Spotlight on Jackie Hoyte and Vesta PR
I'm really happy to welcome Jackie Hoyte of the newly formed Vesta PR to the blog today. Jackie has literally just started her own business, and this blog is about showcasing those just starting out as well as telling the stories of those who have been around a bit longer.
I've been focussing on the brands that create products and sell them via websites, stores or on social media, but this is my first foray into companies that market and do PR for those brands. Jackie has been in the industry for over 16 years and so her take on this side of the business is an incredibly valuable addition to this blog. Moreover, we get to showcase some of the brands which she represents so this is truly an all-round Business Spotlight.
I am 37, Mum of two (William who is six and Grace, three) and I live in Surrey. I have worked in interiors PR since leaving Uni (where I studied Art History) and I am truly interiors obsessed. I love nothing better than rummaging around car boots, charity shops and antique shops/junk shops looking for fabulous finds. I don’t really have an interior style as such but I do love a mix of vintage and modern and as long as it’s a bit different from the norm I am a fan. I would much rather someone came to my house and found the style interesting than said it looked like a John Lewis catalogue- don’t get me wrong, I love JLP – but I love it when people have no idea where something is from. I think that’s one of the reasons I started up Vesta PR in June, after working in agencies for the last 16 yrs. I want to work with small, independent, talented brands and designers rather than big brands. I have worked on campaigns for retailers and manufacturers Inc. John Lewis, B&Q, Amtico, Harvey Jones Kitchens,Yankee Candles etc. which was amazing and gave me some invaluable experience, but what I really get a buzz from is working with these artisan brands. The one-man band who, like me, is just working as hard as they can to make what they love, work.
Jackie is working with the following brands, and if you'd like to know more, get in touch via her website www.vestapr.co.uk:
Vintage Heaven at Louisa Grace
1. What was the reason behind you starting your business?
I had been working within the interiors and lifestyle industry as a PR for 16 years at various leading agencies. I learnt a huge amount and worked on some amazing campaigns for big house hold names…but I started to miss working with smaller craftsmen and designers. It had never been an ambition of mine to start up on my own, but eventually it seemed like the best idea and now means I can put all my energy and experience into working with true creatives and passionate small businesses, whether they are new to the market or well established.
2. How did you start up?, kitchen table? Mum’s garage, renting premises?
We have a tiny room at the front of the house which used to be a nursery and now is my home office. It’s very grown up, full of my collections of magazines, quirky home accessories and art I have collected over the years and is painted in a fabulous dark grey. It’s a strictly work and no kids’environment which is so important. I can switch off from everything else going on at home and literally go to work.
3. How did you fund your business?
“Ah, that’s in interesting one – I didn’t really. I basically started with nothing, but as I had an office and very few initial overheads it was a case of getting a new laptop on the credit card and diving straight into getting some clients and therefore generating some income quickly. Luckily, I had already had some really positive conversations and so I felt (reasonably!) confident that within six months I would have a great mix of clients and the business would grow. As it happens two months in and things are already going really well.
My husband is an economist and so he found my way of starting a business - e.g. from scratch without a guaranteed income - quite stressful! I have a bit of a dive in and crack on attitude. If I thought too much about all the elements of starting up a business on my own I would have talked myself out of it but I genuinely couldn’t be happier. It’s not easy but it’s so satisfying.
4. What was the most difficult part of starting up your business? Access to money, advice, finding people to buy, marketing etc?
Not having any money was difficult but the hardest part has been believing in myself and having the confidence to put myself out there. That and suddenly finding I’m not just responsible for the client facing element of the business but I now have to fully understand other elements like invoicing, accounts and basically anything to do with the financial side. There’s no office manager anymore, it’s all me!
5. What help was missing for you?
I think finding local small businesses that can support start-ups has been tricky e.g. a local accountant or IT support. However, through networking and asking friends and family I was able to find a great HR agency run by two women locally, as well as an accountancy firm that specialises in helping small start-ups like me.
6. What went wrong in your first year? Few months if you haven’t been trading that long?
So far touch wood nothing has gone too wrong; but its only 2-3 months in. I think I slightly mis-judged how tough it would be going from having a good salary coming in each month to absolutely nothing the next, but there is nothing like an empty bank account to get you motivated! If you can, save up or start running your new business whilst still working would be an ideal situation. Unfortunately, as I was starting up within the same line of business as my old agency it wasn’t possible to do that. I had to just take the plunge.
7. What have you learnt?
I have learnt not to be afraid to ask your friends, family, ex colleagues etc. for their advice especially if they already run their own business. I have had some amazing support and kindness shown to me by some great friends including my oldest school friend building my website for free, a fantastic graphic designer creating my logo for next to nothing and another lovely friend and fellow PR offering to share various database costs with me and generally offering lots of advice and support. I’ve also learnt to trust my instincts. If it feels right, go for it!
8. What is the most important piece of advice that you could give others thinking about starting a business?
Network, network, network! In my line of business at least, this is vital. It’s essential to re-connect with old contacts through emails but ideally face to face so get on as many invite lists and event programmes as possible. Go to any relevant trade exhibitions and fairs which for me has been an incredible source for new business. But equally as important has been networking and building relationship via Instagram. Since my business is all about the visual essentially, and selling a lifestyle to consumers, Instagram has been the most amazing tool.
I have connected with and started building relations with so many new contacts that I hadn’t had access or opportunity to speak to before (including the lovely Nicola!) and it doesn’t have to just stay as an “online relationship”. I have been part of face to face Instagram meet ups with various bloggers and interior influencers and it’s been so much fun and so informative to network in this manner. In turn, these new contacts are now working alongside some of my clients on future projects, which also raises my own profile within the industry.
9. And what do you enjoy the most?
I am an interiors obsessive so I absolutely love the fact that my job involves communicating all the amazing products and services my clients offer. I’m also really enjoying the fact I have started liaising with journalists again and directly pitching in clients for magazine and newspapers. It is so satisfying to see a piece of coverage in print or online knowing you were responsible for it. I had stopped that side of things whilst I was at a larger agency as my role was more strategy focused, but for me landing coverage and seeing how it helps grow my clients’ own business is so exciting.
10. On a scale of 1-10 how hard do you find it to run your own business?
It’s probably around an 8. There is no down time, you are always thinking about what you need to do next. In my case there is no one to delegate to and working from home means you can’t easily escape work. BUT I still absolutely love it and can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner! Check back with me in a year and see if I still say the same thing!!
Even though Jackie sits in a different part of the business/product cycle, (PR and marketing, rather than, say, making/crafting) the challenges of running her own business are exactly the same, getting her name out there to market herself and learning the "business side" of running a business come through in her answers to my questions. These are two themes that are consistent through all of the blog posts I have written so far, in addition to using help as much as you can as and when it’s on offer.
Thanks Jackie of sharing you story and these incredible brands with me.
The Girl with The Green Sofa