Lauren Lovett is a multi-entrepreneur, influencer marketing guru and Mum of two with many talents. Just 3 years in to her career in Marketing, Lauren launched her own Agency, Small Talk Digital, a boutique, influencer led Marketing Agency. Five years later she then took a leap of faith by becoming the Owner & Director of the UK Blog Awards, with the aim to develop it into THE go-to hub for digital content creators with expansion into the US and Europe. Her first award show as leader of the Brand, is just in a few months time, so we caught up with her to discuss the world of influencer marketing, entrepreneurship and how her dreams of standing in Parliament to talk ethics and authenticity in the online world..!
Can you tell us a little bit about both of your companies and what you provide? How did they come about?
Well, when I was in my ‘job’ 6 years ago, I worked for an incredibly entrepreneurial chap, and he inspired me to craft my own future, to take control of my skill set and to monetise it far beyond what I could achieve in a regular job…so that’s what I did. I launched my own marketing agency, Small Talk Digital (previously Roar Creative) which I built into a successful Marketing services provider.
I then decided I wanted to move wholeheartedly in to the influencer space, but to actually build an authority around this industry that could almost act as a governing body (much like the advertising standards agency does for advertising.) The first step was building or buying a company that already had a strong foothold in this industry, that was respected and widely recognised – and that’s where the UK Blog Awards came in.
We are now developing this into:
- The League of Influence
A members only paid for platform for bloggers, influencers and content creators to get EVERYTHING they need to build and manage a blog and to ultimately ensure it succeeds as a business. With everything from mentoring and peer-to-peer support to training courses and inspirational downloads. The League of Influence is set to become every influencer’s right hand tool!
- Social Impact
A 2-day conference covering all aspects of Blogging, featuring some key industry debates about the changing market of the blogger business and also an opportunity to meet and network with key individuals and brands.
How did your specialism in Influencer Marketing develop?
When I first launched Small Talk Digital, we really specialised in traditional Marketing methods, with a focus on digital but a blended mix of offline, digital and PR.
Then I started to see this shift in how BIG brands such as Adidas, Waitrose, Dior were communicating with their audience. They weren’t using traditional celebrities anymore, or even focusing on the product in their ad campaigns…it was ALL about these random ‘regular’ people that the world was calling Influencers and Bloggers.
So, I made a decision right there and then that I wanted a place in this new emerging influencer world and I wanted to be a part of its evolvement, and to ultimately have a hand in shaping the way businesses and individuals work together to deliver ‘Influencer Campaigns’ with integrity and authentically.
What advice would you give to someone who was looking at a career in Influencer Marketing?
You’ve got 2 choices:
- Either become an influencer (this is SUPER hard in today’s day and age, with social media algorithms making it really hard for you to grow your reach organically). It can definitely still be done if you’re talking about something in a niche area and with real substance. So yeah, become an influencer, then work on building brand partnerships and you will find yourself not just working on influencer marketing campaigns but ideating them, managing them and basically being the boss of your own brand.
- Get yourself an internship or junior role at an Influencer agency, or with a real cutting edge digital marketing agency- you won’t be working solely on Influencer Marketing campaigns…but you will get your foot in the door and start building up your experience portfolio.
Don’t forget that true creativity counts when you are a Marketer.
Honestly, pretty much anyone can get into Marketing – it’s not a tough industry to break into, but to be truly successful you NEED to be creative.
You need to have a constant stream of ideas and thoughts that are bringing something new and different to the table.
How has was your first year as an entrepreneur?
TOUGH!! Anyone who expects their first year in business to be easy should probably think twice before launching a business. You have to work longer hours than anyone in a job, but more than that, you need to be prepared to be multidisciplinary. It’s not just about doing what you’re good at anymore, when you start your own business you have to be:
- The Sales Guy
- The HR Bod
- Your own IT Support
- The Creative Marketing person
- The Accounts Department
- THEN you need to deliver what you’re actually selling.
Most people aren’t prepared for that, they think they’ll launch their business and the sales will roll in, that they won’t have to worry about selling, or managing their systems, or customer services or managing invoices and payments…but all that stuff is absolutely PARAMOUNT to the success of your business.
One of the biggest worries for young entrepreneurs is quitting their jobs and funding their new business. How did you overcome this?
I’m fortunate to be married to a man with a very stable career, and whilst we had to make some cut backs and seriously budget in order for me to quit my job – we still had his wage as security. However, making the decision to quite my stable, regular, ‘guaranteed’ income was really scary…
What have I learnt from this…?
- Try and build your business in the evenings and weekends if you can (you can manage replies and calls for your business in your lunch hour too!)
- Get a figure in mind that you MUST be making before you make the jump and quit – that way you’ll at least have something saved even if it’s not 100% replacing your total income.
- ALWAYS save…. even if you’re just thinking about starting a business and you’re probably 6-12 months away from it…put some money away NOW. Do the hard yards today, then the pressure won’t feel as great tomorrow. If you can save a % of your wages every month from now, when you don’t have a wage you will at least have some protection from: cars bills/unexpected costs/day-to-day utilities.
What support did you use as a young entrepreneur?
I found myself mentors and that seriously helped me, I also joined a few mastermind groups and membership clubs for entrepreneurs. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people will only help you on your journey. Go to networking events, ask questions, be helpful to others. Don’t expect anything in return and you’ll find that you actually get a LOT back.
