Happy Birthday to Us!
It’s 15 years this week that I sent the first email to clients offering PR services as a rather nervous 23-year-old! I had been working on my Dad, Stuart's, side business - selling a picture hanging device he had invented called Hangfree. I had been involved from the beginning: setting up the website on Actinic, filling orders and even did a stint on QVC; but it was PR that I loved.
My first piece of coverage was with the wonderful Alison Cork in her Evening Standard "Homes & Bargains section". We bought about 15 copies and sat waiting for the phone to ring.... we had high expectations thinking we would sell out in one go! More press coverage followed, and slowly but surely the word began to spread. My Dad then made the decision to get the product produced in China as the sales volumes were increasing. £20,000 later, thousands of units arrived .... but they were unsellable. Total disaster!
He said he wouldn't be able to employ me for much longer so suggested I see if other companies wanted some help with their PR - but I was too nervous... who would want to employ me, an inexperienced 23-year-old? But he convinced me, showing me how to do a "mail merge”; cutting edge stuff back then! I built up a little database in Access of 100 companies who I thought I could help, and on 23rd February 2003 the email was sent and I waited.... not for long.
Very quickly my first client signed up, The Diet Plate with the lovely Kay who ended up staying with me for years! And then more came, an unusual Egyptian Gift company (they were called Isis....honestly). Then a beeswax company, and then more furniture companies followed and I started to create a niche for myself in the interiors PR world.
Over that year I built up a big enough client base to move to London and got a small desk in a shared office in Portobello Road. I loved that office, it was a great community around there. The market stall holders were lovely and it felt Walton's-esque each morning when I walked into work down Portobello Road getting waves and hellos as I went. It was a work hard, play hard time and so much fun! Things were growing fast and so I hired my first employee.
During the next 2 years the business grew and grew as I took on more and more clients. In 2005 I signed up my first big-name client, Sia, via a friend of a friend, (the wonderful Rod Kohler); and then I did my first press show, which was a wonderful experience. The thing that struck me with all this is that it didn't feel like work, I was friends with the journalists I worked with and we would regularly go out for drinks. In fact, one of my best friends today was a journalist I met through the Sia Press Show!
As zero2one grew I realised I couldn't cope with all the clients I had, the journalist lists, press releases and images. My Dad worked in marketing systems and said, "there is a system in there Nikki".... and so, we started fleshing out the basics of a system to manage the images and press releases, journalists and clients. I loved it! I then saved hard until eventually could afford to find a developer to help. One morning I went to try out one of those free breakfast events with BNI (are they still going?). I was trying to get new business but mentioned I was looking for a developer and lo and behold there was a developer there (turns out he was doing the freebie breakfast too!) His name was Graham House and he started working off the beginnings of the second business - Press Loft (or Image Loft as it was then). Graham is still working with me today 12 years later!
So then Press Loft launched, and it was a huge time saver for me to manage my PR clients, allowing me to generate coverage 24/7… and keep track of everything I had done. I quickly realised though that other PRs and companies would want to use it. It didn't take long before I signed up MFI and various other fantastic brands and PR agencies. Both businesses grew fast and so I began hiring more people and needed to move offices, first to Fulham Road where I lived and hired the top floor of a lovely high-end cleaning company. Then on to a big office in Parsons Green as we expanded further. By now I had around 15 members of staff.
Cutting ahead a few years in 2009 the lovely Anja started working with us and immediately was a hit with journalists and a natural PR. Since then Anja has secured around 20,000 pieces of coverage in the 8 years she has been with us!
In 2011 I had my first daughter and so began my work-life juggle! I was back to work 1 day a week when Rosie was 6 months old and worked around naps. It was a big step leaving others in charge and, amazingly, my Dad Stuart offered to come in and help whilst I was off... and he hasn't left! It felt quite odd at first being the boss of my Dad but we soon settled into it! The wonderful Roxanne also joined us in that year and was, in 2014, promoted to Agency Manager. She runs things like clockwork and you will always find her speaking to new clients, trying out new business service ideas and organising us all superbly. In 2012 I had my second child just as we moved to Southbank, where we are now.
zero2one has always used technology to maximise results for clients and so, as PR moved into the digital space, diversifying from print, it was a prime time for us to expand that way too. So, we worked with consultants and did our own learning on Google Analytics, SERPS and Domain Authority. We now offer clients a strong SEO PR offering and it has moved the agency into a great new direction! Today we continue to expand into that area with Rox's guidance and ideas and she has even more things up her sleeve including training workshops, events and other exciting offerings which we will be launching over the next year.
Today - 150000 pieces of coverage and 250 clients later, I can safely say that it has been a fabulous ride with the team and I am very much looking forward to the next 15 years!