Our Businesswoman of the Month is Alison Shadrack. Alison is founder of Adia PR and has previously owned and managed two successful international e-commerce businesses. She is also a mum.
Would you mind giving us a brief explanation of what your business is and when you launched it?
I founded Adia PR the boutique PR Agency for Entrepreneurs in November 2013. We help to put entrepreneurs centre stage in order to raise awareness of their business and build their reputation. Our strategic approach and drive builds the kind of brand awareness they need to grow their businesses and become key influencers. Specialising in PR for entrepreneurs and thought leaders, we use our knowledge of business trends and on trend PR strategies to maximise the outcomes when communicating their brand messages to the world. Our clients are regularly seen and heard through media channels such as the BBC, Sky, Forbes, The Times and The Telegraph to name just a few. Connections are vital in our business, which is why our little black book has been built on trust and reputation. It’s the holy grail of media relations and the absolute Who’s Who when it comes to getting our clients what their business needs.
What made you want to start this particular business?
I had been working in PR in various guises for 20 years, starting off in the European Commission in Brussels, Accenture in London and then a property firm in New York. I had launched and grown my first business thanks to PR – I had no budget to spend on advertising or marketing so I had to use my PR skills to get free editorial coverage in the media to raise awareness of my business and products and build relationships with industry influencers who went on to champion my brand and spread the word for me. I wanted to start Adia PR as I knew that I could help other small business owners to achieve what I had done for my own previous business. To me, end results for the client matter as much as the media coverage and I get a buzz out of their growth and success.
What do you think it takes to succeed in business?
What is the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
Having the right team around you and delegating to them. It’s very hard to grow a business by yourself and that’s why it’s essential to hire the right people. I’ve learnt that it’s key that the people share your company values as well as having the necessary skills for the job.
What do you think it is about you that enabled you to turn an idea into a business?
I’ve never been afraid to take a risk and go get what I want both in my personal and business lives. Life is too short and I’d rather try and fail than wonder what if. It’s partly my personality and partly my upbringing. I was an athlete (hurdler) and competed from an early age. Most of the year was spent training with just 4-5 months spent competing. So I’ve grown up with working hard, setting goals and showing up – if I didn’t perform I had no one else to blame.
When I do decide to do something, I go all in. I give it everything I’ve got and can be very focused – sometimes to the detriment of other things around me. I’ve learnt over time that balance is crucial and so I make sure to make time for the most important people and things in my life.
If you were starting all over again tomorrow, what are the top 3 rules you would follow?
As always, I ask myself:
- What do I have a passion for? (first business – sourcing Italian artisan food)
- What am I really good at? (PR)
- What do people want / need help with? (this business – positioning their business correctly and generating awareness and visibility)
Not necessarily in that order but it is important to make sure that there is a market or the potential for a market with what you want to do.
What difficulties did you experience setting up your business and what has got you through the tough times?
Finding the right staff has been an issue as I was too quick to take on people without assessing carefully enough if they were a good fit. Also, ensuring the clients are the right fit. At the beginning, I set my fees too low and attracted too many difficult clients who expected miracles for peanuts. I soon learnt that I had to charge the right fee to properly compensate myself and my staff for our time, effort, experience and results.
Starting a business can be all-consuming. As a mum, what are your tips for dealing with the struggles of balancing work and family life?
Yes it can be, but as my little one said to me one day, I kid you not “Come on Mummy, tomorrow is another day!” There have been plenty of times when I’ve put the business first ahead of my family even though ultimately my family comes first. I have been on holiday working with my husband, mum and kids giving me a really hard time telling me to put the laptop away but I knew it was essential to get the work done. There are times when I know that not doing the work will be to the detriment of my business and the family can survive without me for half a day even if they don’t like it. There are other times when I know the business can survive without me. Tomorrow for example is sports day – this for me is one of my favourite days of the year and nothing will stop me going. I have a long term vision and some small sacrifices along the way are necessary.
I do my exercise (treadmill, HIIT training or yoga) first thing in the morning before the children are awake as it’s another key priority for me – for my mental and physical well-being. I have a cleaner who comes in once a week to help me keep on top of things. I do thankfully have my mum and a teacher I can call on to look after the boys if I have a breakfast or late afternoon meeting but I try to limit how many external client meetings and events I go to each week.
Do you have (or did you have) a mentor and when you need advice, who do you talk to?
I am a member of Empress. Joanna Martin and Suzanne Dibble are my awesome mentors. Empress is for entrepreneurial women and we get together 3 times a year for 3 days each time in a gorgeous venue somewhere in Europe to discuss and work on our businesses. I find these sessions invaluable as it gives me the opportunity to travel which I love and get away from the office to reflect on my business – what’s working and what’s not – as well as set new goals and plans for the next 4 months. We also speak on a weekly basis via our mentoring calls and online forum so I can bring up any problems and issues then. As it’s a small close-knit group the members tend to help each other out too with advice, contacts, feedback etc which is an added bonus.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue to grow Adia PR and attract even more awesome clients to work with. I am also launching an online programme teaching small business owners how to do their own PR. We did a test pilot programme earlier this year and it went really well and we have some great testimonials. The 12 week programme will start in October and will provide small business owners with everything they need to know about how to raise awareness of their brand/business, how to secure media coverage time and again and how to raise their own profile as an expert in their field or a thought leader. Too many small business owners think PR is just for the big corporates and fail to understand how much it can help them to step their business up to a completely different level with powerful positioning. This is something they can learn to do and I love seeing people put it into action. I’ve also started a FB group called ‘The PR Hub for Entrepreneurs’ to give free PR advice and tips to members and we have plans to provide even more great content there.
Do you have any specific tips for anyone wanting to start a new business?
– Consider if you are prepared to put in the time and effort it takes to get your business off the ground. It’s not for the faint-hearted and it’s not for those who give up easily. It’s also not the easiest or fastest way to make money.
– If you don’t have the savings to survive for 3 to 6 months in case your business can’t provide you with a salary, consider continuing your day job and starting your business in your spare time (evenings and weekends) until you can.
– Planning is essential – it won’t ever be exact or perfect so don’t think it will be. Just put together a good common sense business plan (including the marketing and financial plan) and then share it with a few people that you respect to get their feedback.
Learn more about Alison and Adia PR here.