Trust your instincts, lean in to what feels exciting…
With remote working becoming the new normal, an agency planned from the beginning to be virtual definitely caught our attention as did their focus on female founders and women-led firms. So we were delighted at the opportunity to sit down with Celia Lockley, founder and creative director of branding agency BOUDICA – about staying focused in challenging times, managing the technology they use and advice for future founders.
Tell us a bit about your business – what’s it about? When did you launch?
Boudica is a business strategy and growth agency specialising in brand creative and communications. We work mostly, not exclusively, with women-led businesses who have big ambitions to scale their revenue and their impact. We help them to create scalable strategic foundations in their business, as well as design the tools they require to elevate themselves in their market – from brand identities to print collateral and social media templates to pitch decks. We typically work with firms in the wellness, hospitality, travel and lifestyle sectors.
We launched in April 2020, just as the country was plunged into lockdown. It was a challenging time for all the obvious reasons. I’d steeled myself for a rough first year as we found our feet, but layering Covid on top of that made things particularly rocky not to mention knocking the wind out of our sails from day one! It’s very difficult to create connections and build trust with potential clients when the whole world is in crisis mode – let alone if no one actually knows of your company and what you do.
Is it exactly the business you planned to build? How is it different and why the change?
Yes, we’re very much on the journey we had planned. It’s definitely been tempting along the way – especially during the tough months – to want to pivot away from the original vision and change the business model entirely, or even our skillset and offering. We have a vast range of experiences in our backgrounds which means we could, if we desired, lean into a different niche or discipline, but I’ve always circled back to the need to remain consistent. For me, building a reputation for one core service/experience is the priority at this relatively early stage.
Was there a moment you realised you’re really onto something?
Prior to setting up BOUDICA I had consulted for a client on a number of interconnected deliverables encompassing strategy, design and communications. We found ourselves moving through a natural progression and process of clarity, from establishing brand frameworks, creating a solid brand identity and then moving into collateral, templates and social media support. There was huge joy in seeing the transformation of our client’s business and confidence on that journey, which now acts as the blueprint for all the work we do.
How reliant is your business on technology? What software or app has proved invaluable?
We had always planned to be a virtual agency even before the pandemic hit, so technology is at the heart of our operational success – from enabling conversations with anyone, anywhere to helping our team collaborate, create and communicate with ease.
We use ClickUp for tracking time, organising project schedules and workflows and capturing SOPs. We hire lots of freelancers, so I need to be able to plug and play a lot of our workflow, which ClickUp helps us do very well. Another fantastic tool that’s helped in streamlining our pipeline and client experience is Acuity Scheduling. It’s very powerful in that I can set up multiple different meeting types, set my availability for each, and add and process a fee if required. Another tool that’s been central to an efficient workflow is Dubsado, which blends our CRM and proposal/invoicing systems. When we share a quotation with a client, it enables them to confirm, sign our contract and be served the invoice all in three clicks, which saves on a lot of ugly email drudgery.
What do you wish technology could help with?
Scoping projects. I’d love a tool that would enable me to build and share a robust project scope of work statement, deliverables, clients costs, resourcing costs, profitability and project progress in one place. Also, such a tool would need to allow deliverables to be saved into categories or groups with all the attached costings, ready for use on another project. Perhaps there is a way to do this arbitrarily in some of our existing tools, but it isn’t intuitive or powerful enough for our needs – unless I am missing a trick!
How confident are you with keeping your technology optimised and up-to-date?
I review our tools every quarter, and assess if they’re bringing the value and experience we need. We’ve switched a number of tools over in the last year that were causing issues in our productivity. Tech and shiny objects are great, but I want to constantly ensure that we’re not paying for something that could be done better or more optimally elsewhere.
If you were to go back and do it all again what would you do differently?
I’d focus more on building a community earlier on. We’re only just beginning to give this the attention it deserves – so, establishing an email list, showing up regularly on social media, growing a Facebook group and so forth. These feel like nice-to-haves when you’re so focused on pitching and projects in the early days, but now more than ever, the future success of a business like ours lies within the community we create online.
What advice would you give to someone toying with the idea of starting their own business?
Don’t overthink it. Trust your instincts, lean into what feels exciting, easy and enjoyable in your work. That’s where the magic happens in the unique value you bring to clients.
What do you want to learn in the next year?
Well, our company vision is to help 10,000 women to grow their business by 2030 – not just via our bespoke services (that’s a lot of projects!) but by making an impact at a broader level. I want to learn how we take our skillset to educate, grow and inspire a community that eventually can be monetised alongside our core output. I also want to learn more deeply about what we shouldn’t do, embracing the inevitable mistakes we’ll make along the way, so that we can continually evolve and improve our approach.
We love finding out what motivates and inspires people to start their own businesses. It’s one of the reasons start-ups have always been a big part of our client list. If you’ve got an idea you want to develop, get in touch. Let’s see how we can help you startup your start-up.
For more advice on how to tackle start-up challenges, pop over to our blog where we dispense advice gained, not only by our own experience, but also by working with startups in a wide range of sectors.