not the victim’ – Nora Ephron

‘We must be swift as the coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon, with all the strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon’ – Mulan (I know this song is about how to ‘make a man’, but I love flipping it on its head and think it’s a great motivator and basically how I would love to be described!)

Find out more about our most prized partners, Mac&Moore here.

IT'S TIME TO SUPPORT WOMEN ON THEIR WAY UP

“Lack of confidence”…

“Uncertain of my direction”…

“I’ve been lucky, it’s not down to my skills”…

Sound familiar? If you’re a girl or a woman, these feelings might resonate. The imposter syndrome – the feeling that we don’t belong at the decision-making table - is not a buzzword, it’s endemic. And even the most senior and talented women know this from experience. Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes coined it in 1978 and countless women have reportedly experienced the phenomenon of self-perceived intellectual phoniness ever since. But imagine if we not only had to overcome these insecurities in a man’s world but be a woman of colour too?

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a world where I’m surrounded by fierce cheerleaders in family, friends and a supportive network of colleagues. I have had bountiful opportunities to thrive in my education, network-building and career. White privilege has also propped me up to provide me with even more opportunities than I will ever know. In theory, I have no reason to experience blips in self-confidence. But I live in an unequal world. The graded systems, the hierarchies and the patriarchal make-up have created deep-rooted fear in women to rise and believe in their skills, not luck.  

 You Make It mentoring

You Make It mentoring

Unfortunately, the gap we see between genders for employment pay and opportunities is even larger when it comes to diversity – or lack thereof. The joke is that companies are missing a trick if they think that diversity and gender equality don’t matter. McKinsey & Co examined over 1,000 companies across 12 countries and found that firms in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21 per cent more likely to enjoy above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity, meanwhile, are 33 per cent more likely to see higher-than-average profits than companies in the lowest quartile. Sometimes we should listen to the experts.

In these difficult times, You Make It is an important scheme that not only provides a safe, nurturing space for unemployed young women, it enables them to tap into the power within themselves and realise their potential.
— Irenosen Okojie, You Make It Alumni
 You Make It mentoring

You Make It mentoring

When I came across You Make It thanks to a fellow PR, Lucy Werner, it was clear that my insecurities pale in comparison with those of women coming through the door. You Make It offers a creative and inspiring programme for young, disadvantaged women of colour to access tools, networks, experiences and the confidence to transform their lives through personal empowerment. These women have very different backgrounds, often complex, of hardship and family breakdowns. But what unites them is their low self-esteem, little sense of worth and being part of a system that is unwittingly letting them fall through the cracks. Without that support network of cheerleaders and the gross opportunities, that I and many others have been given, why would these women have any fire in their bellies to prove themselves and the system wrong? Through the mentoring programme I have joined with fellow You Make It proponents, Mac&Moore, we aim to bang the drum for these women and support them on their way up. Because that’s the only direction they can go!

But the future of this brilliant scheme hangs in the balance. Funding cuts threaten You Make It from carrying on beyond the end of the year. With this in mind, I urge you to do two things – in this order!

1. Give generously to their crowdfunding campaign. Take a second to consider any privilege, luck and support you've had that’s put you here now, and help out someone who desperately needs their luck to change. Please share on your networks. The more people we reach, the more change we can make.

2.     If you’re London-based then attend this inspiring free event with us hosted by You Make It advocates Kiwi GrayWP Engine and Blup alongside You Make It’s founder Asma on the evening of Wednesday 8th August. Please attend and share your stories, thoughts and experiences of the event to help protect the incredible work You Make It are doing.

Join us in creating some positive impact and help these women on their way up!

THE FEMALE FOCUS SERIES: DANIELLE NEWNHAM, CO-FOUNDER, F =

We're big fans of F =, and their GIRL POWER TEES, so much so there's a picture of our founder wearing one on this website. We caught up with one of the women behind the brand to find out more about the online store and empowerment platform for women and children, which recently launched the Our Stories Matter campaign. F = was founded by twins ~ tech entrepreneur and author Danielle Newnham ~ and fashion doyenne Natalie Bardega. They created the platform to inspire, motivate and empower women to rise. They practise what they preach too, with an ongoing GIRL POWER partnership with Worldreader, a global non-profit organisation on a mission to deliver digital books to every child and their family. Check out our conversation with Danielle below!

Women need to take ownership of the sisterhood and come together more
 Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton

What drove you to create F =?

Having spent ten years in tech, I was acutely aware that women were almost invisible in the industry and, after spending a day at a tech conference where all the men were wearing their startup t-shirts, I realised one way to make the women stand out more was with slogan tops. I saw guys approaching others when they recognised the logo on their t-shirt – it was almost a conversation starter so I looked into what existed for females in tech and female founders and saw there was nothing. At the time, my sister was taking a well-earned career break so we came together, discussed the idea of how we could make women more “visible” in general and F = was born! 

With my background in tech and hers in fashion, we decided on the idea of selling empowering slogan tops alongside a site filled with incredible stories from women doing amazing work. We also knew our fashion couldn’t reach everywhere but our message of empowerment could so we partnered with Worldreader to create the GIRL POWER t-shirt with proceeds going to the non-profit which elevates girls out of poverty in the developing world.

What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up F =?

There is an assumption that in the tech world that if you build something, people will just appear – like some mythical pull to your product. That’s just not the case. The same has happened to us – we get big hits when celebs wear our tops but the biggest lesson for us has been around building a community first. All the hard work for us has really been in building up a community who are loyal and engaged. People underestimate the effort that goes into community building through providing great content but, in this day and age, it is one of the most critical aspects of our business. We’re proud to now reach over 100,000 on a daily basis.

How have you been able to turn what was a side project into a mission-driven business?

