Sector: PR and Marketing
Emma set up her own marketing company, Sidekick, while living in the Cayman Islands – and now she’s brought it to the UK.
Where do you call home?
The Tyne Valley, Northumberland. I grew up on the outskirts of Haltwhistle, near Hadrian’s Wall. I love the Tyne Valley, it’s beautiful, charming and peaceful. It’s an unsung hero of the British countryside. Don’t tell anyone.
Tell us about your role?
I own a marketing company called Sidekick. I set it up four years ago when I lived in the Cayman Islands. I recently moved back to the UK and brought Sidekick and my client base with me. Our clients are all international financial and professional services firms, including law firms, private banks and other companies in the private wealth sector.
We offer a full range of marketing and business development services, including brand development, PR and communications, marketing and BD delivery. We love to get involved in strategy – working with clients to really understand them and get under their skin and therefore deliver long term marketing plans that really fit with their values and goals. Currently all of Sidekick’s clients are from outside the UK. I lived in the Cayman Islands for nine years and built the business from my network of international connections there.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started out in an advertising agency in Newcastle as a trainee account executive after graduating from Manchester University with a BA (Hons) in Geography. I switched to work for a PR firm a couple of years into my career and really enjoyed learning to write for the media and got a buzz from seeing my work appear in print.
From there I went to work for a big Newcastle law firm as a PR executive in-house. I loved the big corporate environment and was able to quickly make a difference to their PR profile, thanks to my grounding and training at my old firm. I returned to work for the same PR firm after a couple of years as a senior account manager and enjoyed going back to working with a variety of different clients and more responsibility.
Then I moved to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) as my ex-husband got a job there – I had my daughter Jess while I lived there – and did some freelance PR work for a law firm back in Newcastle too.
After four years in the BVI, I returned to the North-East and was appointed marketing manager at the law firm I had been freelancing for. This was my favourite job as an employee. I worked with a brilliant (female) managing partner and a superb senior leadership team of really decent people who were smart, dedicated, inspiring and really fun to work with. They were supportive of the role marketing played in the business and understood the importance of marketing having a seat at the table at partnership level in a law firm. This was unusual and progressive at the time!
After a change in ownership of the firm, I was offered a job as marketing and BD manager at a law firm in the Cayman Islands. Following four years in that role, I worked at a Cayman marketing agency for a short time and then took a short career break and went travelling around Asia for a few weeks before deciding to set up my own business, Sidekick. I have been successfully running and growing the business for the past four years.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
My main struggle in my early career was knowing what I wanted and FOMO! I was constantly looking for the next best thing and moved through a lot of jobs as a result. Looking back, though, it was no bad thing. I gained a lot of great experiences and made some amazingly helpful connections and friends, many of whom I still work with today. So don’t worry if you can’t make up your mind what you want to do – you’ll figure it out and every experience along the way will teach or give you something.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
It was two years into Sidekick when I realised I had a decent roster of clients and had enjoyed a steady workflow for quite some time. I realised that clients saw my worth, valued my knowledge and relationships and wanted to work with me. It was quite the moment for me – I felt confident about the future and confident in myself.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
- Find a niche in your chosen field and work harder than anyone else at understanding that business. Get under its skin. Know more than others in your position, do more than is expected. It will make you stand out.
- Build your network. Don’t approach it in a cynical way. There will be people you connect with naturally at work, focus on building those relationships authentically and make sure you invest in maintaining them. In my experience, the conscious investment of time and effort in my ‘business friends’ has been the most important aspect of building my career and ultimately my own business. The further I’ve got into my career- the more that investment has delivered.
- Say yes to opportunities – whether that’s training, travel, working late, secondments, extra responsibilities – say yes until you get where you want to be.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Have no regrets, every experience is an opportunity to learn something.
There’s no rush to work it all out, take your time.
“I don’t know” is sometimes the right answer. Have the confidence to admit it.
Work for people you like. And trust your gut – it makes life so much easier.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
Know your worth.
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