Women Entrepreneurs… The How’s, What’s, Why’s and Who’s that made it happen
We talk to Carie Barkhuizen, Founding Director, Seymour PR
Carie Barkhuizen, 27, is the Founding Director of Seymour PR, the ‘No Coverage, No Cost’ media relations agency. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Carie immigrated to the UK at 12 years old. She finished school in and around London before studying English Literature and Classical Studies at Royal Holloway University, with ambitions of becoming a reporter. Like many who wanted to become journalist, Carie fell into PR when she realised the prohibitive entry-level salaries journalism had to offer at the time. She started as a PR assistant at London-based agency Rain Communications where she learned her trade, reaching Account Manager level in three years. Carie then moved to a coveted in-house role at Debenhams Retail PLC where she worked across all areas of the business and helped the team to win an industry award for best in-house team. Having been frustrated throughout her career with PR agencies who work on an outdated model of talking a lot, charging a lot and delivering very little, Carie was inspired to set up on her own and challenge the way many PRs work.
Seymour PR prides itself on being straight talking and offering value for money. The ‘No Coverage, No Cost’ offer means that every pound clients spend on PR is based on tangible coverage. The agency specialises in news generation; creating conversation about brands by working collaboratively with journalists and understanding what consumers find engaging.
Why did you want to start your own business?
I have always wanted to run my own business – I love the idea of building something from nothing into a business that makes money and provides employment. I also saw an opportunity of offering a new model for the PR industry which inspired me to go for it!
When did you start it?
I have formally been up and running since June this year.
What challenges did you come up against?
One of the biggest challenges in the early stages is distancing yourself from the brand. You have to remember what your potential clients want to see and hear and not just what you like or feel personally. Communicating what your business stands for in a clear and concise way, is very important right from the start.
How did you overcome these?
I think everyone starting their first business needs a mentor. I was guided through this and many other challenges by mine, who has built a successful business of his own and recognises the pitfalls. Whether we like it or not, everyone needs someone to tell them when an idea is rubbish or needs development. However, I have also learned that you shouldn’t always act on other people’s advice. When you feel strongly enough about something, go with your gut.
What is the most exciting thing about running your own business?
The future! When you start out you have no idea how things are going to develop. Yes, you have a plan but it’s exciting to think about the possibilities and what the future will look like for something you have built.
Is it successful?
You can’t really reflect on success of a start-up until two years in, in my opinion. Yes, we are doing very well for such a young business, but there’s plenty more work to be done.
Would you recommend other women out there start something of their own?
Absolutely. Especially younger women. People think they need to get to a certain stage in their career before they will have the confidence, experience and contacts to step out on their own. But the further down your career path you go the more responsibility you accumulate – suddenly you’ve got a mortgage and maybe a couple of children. The stakes become that much higher and the risks no longer just affect you. While waiting till later life works for many, I don’t think young women should be put off if they have an idea and are ready to work hard.
What would you say are the benefits?
I love that my time is mine to manage. For the first time in my life I can fit regular workouts into my week! I always get the work done, if it means working all night or over the weekend, but I’m not chained to a desk.
And the cons?
At the beginning you might have a few sparse months on the money side of things. Worry about cash flow and keeping the business moving forward can be emotionally draining. You no longer just leave work at the end of the day, so while you are free to be flexible physically, your mind is always on your business. Also, the concept of a weekend no longer exists.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating setting up their own thing?
Before you do anything, write a business plan. Even if you are not trying to get investors on board, get a template online and work out the details of what your business will be and how it will grow. It took me weeks to finish mine and despite feeling it was low on my list of priorities at first, the process helped me to define what I was working towards and gave me real focus.
Image by Holly Wren