It really happened organically. We definitely didn’t see it as a full-time thing to start with but it started to demand more and more of our time and because our mission was so aligned with our purpose in life, it made sense. I don’t think I could have committed more hours to a business without really believing in it. I am a mother, I write books – my time is pretty full but there has been a seismic shift when it comes to female empowerment in the last three years since we started. We could never have predicted it but it definitely made our business more necessary.

It has been hard work though – we often talk about the good aspects of entrepreneurship such as the fact you manage your own time but there are also a lot of hard times and that is where having a well-defined mission really helps. It certainly gets you through the more difficult times and helps you put in the hours necessary to build something you really want to see in the world.

 @coral_pearl_ and her daughter

@coral_pearl_ and her daughter

Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

There have been definitely a few. When some big brands and well-known TV stars first copied our GIRL POWER tops, I have to say, they were low times. We had built up a brand, and a mission and this was a charity tee so we were devastated - and we felt we couldn’t compete with a high street retailer or a celeb with x million followers. 

We felt like this for a few hours but then our community started posting their anger and disappointment on the celeb’s feed and as well as our own mission snapped back to the forefront again. So we decided to fight and we fought hard. We started emailing those concerned – the brand, the celeb, the agent, the manager explaining the history of our GIRL POWER tees and the charity, and explained our legal rights to the design… and after a while, they accepted it, apologised and pulled the tees. So the lesson here is never give up, never give in and never forget your worth.

What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

Our latest launch – OUR STORIES MATTER - because it ties up everything we are about from inspiring girls to empowering women and telling the untold stories of great heroines. And, most importantly, we can see the difference it is going to make.

We only launched recently and we are already selling out. But this launch isn’t just about fashion – it’s about education. It’s about reaching more and more young girls with inspiring stories about incredible women – stories which we know will have impact.

By wearing the tees, we hope you spark conversations around our own stories, and the books that accompany the tees — we ask customers to donate them to local schools and libraries to inform, inspire and empower the next generation with the stories of incredible women which have gone before them. If each school had these books on their shelves and hundreds of thousands of children had access to them, we know what a difference it would make. 

We want to make the books as inclusive and diverse as possible so will be starting with both Vashti Harrisons’s Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World but we will be adding more in due course.

As sisters, does this bring up complications in your business relationship when it comes to making decisions?

The trouble we have is also what works – despite being twins, we are VERY different. Natalie is very logical, uses a lot of common sense and is risk adverse. She likes order whereas I am far more impulsive, “reckless” she would probably say but I always go on my gut. I can’t do something unless I 100% believe in it and when I do, I go for it – feet first. She likes to work out everything beforehand but I think the two different personalities can help us find a sustainable middle ground! 

Why do you think Fequals t-shirts have been so well received by women?

When we started, there really wasn’t anything like it around. Selfish Mother existed but she was firmly in the mother camp and we were more focused on women at work – sharing inspiring stories about women kicking ass in their field. No one was really telling the stories of inspiring women and we like to think we changed that area somewhat.

  Allbright  Founders Anna-Jones and Debbie-Wosskow with Sadiq Khan

Allbright Founders Anna-Jones and Debbie-Wosskow with Sadiq Khan

On the flipside, there has been some discussion amongst women in the media on whether a female empowerment statement on a t-shirt goes far enough to support the sisterhood. What are your thoughts?

I think it depends on the brand and their mission. When high streets stores put vacuous messages on their tops which have been made in a factory filled with underpaid workers then clearly, there is a disconnect. But our mission has always been three-fold and I think this cements our commitment to a “sisterhood”.

Brands need to be more aware that their customers are no longer passive – customers want to know more about their mission, that if they have empowering tops, that this message is aligned with how they treat women in their own company. Today’s world requires much more from the seller. And I think that is a good thing.

Proceeds from each t-shirt sale go to Worldreader. Have you seen positive impact through this?

Yes, we regularly meet with Worldreaders to see the work they are doing and the impact they have on girls in the developing world. We know how transformative books are and the fact that we are able to contribute to that makes us very proud.

It feels like the #girlpowertee is cresting the wave of female solidarity, following the swell of movements such as #metoo and #timesup. Do you think women are feeling more confident to stand up and be heard right now?

100%. When we started designing our tops, it was to make women feel more empowered – we used to get messages from customers about how they wore our tops to meetings under blazers and just wearing them, made them feel stronger. This was our intention but then 2017 was a catalyst and led to our recent launch of #ourstoriesmatter.

What more do think we can do to build action in the sisterhood community and create change?

Women need to take ownership. We talk a lot about what support we need and how our stories need to be told but we also think women need to come together more. We need to share our stories with each other more because they help and they heal. They have the power to inspire and empower and the world needs more of that.

With thousands of people around the world now wearing your t-shirts, what’s next for Fequals this year?

We’re wholly committed to our Our Stories Matter campaign to get more young children reading stories about diverse, female heroines but also to get women talking about their own stories. Our voices have been held back for so long – it’s time for us all to now speak up.

ARE WE ANY CLOSER TO ENGAGING MEN IN FEMINISM?

 Søren Astrup Jørgensen

Søren Astrup Jørgensen

Liberal feminism has hit the mainstream. But are we any closer in engaging men in making progress towards gender equality? Claudia Moselhi wrote a piece for the Huff Post on the subject. She argues that if men aren’t regarded as allies, we risk alienating the very people we need to help engender positive change.

Women can effect change in all layers of society by popularising engagement of men, including the workplace. Correlation indicates that when companies commit themselves to gender diversity, they are more successful in productivity, growth and returns. Businesses must make the case that men will benefit. This means some unwelcome changes but in their place will be a set of benefits, like improved relationships at work.

Read the full opinion piece here.