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Why now is the time to launch a new business

More than 50 new PR agencies have been founded in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic according to a report published today by Wadds Inc.

The report provides insights into the market and clear direction for anyone thinking of starting their own agency.

Are you considering launching your own business and going freelance? If so, I think you’ll find the report inspirational to read what other PR and Comms professionals have been doing over the past year.

Is now the time to launch a new business? I hope this report helps you make up your mind.

I welcome this publication and hope you enjoy reading through it as much as I did.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: What’s it like to leave an in-house Comms role?

Wadds Inc PR Report

Want to know more about going freelance?
I regularly feature Comms Consultants on the All Things IC blog and share my own career story to help other IC professionals who are thinking about branching out on their own.

If you want to know more, why not sign up to my How to be a Comms Consultant – Exploration Online Masterclass. This is the course I wish existed back in 2012 when I was researching my own career move from in-house to being a business owner.

One of the Consultants who has completed the course and shared his experience is Ben Veal of Second Mountain Communications: How to launch a Comms Consultancy.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: What I wish I knew before launching my business.

Ben’s company is one of the organisations featured in Wadds Inc’s COVID-19 PR Agency Startup report, which explores why such a large number of agencies have been started in such a relatively short period of time.

The 40-page report includes a list of startup agencies and characterises them by proposition location, funding and the date they were founded.

The lockdown created new routines and space for practitioners to think about their career and life. Alongside redundancy and furlough this is the primary driver for new agency startups.

The report found that two-fifths of agency startups were founded during the first lockdown between February and July 2020.

The UK agency market is saturated with more than 4,500 agencies according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). New agencies launching into such a crowded market need a strong proposition.

Startups recorded in the study are focused on one of three areas of innovation: services, business model or specialism. New agency propositions are focused on data, creativity and lead generation. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), fintech and healthcare are popular markets.

The majority of agency founders have funded their new businesses from savings or lifestyle changes. Alternative approaches include raising funds from family and friends or seeking investment from a complimentary agency partner to help cover overheads.

Congratulations to everyone who has launched their own business over the past year. The first 12 months are the hardest and it’s wonderful to see so many familiar names on this list.

Further reading via the All Things IC blog: Starting a consultancy during lockdown – featuring Adam Driver of Authentic Comms.

Chart of PR agencies

The report includes eight startup PR agency profiles: Second Mountain Communications, BB Partners, Little Mesters, Hard Numbers, Inpulsus, Look After, Happy Yolk and CommsRebel.

It found two-thirds of the startups were located in London, UK, reflecting the location of their previous employers or personal circumstances. This is despite the fact that the pandemic has shown that there is no need for creative or professional services to be based in London. It may be that we’ll start to see a shift as a second order effect of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has leveled-up competition for startup agencies. Founders have been able to create content and meet people in a way that wasn’t previously possible. Video calls mean that everyone presents the same in credential and new business meetings.”

Everyone interviewed celebrated the support that their launch and new agency has received from the industry. It is a vibrant and supportive community. The UK is a great place to start a public relations business.

I couldn’t agree more with this. If you are clear on your niche and the problems you can solve for potential clients, there is room for everyone. There is a community of Founders, which didn’t exist when I launched back in 2013, I’m encouraged by the collaboration today.

I was interested to note all the agencies launched during lockdown are virtual by design headquartered in the founder’s home office, kitchen table or spare bedroom.

Stephen Waddington, Managing Partner, Wadds Inc said: “It was surprising to hear so many founders say that they intend to invest in an office as lockdown eases. A hybrid two/three or three/two home/office combination is cited as the most likely. Founders cite creativity and workplace culture as the main reasons for needing a physical office space.”

I ran All Things IC from my spare bedroom for a couple of years, until it became my twins sons’ nursery, then I switched to a co-working space, before building a “shedquarters” in my garden ahead of opening the All Things IC Hub in 2020. They’re all pictured below.

All Things IC

Stephen Waddington said: “The report is dedicated to anyone who has founded an agency during the COVID-19 pandemic. It celebrates your work. It’s also intended as a source of inspiration for anyone considering setting up their own agency.

Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA, said: “The COVID-19 UK public relations agency startup report is an inspiring read. It’s hard not to feel optimistic about the future of our industry after reading the findings. The PR industry has adapted remarkably well to the pandemic and the explosion of new agencies is testament to the strength of our practice.”

Mandy Pearse, President, CIPR, said: “This is a fascinating, innovative piece of research into the life of any agency from start up. I hope, like the famous TV series Seven Up!, we will get the chance to follow their stories as they grow and evolve.”

Information about new agency launches was collated from PRovoke, PRWeek and social media. It was cross referenced with legal company registrations and agencies’ own websites. The database is limited to agencies that were formally incorporated in the UK between 1 January 2020 to 31 March 2021.

Thank you @Wadds for writing this report, I hope others enjoy reading through it as much as I did.

Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 27 May 2021.

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