There may not be any magic formula to starting up on your own, but that hasn’t stopped several of our ambitious 30 Under 30 alumni looking forward to continued growth at their agencies over the next few years.
Ben Goldsmith launched his own agency in August 2017. London-based Goldsmith Communications focuses on tech companies, investors and established brands entering the technology sector.
Goldsmith previously worked at Balderton, a multinational tech investment firm, where he was credited with transforming its internal processes and overseeing a marked improvement in coverage and performance.
The 29-year-old had wanted to set up his own agency for a while. "But you have to be realistic," he says. "I waited until I had at least one client. I thought there was a gap on the tech and investment capital side, and enough potential for growth in those areas."
Part of 2017’s 30 Under 30 cohort, Goldsmith now manages a team of five – two full-time and three part-time staff. He explains how he started by hiring part-time staff first, in areas such as journalism, strategy and software, as it allowed him to make more senior hires and immediately bring in knowledge and experience to the agency.
"It enabled me to build the right sort of team early on, and senior people are easier to manage. Hiring junior staff was more of a learning curve," he says.
"But that was fun in itself – it was interesting discovering how I teach, because it depends on how you learn. I learn in a very visual way and like to draw things out. Working with how you learn is very important."
A graduate of Royal Holloway, University of London, Goldsmith was a freelance comms consultant before moving to Balderton, and did some presenting at an online publication called The Memo, where he once tried to explain the blockchain using a cake – "I’m really proud of that," he says.
Goldsmith is interested by developments in AI and remains excited by the prospect of blockchain technology. "But it just needs that first use case," he says. "Tech for tech’s sake is particularly useless – and a difficult sell."
In an era when how people buy and sell is changing, and with a declining number of journalists, his agency will need to be flexible and adaptable, but Goldsmith is pleased with its growth so far.
"If we can continue with the cadence we’re on I will be very happy," he adds.
Carve a niche
Rebecca Ridge set up her agency, Rebecca Abigail PR, in 2012 – at just 23 years old. She counted dating app Tinder among her first clients. "That was on the cusp of the tech industry being super-cool," she says.
The 2015 30 Under 30 alumnus began her career working for magazine publisher-turned-poet Felix Dennis, where she had a great time learning how to do "good PR" from such a colourful character and his team.
In the agency’s first year of business, Ridge won and retained nine clients, carving a niche in the consumer lifestyle sector. She now employs 15 staff at her office in London’s Soho.
"I worked really hard and grew [the business] through word of mouth; there was no magic formula," she says. "I wasn’t following or caring what anyone else was doing, I just kept my focus on the finish line. Being that young I was almost fearless – I pitched sometimes without even realising it."
Ridge says part of her agency’s success is down to having a young creative team and a high level of talent-retention. She also believes it is important to employ a senior leadership team whose skills complement each other, adding: "Our growth has been organic and I’ve always learned as I go, so I’m looking forward to the next step."