The females I employ are the most talented and ambitious bunch of people I know. We need more of these females at the forefront, building businesses that deliver real value and solving challenging problems.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Wilson.
Rachel is a UK-based digital marketing expert, agency owner and business consultant. Her mission is to unravel the mystique of digital marketing and make it accessible for everyone. In just five years, she grew her full-service digital marketing agency, KW Digital Ltd, into a £1 million business. She is surrounded by a team and network of talented and ambitious females, and now takes great pride in championing their success and growth.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I came out of university, after studying Psychology, a bit clueless of how to take my career forwards. I started working for a family business, and was lucky enough to get to experience what ‘running a business’ was like. At this point, I decided to embark on a 5 year, part-time, Masters in Business & Administration. It was actually during this Masters, as part of my thesis, that I decided to set up my own business in Marketing — and I have never looked back!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most exciting part to date was moving into our purpose-fit offices. 4 years into running the agency, we took a leap of faith and invested in the fit-out of our dream offices. Really, this move was premature as the business was still young and on a steep growth curve, but it all worked out brilliantly and now we work in a really lovely environment. Another great memory was travelling down to London for a pitch for an absolute dream client. We spent ages on the pitch and we were really well prepared but, of course, prepared ourselves for not winning the business. We were positive they would go for a big name agency, but they didn’t! We won the pitch and having that client on our creds list propelled us forward as an agency.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I agreed to a face-to-face meeting with a client when my second baby was very young. I was eager to get back and this particular client was very accommodating and friendly. Unfortunately, their campaign was about cloth nappies and the sound of crying babies initiated an uncontrollable ‘let down’ process and suddenly breast milk was everywhere — not my finest moment! In hindsight, I should have perhaps left it a bit longer. Over the years, I have learnt that people of value will always wait for you and things are never as urgent as they seem and if they are, then 99% of the time, these tasks can be delegated easily.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Ahhh where do I start?! I genuinely do not believe my business would have grown as steadily and as solidly as it has done, without my strong network of other female founded businesses. KW Digital has had the pleasure of partnering with leading PR firm Brazen and between us we have won many joint clients. My network of females have done the hard work for us and referred good quality work to us with glowing introductions.
Also, my Mum can’t go without a mention. She is my accountant and financial advisor, but also acts as a stand in business mentor and therapist!
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I try to read about 3–4 books per month, so my list is pretty endless. Some of my favorites are… Essentialism by Greg McKeown and The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss really shaped the way I think about work and life. Work Like a Woman: A Manifesto For Change by Mary Portas is an incredible book — full of inspiration tips, snippets of info and experience, and general advice on being a professional woman within the working world. Really inspirational! Finally, to be calm and centered I really enjoy all of Fearne Cotton’s books, especially Calm and Happy.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
My favorite ‘life lesson quote’ is actually based on the serenity prayer — give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I think this little mantra is excellent for you keeping you in the present. As a business owner working in an extremely fast-paced and demanding industry, the anxious mind can sometimes take over. This mantra helps me to stop dwelling in the past and trying to control the future.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit several industries really hard, we offered our support and services free of charge to help business owners pivot quickly and take their businesses online. We also work with one not-for-profit or charity at a time, delivering SEO or Paid Advertising free of charge to help them achieve their objectives.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I believe one of the major reasons is flexibility in the workplace. I have two small children and there is absolutely no way I could be employed in my husband’s job and be a mother at the same time. If workplaces offered just a little flexibility, particularly in terms of when people can go for appointments, hours worked and locations worked from, you can help take the pressure off people’s lives, and I think women often bear the brunt of life’s pressures. Once you do this, job and life satisfaction increases tremendously.
I think if workplaces are supportive, nurturing, and caring, women rise to the top and then your business becomes a formidable force.
I also think in certain industries there is a serious lack of female role models. In the industry I work in there are tons of successful and inspirational women to admire, but this isn’t the case for many industries, especially in STEM.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
We are launching a Digital Academy which delivers high quality, practical digital marketing training. One of the areas we are focusing on is a ‘fast track’ course to take the first steps in setting up your own creative agency. We are also developing a digital course aimed specifically to those on parental leave who are looking for a change in their careers. The digital industry is so accommodating and progressive when it comes to female founders, so we want to make it easier so more and more people can take the leap.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
Talent — The females I employ are the most talented and ambitious bunch of people I know. We need more of these females at the forefront, building businesses that deliver real value and solving challenging problems.
Change — I strongly believe the best way to impact change in a positive way is lead from the front. Women often understand the different dimensions of work and life in a deeper way, and can build workplaces that support this and benefit from it. The thing that I am most proud of is that I have built a business where females can thrive and prosper. We need more of this.
Success — Why does success look so different to women than it does to men? This gap needs to change. To me success is waking up excited for my day and going to sleep content with what I have and what I have achieved. More female founders will address the misconceptions around success and what it ‘should’ look like.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.
- More funding and training
- More mentoring opportunities
- More accessible and affordable childcare
- More update of shared parental leave
- Early initiatives in school and college.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Encourage the update of shared parental leave and make quality child care more accessible and affordable. Change the perception of the working week, so it’s less about hours racked up the office and more about outcomes and objectives achieved. Stop paying more efficient workers less because they have condensed their hours so their family can survive!
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Yes, Arianna Huffington!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My agency has its own website at this link https://www.kwdigital.co.uk/ and we are also on social media channels as follows:
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.