By Natalie Moore
“I never thought I would ever be interested in running my own business.”
Not something usually heard in this game. It’s far more common to find people who have schemed and planned their enterprises for many moons before finally taking the plunge. For Jess MacIntyre and I, setting up Mac&Moore was very different.
It’s not that I had anything against people going it alone, I just genuinely thought I’d be so useless at it that there’d be no use in bothering! I didn’t have an idea, any clue about business plans or pricing models and Excel and I had a rather dramatic fallout in 2007 that I’d really rather not go into… it’s just too painful.
Sometimes, however, fate steps in with its stomping steel-toed boots and tosses an opportunity your way. This is exactly what happened to us. We were both working together already and had soon realized that, whilst separately we were both experienced, capable and proficient in our respective marketing skill sets, combined we were a serious force to be reckoned with. Next, we both found ourselves unemployed on an otherwise unremarkable Monday when the aforementioned company went into administration. Brilliant.
So, rather than sulk or sit around eating cereal straight from the box in our PJ’s we realized that this would be the perfect chance for us to go for it. Why not? We had relatively little to lose and we could surely figure everything else out along the way. We are now over four months in with a rapidly building brand, enough clients to fill the fingers on both hands and I have decided to offer Excel the opportunity to meet me for coffee and apologize.
We learn a new lesson roughly every six minutes. Rather than list them all in some sort of endless unfolding scroll, here are our top five.
1 | Invest in high-quality collateral.
Setting up your own business can be a costly affair. You may have to buy equipment, set up a website and buy a whole load of lattes as you get started. You obviously want to economize in any way that you can to keep costs down. Remember, everything you produce that is connected to your brand is a direct reflection of your business. We invested in some premium cards (still by no means extortionate) from MOO and it has made a massive difference to people taking us seriously. We pass them out with confidence and know that if we want people to trust that we’re offering a quality service, we have to have quality business cards.
2 | Celebrate the wins (but not too hard!)
As you frantically tick things off your to-do list, it is easy to get carried away and let major milestones or achievements pass you by. This happens to a lot of first-time business owners who don’t have a frame of reference for success. Through sheer caffeine and being ridiculously competitive, we managed to get everything we needed to start Mac&Moore set up in just over two weeks. The day we launched the website, despite having another one hundred things to do, we treated ourselves to a couple of hours off to sit with a glass of bubbly and toast to what we had done. You absolutely should be proud of your wins. Setting up a business from scratch is something not everyone will accomplish or even attempt to do. Just remember not to spend too much time patting yourself on the back; no one likes a Billy Bragger!
3 | Be on the same team.
There are two of us running this ship and we have to be so careful to manage our relationship with each other when there are big deadlines and big decisions to make. I initially wrote this point thinking about my own business; now, I actually think it works for people going solo, too. Being on the same team isn’t about always agreeing with one another and it’s not about being selfish or selfless. It’s about doing the right thing to reach your end goal and for the success of your business. Sometimes Jess and I fight like cats and dogs but in the end, we always do what is right for Mac&Moore. If you’re on your own (which, by the way, I hugely congratulate you for), you can spend your day having multiple changes of attitude, moments where you doubt yourself, criticize yourself or even just feel completely unmotivated. Decide which ‘team’ or mindset is the best for your business. You should always try and figure out a way to get back there.
4 | Become a salesperson.
When you start up by yourself, you suddenly realize that you have to wear a whole load of hats. Creative, strategist, accountant, HR, cleaner; you name it and you’re doing it. Probably the most terrifying of these hats (not one of those giant ones made of fruit) is salesperson. In our business, our product is ourselves. We had to learn very rapidly how to talk confidently about who we are and what we have to offer in a way that I usually can’t even manage with my own family members. That’s how you get your business. Without it, you could have the most amazing idea in the world, but no one is going to want to buy it from a reclusive wallflower who can’t spit out a sentence. We were told once that if you truly believe in what you do and you’re authentically passionate about it, it’s not selling. That’s what we try and do. If you believe in something so vehemently to devote your working life to making it a reality, then, for goodness sakes, hold your head up high and talk about it with confidence!
5 | Use people.
Woah. Slow down. Before you get carried away and think I’m talking about being completely and utterly devious, allow me to explain myself. Whether you realize it or not, you are surrounded by people who actually want to help you. Friends, family, old colleagues and even that barista who always wishes you a great day when you’d rather be screaming into your pillow. This is an incredibly valuable network of people who have skills (sometimes, even ones they’ll share with you for free if you’re a good person), advice or comfy shoulders for you to have a cry on. It wasn’t until Jess and I got going that we realized how many supporters we had and how many people we knew that were either in the same boat or knew someone who might be able to help us.
Finally, even though I’ve already fulfilled my five lessons, I wanted to leave you with a cheeky quote we once heard which really sums up how we aim to operate in basically all aspects of life:
“Work hard and be nice to people.”
That’s it. Go forth and prosper fellow entrepreneurial characters. You’re doing a really good job!
Co-Founders of Mac&Moore, Natalie Moores and Jess MacIntyre, created a business that provides in-house or remote marketing for small businesses and start-ups. They help companies to meet their business objectives and solve business problems through measurable marketing and communications.
With a Masters in Creative Writing and some success as a performance/published poet, Natalie arrived in London all the way from Manchester with a pretentious notebook and a head full of dreams. Specializing in creative copywriting, e-marketing and generally getting shit done, she loves a collaborative approach to work and, after giving a helping hand to friends’ start-ups over the years, is excited that now it’s her turn!
With 10 years in the advertising world under her belt, Jess MacIntyre is now in her element as a freelance marketing consultant. She has worked on some ground-breaking marketing projects for ad-tech startups, media businesses and B2C clients such as Heineken and Pernod Ricard. Her mantra has always been work hard and be nice to people. Through this ethos she has worked alongside some brilliant marketing and creative pals creating amazing work she’s hugely proud of.
Originally written for The BDC Collective’s Badass Living site (pre COVID).