Your Name and Age: Kelly Ruston, Aged 33
Tell us about your family
I have a beautiful two year old daughter, a funny and sometimes grumpy other half who’s an accountant and two elderly cats Tia and Maria.
What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?
Before going it ‘alone’, I had rather a glamorous job heading up European communications for Claire’s Accessories in 13 countries and 10 languages. I had a pretty exciting job and loved what I did and the people at Claire’s – it felt like my home and my family (which is kind of true as I met my partner there some four years ago). Heading up communications for a global retailer across Europe was at the time the highlight of my career; European travel, attending London Fashion Week, attending movie premiers and managing a big multi-lingual team, I never thought I’d give it all up to have children.
After my extended maternity leave, my once, enviable job didn’t appeal to me anymore. It was such a great opportunity, great company but for me my young family came first so with a heavy heart I resigned to spend more time with my daughter. A very daunting decision, but I knew it was the right one but what I did next was the big question.
Throughout my career, many people would say you should go it alone, start your own agency but I never wanted to leave the security of a full time, employed position…but it came to the point where I had no other choice.
After unsuccessfully looking for part time senior positions in Marketing and PR, I decided in May 2013 to go freelance as a consultant offering anything from copywriting to event management. I landed a small contract mainly working in PR as an Account Director on two contracts but quickly decided I wanted more as I was always used to. So, I got networking as all self-employed folk do and got talking to people. It was after a quick drink in October 2013 and bizarre chance meeting that I met my now business partner and partner in crime; Rob Pollard. Oddly we went to the same senior school, had the same friends but didn’t recall each other but instantly we knew that our combined skillsets would work well together (he is a marketer, designer and web designer).
So, we now run Lightbox together as a full creative services agency offering anything from PR, Social Media, Branding, Web Development to Mobile App creation.
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business
I’d have to say the flexibility, I love my job, I always have but I love how I do not have to put either my career or my daughter second. In my industry, opportunities and deadlines present themselves around the clock not just in a 9-5 window, so it means I can take my daughter to a playgroup, or swimming lessons and still respond to journalist queries or prepare client proposals.
What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business
It’s my choice, and my decision, but I’d have to say never clocking off. I work around the clock and even on holiday lying on the beach I am looking through my media databases looking for PR opportunities or responding to clients. But, I love my job so it’s not a bad thing!
What has worked well about your business?
Again, it would have to be flexibility. Many agencies ‘clock off’ at 5pm on a Friday, I don’t and clients like that and appreciate I work around the clock. I think other business’ should really consider widening their flexible workforce as it’s a big win for us.
What’s been your biggest business mistake? How did you deal with it?
I’d have to say pricing. When I first started freelancing, I’d undercharge as I was freelancing for other agencies who were getting a bargain. I just wanted the income and didn’t think about what I was giving in return. Now, as an agency we price fairly based upon the clients’ needs, their budget and what services they require – we never underservice (quite the opposite) but we do not oversell our services to them, not all clients need social media and event management.
How do you fit in work with the family? Is your partner supportive of your business?
I guess I just do, I’m always a mum and always a business woman. I try to be the best at both at certain times, and always put my daughter first when it’s her time. Come 7pm its bath and bedtime which my other half takes care of and it’s laptop time for me. I tend to catch up on everything from the afternoon that wasn’t urgent including copy writing, social media development as it’s a peak time for social media and working on client proposals, activity reports etc. Steve, my other half is very supportive of me and helps wherever he can including keeping an eye on my expenses, mileage and HMRC stuff in addition to bath times!
Are you working towards a financial goal for your business?
We have a short-term and long term strategy. Our short-term (12-18months) is to double our 2013 turnover and recruit 2 more personnel. Our longer term strategy (3-5 years) would be to double our staffing and resourcing, move premises to the city centre and again double our 2014 projected income.
Would you ever give up your business to do something else?
I’ve toyed with a few ideas of the years including owning a hotel, running a small family friendly coffee shop fit for babies and buggies, but I guess what I love about those ideas are setting them up, doing the branding, the marketing and the PR – operationally I’d probably get bored so I think I will stick to what I know.
Do you have an exit strategy?
Not really, I love what I do. I’d still love to be doing what I do now in 5 years’ time, but maybe a few more members of staff to help me do it.
Have you had your ‘I’ve made it’ moment? Tell us about it. If not when do you think it will come
I had a fair few in my career but in my own business, I’d have to say landing a client in Hello! Magazine for their December Christmas Gift Guide…that was pretty good.
Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
A happy mother of two children who manages to lead an excellent work-life balance managing a medium sized marketing agency with a turnover in excess of £500k a year.
Your website link. www.lightboxwebsitedesign.co.uk new website goes live on 7th January