Soon after leaving the corporate world to become a freelancer over two years ago, Lucy Werner realised that new and growing UK businesses were hugely underserved by quality PR services.
She launched The Wern as a new top-quality consultancy, specifically there to support startups.
Business Advice sat down with Werner to discuss her experiences going it alone, and why startups, more than most businesses, needed trusted representation behind them.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Lucy Werner, founder at The Wern, a PR consultancy and training center for startups, small and independent business owners.
(2) How long have you been around for?
I’ve been working in-house and agency PR for approximately 13 years, but started working on my own client portfolio full-time from January 2015. I gave myself three months with savings as a salary to give it a go.
(3) How do you make money?
In as many ways as possible, as a team we work on retained PR briefs and projects. I also am building additional revenue streams for the business for ad-hoc expert consultancy, training and talks.
We are also in talks to represent our first female founder for talent management.
(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?
We’re different because we fill a gap in the market for all the amazing new and small businesses out there that can’t afford the London agency prices that are usually affiliated with quality PR.
We sit somewhere between a freelancer and a competitive PR agency.
(5) What was key in terms of getting started?
Meeting Dominic Cools-Lartigue, the original founder of Street Feast, who was in development for his next project.
He inspired me to work with other self-starters whose business passion is contagious.
Cools-Lartigue took me out of my comfort zone and off the grid of the traditional ‘9 to 5’ full-time job. His unwavering belief in me that I had a talent catapulted me into the world I inhabit today.
(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?
My accountant telling me he was proud of me after we completed our first-year tax return, and still genuinely being in love with my vocation a decade after I started in that world.
I don’t think many people like their day job, but I pride myself on never having Sunday night dread, and my work makes me happy.
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
The nature of working with startups is that some don’t always make it, one client went bankrupt and I had paid the freelancer who worked with me on the project.
I was left out of pocket at quite an early stage of my business and it was financially crippling at the time.
(8) In five years’ time, I will be…
Continuing to expand our revenue streams by helping as many small businesses as I can with my team.
From teaching people, how to do PR for themselves to passing on some of my knowledge back into the industry, to stopping bad practice – don’t get me started on blanket emails to journalists, where PRs can’t even be bothered to put the person’s name on an email!
I also like to take on a few pro bono projects a year in East London where our office is based and most of the team live.
I think it’s important for all businesses to give back to their community where they can to help boost the local area and keep the team feeling motivated.
(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?
When I started the business, I read a lot of books about personal development and gleaned that spending time with successful people rather than negative was a good way to go (hence me loving working with ambitious entrepreneurs).
They say you are the product of the five people you spend the most time with so I try to meet, network, work and listen to as many inspirational people as possible and this in turn will affect your own attitude and productivity.
If you say “I will never be able to this, or this will take me years” – then guess what, that is exactly what will happen.
It’s a cliché, but you need to know where you are going and be optimistic people will help you get there.
I sit down every January and write a plan for the year, I might not know how I am going to get there, but the unwavering belief that I will do that makes it happen. Being around positive folk will help you do this and push your goals and limits.
(10) Who are your business heroes and why?
Natalie Campbell – she’s the same age as me but has already achieved approximately one hundred times more. Check out The Badass Principle as just as a starter. She is inspiring, without being cheesy.
In a world that is dominated by white middle class men heralded as business heroes it is refreshing to see a black female showing the world how to get shit done.
My two other heroes I look to for support almost every day. Simon West, for day to day tactical support, is the person I can call in a team or client crisis to give me urgent help.
Meanwhile, Tim Hipperson has been my business mentor since I started and constantly challenges me to think further and harder.
Every time I meet him thinking I’ve nailed my next business plan, I come away with my tail between my legs – rethinking my position. Working with him is a steep and fantastic learning curve.
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