We’ve all seen the excellent truth meme ‘ Behind every successful woman is a group text hyping her up’, well I’d like to add that there’s likely a Victoria from VJW Communications (vjwcommunications.co.uk), there too.
Entrepreneurship is a hard road and one that not everyone is cut out for. At the early stages of your business you’ll likely be bootstrapping (funding your business by yourself) and unable to take on members of staff to help you with anything from accounting, securing premises right to PR and personal branding. This is where Victoria steps in, working with female founders, from launch to set powerful foundations and set them up for success…
HOC: Hey Victoria, tell us a bit about your company and what you do?
Victoria: My company is VJW Communications which I set up in 2014 and I specialise in working with women in business and female founders who are about to launch a business or are in the early/mid launch phase. I support them on their journey from start up to success through one on one consultancy sessions in PR and personal branding.
My aim is to provide a powerful service which allows them to access and up-level their knowledge in these areas in an accessible way. After our time together, they walk away with clarity, insight and actionable steps which they can take in their business right away.
HOC: Sounds amazing and so needed as it really is a minefield when you start out! How do you tend to work with your clients?
Victoria: Having previously worked as a traditional publicist I found that as the start-up scene was changing and the number of female founders rising, that there was a need to support these women with consultancy and mentoring which really focused on a one on one bespoke service. Every business is different and every founder has a different story to tell so I think it’s important to work with someone who can really hone in on that and show you how to communicate it effectively.
The female founders that I have worked with come to me because they know that PR and personal branding is effective but they are seeking the knowledge so they can implement the basics themselves. PR for example is still seen as a bit of a dark art and I show clients how to put the building blocks in place themselves in order to achieve great results without outsourcing to an agency which isn’t always financially viable. I think a consultancy service works especially well for founders and start-ups because they need to be able to be at the forefront of their business and understand how to promote and communicate what they do. It also helps to have that knowledge of communications in preparation for business growth
I offer 60-90 minute Ignite sessions and then my signature programme called Brand You which shows you how to create and build a successful personal brand.
HOC: Why is supporting female founders so important for you?
Victoria: I think having made the move myself to self-employment and having a first-hand experience of the challenges and struggles of setting up a business, I wanted to be able to support women who were also making the leap. This has always been and continues to be my motivation. It’s rewarding to see the difference you can make not only to their business but also to their mind-set and confidence and how they view themselves as a founder. I work with many women who struggle with being visible in their business even though they want to be, they just don’t feel comfortable with the exposure.
I do believe that male and female business owners think and behave differently but I also think that we go into business for different reasons and this in turn affects how we “do” business. We also face different obstacles from the world itself and women for example are still fighting for their place in many industries which are traditionally very male dominated.
This said, I think the UK is a great place to be a female entrepreneur and the sands are shifting in terms of the resources available to support women in business, even if it is still tough to get funding. Certainly, in the bigger cities like London and Manchester there has been a huge growth in events, networks and co working clubs and spaces geared specifically towards women who are on the entrepreneurial journey.
I think it’s an exciting time to be a founder and if I can play a part and contribute even in small way to someone else’s success, then that’s amazing!
HOC: An incredible mission! Where did this all start for you, have you always worked in this field?
Victoria: Not at all! I started out in fashion retail in Leeds working for Russell and Bromley as I had always loved fashion and love the buzz of the shop floor and working with customers but I wanted to do something more business focused so this led me to a degree in International Fashion Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
During my degree, I realised that it was more the communications side of the industry that I enjoyed so I worked hard on doing lots of placements in local agencies in Manchester to build up my experience. After I graduated I was fortunate to land a Marketing & PR Manager role with an up and coming celebrity chef in the city and I was involved in the early days of launching his career which included promoting his first cook book, restaurant and cookery school.
With my love of food and also travel I then went to work for a travel PR agency and was leading on a number of accounts for some beautiful properties in the UK and Europe hosting press trips and working on strategy and implementation. Following this a game changing opportunity arose for me to go and work in house to head up the marketing at a golf & spa resort in Cheshire which was about to go through a multi-million-pound redevelopment and rebrand with the opening of a luxury hotel. I was part of the pre-opening team and we won two marketing awards during my time there.
After three years in the role I decided that freelance life was for me and began working with local start-ups in the bridal, food and event before I launched myself as a full-time consultant and mentor!
HOC: It’s so refreshing to hear about your journey so far, there always seems to be so much pressure on knowing what you want from the word go but it’s so often an evolution! You work a lot on personal brand, why is this so important to you?
Victoria: Whatever sector you are in, the business world is competitive and we are all looking to gain visibility in a crowded marketplace. Throw in the noise of the digital world, where most marketing now takes place, the rise of the influencer and massive growth of social media and you have to really think smart about how you can make yourself stand out and be memorable. We all know that people buy people so you have to be confident in what you stand for and be able to articulate your expertise. Reputation is everything!
Focusing on your personal brand as a founder and putting in the time to build it in an authentic and consistent way I think gives you a distinct advantage. I think it is actually a bit of a secret weapon in that if you approach it in the right way you can really create so many organic opportunities for you and your business. The theory behind personal branding isn’t new but most people still focus on their business brand first and their personal brand sort of runs along in the background without much thought.
I actually think it should be the other way around. If you already have a strong personal brand before you launch your business you have built the foundations and network to support you in the all-important early days of your business launch. Once you start building it you have commit to growing it, tweaking it and shaping it as your business journey develops.
HOC: Super interesting, we have seen a real shift in the way small businesses we champion at House of Coco market themselves – talking more in the first person, less smoke-and-mirrors around what they are doing…
Victoria: I think it depends on the type of business you are running. It is a lot easier to make a shift from the royal ‘we’ to being honest that it’s just you if you are a single service provider like a coach or a nutritionist for example because you ARE your business so there is no “we” as such. You have to be happy to be visible in order to sell your service, plus there isn’t a bigger company brand to hide behind.
I think as founder, irrelevant of the business type, you need to get to a point where you feel comfortable in creating visibility around yourself and your story. Working through a personal branding process can help you to do that because you get really clear on who you are, what your USP’s are and what you bring to your business and to the audience you are trying to connect with.
You have to dig deep to define all these things and that passion alone will support you in stepping up. The biggest problem I see female founders facing is lack of confidence. Whether that is around getting an initial idea off the ground, giving a talk or workshop of promoting themselves in the media.
One of my favourite quotes is by Eleanor Roosevelt and I think it is sound advice for anyone running a business. “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Find out more about Victoria’s work over vjwcommunications.co.uk