Co-founder and managing director of Crème Creative, Katie Nattrass-Daniels, tells BQ about running a creative agency, how to manage growth, and adapting in a fast-changing sector…
What is it the company does?
Crème Creative is creative content and branding agency specialising in fashion and footwear. We are based in Manchester servicing national and international clients such as New Balance, Footasylum, Lacoste, Mallet Footwear, isawitfirst.com and Koi Footwear.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Most of my role is shared with my wife and business partner, Emma, but in essence, I oversee and manage 10 members of staff, as well as take responsibility for bringing in new business and nurturing existing clients.
As we are a small company and only one and a half years old, I am very hands-on, and my role is pretty fluid - I do everything from photographing, designing, invoicing, interviewing and pitching. I take care of training our team and also looking at financial strategy and forecasting while Emma takes care of the day-to-day detail.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
When I was 18 and working at Tesco, I was talent spotted for a place on its accelerated management programme and got only one of 12 in the UK. This led me to a management role with the retailer and a move to Manchester where I became the youngest dot com manager in the North.
At 23, I decided to follow my passion for photography and went to Derby University where I got a first in Commercial Photography. From there I went to JD Sports, Boohoo and Footasylum before taking a leap of faith to launch Crème Creative.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
To get the respect of the team so they will want to work for you and enjoy doing so. If you have respect, it means that when you need to challenge your team, they know it’s coming from a place of truth.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Adapting from being there being just the two of us in the team to 10 almost overnight (or what felt like overnight anyway!) Although I have managerial experience, it feels different when you’re running your own business. When it was just Emma and I, it felt like we had full control but now we have people producing work in our name and it’s difficult to let go … we still see everything that goes out under our name!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Emma is very good at making me stop and take holidays, otherwise I would find myself working non-stop. We are on shoots abroad quite often, so we make sure we go a day early or come back a day late so we can spend quality time together in a different country. We also love zoning out at the gym.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was obsessed with flying and wanted to be a pilot – I even joined the Air Cadets at 13 but I had to leave after four years because I developed asthma. When I was much younger, I modelled for Laura Ashley and you could find me in a variety of catalogues and knitting magazines!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I don’t like people being late, although I do appreciate that traffic and family issues can require some flexibility.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We would love to be four times the size we are now and very much a destination people want to come to for their campaigns. We had a six-figure investment from the former Boohoo director, Jamal Kamani so we’re currently looking for city centre offices and studio space, which can help us expand.
Hopefully that will give us capacity to start working for high street brands like Top Shop, ASOS, Adidas and Nike. Crème Creative is unique in that we specialise fashion and footwear – we understand the customer and create amazing content so we believe it’s all possible.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Follow your gut – we have done what feels right, but it was calculated at the same time. We don’t gamble but we do follow our hearts. Crème Creative has grown organically and from our experience we would say ‘stay small for as long as you can, so you can keep your overheads down’ – if you can do this then from investment perspective your business will look lean and attractive.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
This is easy, I wish somebody had told me to enjoy the ride more! There is a tendency to get a business high when you land new work - you take on more staff and see the business growing, but I wish we had taken a step back from worrying and just soaked it up. We feel much more secure and are doing that now – it’s never too late!
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