1. Can you please tell us more about your business?
A. The Friday Street Club is a creative marketing and communications agency based in Cape Town. Our roots are in PR and digital communications, but we have a wide offering that stretches to strategy and consulting, design, event management, influencer management and the creation of content such as video, photography and copywriting.
We are named after a group of eminent Elizabethan creatives, including, legend tells, poets William Shakespeare and John Donne, and pirate and adventurer, Sir Walter Raleigh. They met regularly at the Mermaid Tavern on Friday Street in London to discuss, debate and collaborate, and called themselves The Friday Street Club.
2. When, how and why did you start your business?
A. I started the business about five years ago, after having spent 15 years working in various PR and advertising agencies in South Africa and in London. I had got to the point where I needed a challenge and also wanted to do things “my own way”. I thought that the business models of many agencies didn’t make sense anymore.
The way that many PR agencies worked seemed outdated – they focused on traditional media relations in an environment where the media landscape was drastically decreasing, and they didn’t have the capability to create content for and manage new digital platforms. Advertising agencies, meanwhile, operated in a really clunky and slow way, more suited to creating big-budget campaigns for clients with massive budgets. I thought that there was the opportunity to build something that was quicker and nimbler, and which could offer a range of skills in a modern and exciting way.
3. What is your role in the business?
A. I founded the business and continue to run it on a day-to-day basis as the Managing Director.
4. Where did you study and what did you study?
A. I studied English Literature and Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town. I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do when I finished and to be honest, my degree didn’t really set me up to be instantly employable. I worked a load of odd jobs, then went to London and got a job as a receptionist in a PR agency. I worked my way up from there, and as it turns out, my love for reading, writing, and creativity that I had explored at university worked to my favour in the industry that I ended up in.
5. How did you finance your business?
A. I didn’t really finance it, to be honest – I ended my previous job with a bit of money in the bank as I had been paid out for leave that I had not taken, that would see me out for a month or so. I just bought myself a new laptop and then started chatting to all my contacts in the industry and within days had the first clients lined up. The business was a one-man band with just me working in a co-working space for the first few months but grew after that to be what we are today.
6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.
A. It really is a case of every day being different. Some days I may be at clients, consulting them on their marketing and communications strategies or assisting them in managing a crisis or issue. Other days I may be out the office running and event or media launch or I may be working through month-end books and financials and budgets.
I am lucky that my job gives me the opportunity to do some exciting things that many people would never have the chance to do – an example is a trip I did with a client called Rhino Tears, which is a wine brand that raises money to fund anti-poaching activities in South Africa’s national parks. The trip consisted of us taking media and film crews into Kruger Park where we stayed alongside the brave rangers who put their lives on the line every day to protect the animals in the parks.
7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?
A. I am really strict about having a good life outside of work, and I don’t believe you have to work yourself to death in order to have a successful business. There are, of course, times when I work late nights and through weekends, but these are usually for a specific project or event and are the exception rather than the rule.
8. What drives you and inspires you?
A. I am lucky to be in an industry is built around the things I love – I love reading, writing, am fascinated by the news and media, and love creative and beautiful things. When your job incorporates things that you love, it is easy to be inspired. I am naturally curious about life and trying out new things, and I love to travel and learn about new cultures. We are also so lucky that so much information is available at our fingertips – the internet is an amazing source of inspiration from Pinterest to incredible online courses and how-to-videos.
9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
A. I work well under pressure, but having said that, I find that I solve most problems when I clear my mind and don’t think about a problem too much. Doing yoga often and reading each evening allows my mind to switch off from work things – and ironically that’s often when the solution to a problem I have been bothering about pops up.
10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?
A. We don’t really market or advertise our services – pretty much 100% of our new business comes from word of mouth recommendations or from people that we have worked with before. So, it’s vital for me that we focus and put our energy in doing amazing work for our clients so that they keep coming back, and tell their colleagues about us, rather than spending it on trying to pitch for random bits of new business all the time.
11. What is next for your business?
A. We’re heading into a tough economic climate (in fact we’ve been in the middle of one for some time). My plan for this year is to keep growing but in a sustainable way. We are currently working on a number of proposals with new clients, so we will see which ones we can start rolling out over the next few weeks and months.
12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?
A. The same advice I’d give to any entrepreneur (we need to stop thinking that as women we are different – or less – than men): just give it a go. It’s often not so much of an insurmountable mountain as you may think. Also, be really focused on the KIND of business you want to create – build it around your values and beliefs and you will find that you not only build a business that you love being part of, but also one that the right clients and employees want to be part of too.
Emma has over two decades of experience in marketing strategy and communications. After finishing a degree in Fine Arts and English at the University of Cape Town, Emma headed over to London to start her career with a short stint in the big smoke. A planned two years soon turned in to ten years living in the city, where she worked for a number of PR and communications businesses and headed up a number of accounts with international brands, including Guinness, Disney, and Cathay Pacific Airlines. She also specialised in planning and implementing Pan-African communications campaigns for drinks giant Diageo, spending time over a five year period in West and East African markets (focusing on Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Cameroon), ensuring their execution was world-class.
The call of her home town proved to be too strong, and she headed back to Cape Town at the end of 2008. She spent five years working in local communications and advertising agencies, before founding The Friday Street Club, a marketing, PR and branding agency, in 2014.
Emma also sits on the Board of The Underdog Project (www.theunderdogproject.org), an animal-assisted therapy organisation that works with at-risk teenagers and shelter dogs.