Cheers to our start-up's first birthday... in isolation

Launching a media agency has been rewarding, even if coronavirus has derailed growth plans.

One year ago, with the help of our much-loved friends Goodstuff Communications, we launched our media agency Love Sugar Science in Manchester. 

Full of optimism and a healthy dose of fear, the four of us – Steven Gregory, Simon Price, Nik Wheatley and I – created something that we all feel really proud of. 

We won clients, we delivered some brilliant work and, critically, we thrived in our first year.

Our first birthday party, planned for this month, had to be put on hold because of a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in a hundred years and for which there could have been no possible way of preparing.  

Recognising there are far bigger things in life right now than media, we all still have to make a living and for the foreseeable future that is going to be tricky for all of us.

We are hearing a lot about the network agencies' fall in share prices and huge impacts on media owner revenues. But what about us small businesses? 

In the grand scheme of things, we are a tiny little ship in this giant media ocean and the sea is rough.

If we weren’t a bit scared, we’d likely be in denial or deluded. We’re neither. 

But looking for positives: we’re fresh off the blocks and still in "fight or flight" start-up mode.

The learnings over the past 12 months have been incredible. We have become used to managing uncertainty and we are well-equipped to get through what we all know is going to be a hairy few months.

So, this month, we have done some looking back to go forward. Here are the things we have learned in our first year that can help us (and maybe you) mentally prepare for what’s to come.

Friends are really important, but being a good friend even more so

We’ve all been lucky enough to have been part of the media world collectively for more than 70 years. We have made lots of friends and have lots of support in the market. 

We have had the wonderful Brazen PR open their doors to us and we have become their basement dwellers.

We have had media owners and clients consistently go above and beyond to make sure we can deliver brilliant work – sometimes taking punts they know won’t pay back in a hurry. 

During this time, we will be doing what we can to give back, being a good friend to those that we can be of help to.

We might all need to be a bit creative with how we find ways to help, but it will put us all in good stead for a time when things go back to "normal". 

Keeping high when things are low

We’ve all come from big shiny offices, with in-house coffee shops and big, open-plan floors and hundreds of people milling around and teams of people to help whenever needed.

We had to quickly adjust from this to being just the four of us. To working as a small team where we are doing everything (even the things we didn’t even think about).

We’ve had monumental highs, the likes I’ve never experienced before from a career point of view.

And we’ve had some pretty bad lows too. Lows when you’re a fledgling start-up tend to feel genuinely quite tough. We’ve done all this over the past 12 months, day in, day out, with each other.

We’ve become more resourceful, humble and appreciative of what we have.

To have a complete change from that tight-knit four, within arm’s length of each other, to working from our homes is an adjustment. 

We have to do what we have become used to: to bunk down when the future is looking a bit rough, to cheer each other up when things feel hard and to celebrate every achievement (however small). Virtual high-fives will become our thing.

Learn to love being beta

Leaving the world where the processes are written for you and the blueprint has been fine-tuned over decades to starting your whole thing from scratch can be quite liberating. Yeah, it sounds amazing, but it’s also pretty frightening. 

We are always in beta – always in "test and learn" phase. Every day is like the first day of a new job. 

I’ve got used to being forever the new girl. We learn fast and fail fast, but always, always get back up. Because we have to. Otherwise, how will we feed the kids?

Being in this constant state of "beta" has made us really resilient. 

We’ve had to back ourselves – because if we didn’t, then who would? Something that has never faded is our sheer determination to be the best we can be, to grow our company and to create a company people would queue up to work with.

Never, never give up

We had big plans for 2020: new clients, big growth targets and smashing our first year's success. We had planned and looked forward to being in growth mode, not back to survival mode. 

But, for the foreseeable future, we have to be more realistic about our business and the growth for this year.

But we know survival mode – it has become our friend. We know we have to innovate our way out of this. We aren’t prepared to have taken this big step to now sit back and fail.

We are going to do everything in our power to keep going, to keep creating and to keep making the best work we can. 

We won’t give up, we can’t give up and we want to be part of this journey with you, our fellow industry comrades.

If you want to take this next year on with all the foolhardiness of a start-up mentality, or even if you just feel a bit terrified and want to chat and hear about how we could share some "beta" wisdom, I’m always free for a chat.

Jessica Scott is co-founder of Love Sugar Science 

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