‘What I learned from juggling 2 businesses and a baby in a pandemic’ By Rosie Davies-Smith
My name is Rosie. I am originally from Liverpool but have been in London for the past 10 years. I live in South-East London with my husband, Nick and our 4-month-old daughter, Sloane. I am also the founder of two PR businesses, LFA and PR Dispatch.
From a young age I knew I wanted to start my own business. I was always doing
business proposals to my parents and started my first ‘business’ making outfits for teddy bears at age 6. Being dyslexic, creative subjects came easier to me so in 2009 I moved to London to study an MA in Textile design. Like every design
student I completed many internships. One was with an independent brand called Lowie where I was hoping to learn the ins and outs of running a brand before starting my own.
On the second day, I was given the task of PR. Not having a clue what PR was, it
was daunting but some hard work and a few weeks later, the brand started to
receive coverage and I was sold. I convinced Lowie to pay me one day per week
and they became my first client.
A few years on and I had enough clients to start an agency. Having no PR
experience meant I had no idea how an agency should be run so I did what felt
right to me; including being completely transparent on pricing and expected
results and offering a friendly honest service where we built long-term
partnerships with clients. I scaled the agency quickly, hired a team and have
worked with some of the best product-based businesses in the country ever since.
All was great but I was starting to get the problem-solving itch. I was coming
across great brands at LFA that the press would love but who didn’t have the
budget to spend thousands with an agency. I thought, “what if we put everything we’ve learned into a platform for brands and we charge them a small monthly fee for access?” I tested the and it worked – giving them the tools to do their own PR meant they were pitching to the press the right way and gaining coverage. So in 2017 I launched PR Dispatch.
The businesses were growing and in February 2020 so was my family with the
arrival of my first baby, Sloane. As a solo female founder of two businesses, I
thought that I had planned for every eventuality during my maternity leave… apart from a global pandemic.
LFA was hit hardest with the majority of our clients ending their contracts as they were cutting costs in a bid to avoid redundancies which meant I had to get
creative to avoid the same. An agency just wasn’t what small businesses needed
but an affordable PR platform that helped increase brand awareness was. So with a 3-week-old baby in a sling, I pivoted the entire LFA team and taught them the ins and outs of PR Dispatch. Just as the team was learning how to adapt to a new way of working, so was I and I learnt some great lessons that I think all small business owners should know, especially those with a child in tow!
Be re-active: After losing 80% of LFA’s revenue overnight when COVID-19 hit, I had to think quickly to avoid a complete disaster. As an affordable PR solution for small businesses, PR Dispatch had the opportunity to step out of the shadow of LFA and thrive, the issue was the LFA team did not know how to operate PR Dispatch.
I simply didn’t have time to sit and panic, after a little cry and a pep talk from Nick I had to find the best ways to help the team and raise my newborn as a first-time mum.
Through a weekly business book club and videos that I filmed whilst Sloane was sleeping, I taught them everything I know. They were amazing and we even overhauled the platform, put together a marketing strategy that included paid social ads, automated emails and a strong sales funnel to convert people. Most importantly we supported hundreds of businesses during this time and in turn we thrived and grew too.
We knew small businesses were suffering so the first thing we did when COVID hit, was figure out what we could do to help and so we made as much accessible content as we could. We switched existing paid content to free, we created new online webinars and offered discount codes so that businesses who had let go of agencies could still work on their PR. We shared everything with friends of the business to share with their communities and I put a digital marketing budget behind everything we were doing to ensure we were reaching as many small businesses as possible. I have also learnt to be kinder to myself. Even if I was stressed thinking of work, I wanted to make the most of these first few months with Sloane (in some ways lockdown has been good for us in that respect, bringing our family unit even closer) and I realized
that stepping away from work and spending time with Sloane actually made me more productive when I was in work mode.
Restructuring the roles of your team and the way your businesses
work would be intimidating for any new mother. But I knew I had to take the changes in my stride and focus on the strengths of each team member. Adapting to the pandemic has allowed PR Dispatch the chance to grow dramatically and I’ve proven to myself that having a baby will not slow me down when it comes to business.
Keep looking forward:
It is important to keep planning for the year ahead instead of
dwelling on current circumstances, no matter how much I’m learning from them. I am looking forward to Sloane’s first Christmas and the release of our Christmas membership on the 9th of July. Christmas is such an exciting time for independent businesses to get noticed by major publications and our membership gives brands all the contacts and information they need to make that happen. And it’s been a great excuse to have Christmas music blaring in the middle of summer too!
From that first PR experience with Lowie, I knew I could make a difference in the PR industry. At workshops and panels I always start with my PR background – “an intern with no experience or contacts given the task of gaining coverage.
If I can do it, I know you can too.” Now that I am also a new mother with two businesses I say “I managed working through a pandemic with a newborn baby whilst restructuring my team and businesses. If I can do it, I know you can too.”
I hope that my story will inspire other new mums that we can do it all! The past few months have not been easy but I am incredibly proud of how my team and I have all adapted to our new normal.
Nick and Sloane have been by my side every step of the way and Sloane is, of course, already on her first PR internship!