Andrea and Clare
Clare Wall and Anrea Hounsham are Joint founders and co-directors of Firework PR. They chat to BQ about working together, juggling family life, and the biggest cause of arguments in their office.
What is it the company does?
Firework is a small boutique digital PR agency which delivers integrated communications campaigns for a wide range of businesses. Founded by ex-London agency directors with a background in technology, B2B and consumer brands – both British and global - the company works hard to deliver intelligent campaigns that deliver business ROI. Firework works across technology, utilities, legal, consumer lifestyle, education and charity. The agency’s ethos is based on delivering senior consultancy but without the big agency price tag.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As business partners, we work together to manage our client base whilst also growing the business. We are both very hands on in the day-to-day running of our client campaigns whilst providing support, direction and inspiration for the team. We have a strong shared vision about the kind of clients and companies we want to work with and the types of campaigns we want to deliver – creative, challenging and rewarding. We’re lucky to have built up a lovely mix of large and smaller clients that complement each other. As a partnership, we work together to map our respective strengths to the appropriate client.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
We both met at international technology PR agency, Text 100 in 1994. We were starting out in our careers and had the chance to work on some of the IT industry’s biggest brands; Microsoft, Xerox, BT, Dell, Intel and Sony. We worked and played very hard for over ten years and are very proud of what we achieved. We often joked about setting up on our own but never thought it would happen. But as life progressed, we both moved out of London to start our families, the flexibility of freelance life beckoned and we worked together in a small network – it was very liberating for us and gave us the freedom to pursue the clients we wanted to work with. In 2011 we both found ourselves coincidentally in Cheshire and had an opportunity to pitch for a local hotel resort. Up against some big agency competition, we pitched hard and were delighted to win. Firework PR was born!
What do you believe makes a great leader?
From a people management perspective, two things: 1) someone who is able to inspire and motivate others; and 2) someone who is able to listen.
From a business perspective: 1) someone who has a clear vision of where to take the business and a plan of how to get there and 2) be willing to be brave and take risks!
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Setting up and running Firework has been like having another child – and we already have four between us. But we’ve have had to learn to become master jugglers in managing the challenges and priorities of running a business and family life!
From a business perspective, I think learning when to take risks and taking the right risks. We took the plunge from day one of setting up Firework and rented an office and even though it was probably a bit too early, it turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made as it resulted in us securing our second and largest client.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Clare: For me it’s listening to music, preferably live. It keeps me sane and chilled! I went to Glastonbury this year for the first time and it was the best stress-busting therapy. I also love to swim – just being in the water helps me unwind.
Andrea: For me, it’s about taking time out to fuel my love of adventures and travel with friends and family - be it skiing, surfing or sailing. Exercise helps me switch off - I run when I can. I’m running my first half marathon in March, so I’m trying to fit in training for that! I also love walking our new puppy Bella, although the early morning walks when it’s cold and dark are sometimes a challenge!
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Clare: An actress or a ballerina. A show off basically! Hmmmm?
Andrea: An air stewardess or a pilot – I wanted to travel the world even then!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Clare: I’m pretty easy going – our office is really small, so we have all learnt to be really accommodating; if someone is on a conference call, we keep the hilarity down!
Andrea: Jeremy Vine on the radio, I’m compelled to change it straight away – which station we listen to is the biggest cause of arguments!
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Clare: We’re fiercely proud of our client base and we’re determined to add a couple more big brands to our current roster. This will allow us to hire more senior consultants. I also want us to secure a couple of industry awards for our great work – we came close this year with a shortlist by the CIPR.
Andrea: Firework Barbados perhaps? An award-winning agency known for its thought leadership communications work – we’re still very passionate about what we deliver and I’ll stop working the day I stop getting that buzz from our work.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Clare/Andrea: I would say dare to dream and take the plunge! Have the courage of your convictions and believe in yourself!
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Clare/Andrea: I think be bold and take the rough with the smooth. There are challenges for sure in running your own business, but the rewards make it all worth it.
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