I wish there was more financial guidance available out there…but then I think that’s true no matter what you’re doing with your life. We go to school or University, and NO ONE really talks to you about the financial burdens you’ll face as an adult. It’s only really when we get a car at 17/18 and then move out that the cold, stark, reality hits that you’re basically on a treadmill of earning and paying forever…if children were conditioned to BUILD wealth from an early age and understand ISAs, premium bonds etc, we’d have a lot more young entrepreneurs!
What would your advice be to someone who is debating whether they should become an entrepreneur or continue in their current company role?
This is a tough one, because in my opinion you shouldn’t really ask anyone else to tell you whether you should quit your job or stay (that’s a lot of pressure and responsibility to put on to someone else)…what I would suggest is that you do the following:
- Track your emotional well-being over a 3-month period. How do you feel at work? When you get home? About your role? Your superiors?
- If you’ve got a business idea…then scope it out. Write a business plan (there are some amazing tools online to help you do this) spend a significant amount of time fleshing it out…. this will help you to figure out if it’s a) a viable idea and b) something that you can deliver for the return you need to live the life you want.
Never just jump…. because you will spend the rest of your life trying to catch up.
Set yourself up in the best possible position, so that when you take the leap you are giving yourself the greatest chance at success.
Do you have any tips on how you manage and balance your time between so many different ventures?
Routine and a good night’s sleep is the only secret to true success. I go to bed religiously at 10pm every single night. I have 2 daughters, so I’m usually woken up by them! For example, my eldest came into our room this morning at about 5:45am because she’d discovered a picture of the moon in her book and just wanted to make me aware! I have to manage time with them, my Husband and the business so I’m quite strict with my daily routine.
I also use different tools and apps to help me balance:
- I love Trello for planning projects and to do’s.
- Basecamp for collaborating with my team and making sure everyone knows what they’re doing.
- I keep everything backed up to the cloud so that I can access everything on my mac/iphone/ipad…that way I can be responsive all the time.
It’s super important to know exactly what it is you want to achieve, so mapping out your goals and objectives for the day/week/month/year always keeps me on track. I set myself deadlines and DO NOT miss them.
How do you think your entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic has influenced your daughters?
Well, I’d like to think it’s made them fearless and to have an open mind and heart to try anything. I think that’s the very nature of entrepreneurship. I also like to think I’ve given them a tenacity to never give up, even if they fail or a task seems impossible – I see their constant will to succeed shining through every day.
However, I really can’t take all the credit for these qualities – my husband, who is in Finance also shows these qualities every day – wanting to succeed and rise high in a job echoes many of the qualities you need to have as an entrepreneur. I think the only difference for some people (and certainly for us) is…
It’s your appetite for risk that separates the entrepreneurs from the career focused people.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
The plan is for the UK Blog Awards to be a global entity. We’re launching the US Blog Awards in September of this year and the European Blog awards in 2019 – so I would hope that these will both be established in their respective parts of the world.
I would also like The League of Influence to have a 90% subscription rate of every blogger on the planet. Finally, I would like to be spearheading change (and succeeded in implementing that change) with Parliament to make it safer for anyone online, but to also ensure that any blogger and influencer is working ethically and legally with brands to deliver outstanding campaigns to the population.
How do I plan on getting there? Well, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Have you ever had a mentor or established business person to turn to for advice?
Absolutely, I surround myself with incredible entrepreneurs and business people, I use LinkedIn for any problem or issue I have and the response and support on there is incredible. That’s the most amazing thing about the world today – with tools like LinkedIn, you don’t need to trawl the internet and find 1 person and beg them to be your mentor. Just connect with individuals you resonate with, offer some value to them and then put your questions/issues out there – you will ALWAYS get a response.
Has there ever been a point where you struggled to keep motivated in your career? What did you do to break through this?
Definitely – being a working mum I feel like this is a constant struggle, when I gave birth to Lana (my 3-year-old) I came home from the hospital and was straight back to my laptop the same day. When Lexie was born (she’s 18 months old now) I promised myself that I’d take more time off.
However, this had the adverse effect that I was expecting…I thought I’d love the rest and bonding time, but I just felt guilty and so torn between spending time with my beautiful new baby and then doing what I loved and building my business. The mental and physical struggle you go through as a mother is the hardest thing in the world – there is no right answer and it’s a juggle you have to do forever. Walking the line of what’s right for your children and also for you. Ultimately only you, as their mum knows the answer.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is struggling to stay ambitious and motivated in their career?
You’ve got to figure out your WHY…this is the most powerful question (and answer) you’ll ever have. It supersedes all the other questions….because when you’ve figured out WHY you’re doing something…you’ve got your motivation. No matter what it is – for me? It’s to create a legacy for my girls and a better standard of living for my family.
You’ve got to figure out your WHY – for me, it’s to create a legacy for my girls and a better standard of living for my family.
Once you have these visions (and this is where a vision board is super helpful) – every time you doubt yourself or your journey, just spend 5-10 minutes reviewing them – reminding yourself WHY you’re on this road.
Also, get yourself an Audible account and listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC – it’s amazing!
If you could go back in time, and give yourself one piece of advice when you left school, what would you say?
Haters gonna hate – so just block them out!
To anyone at school now or just about to leave I’d say: You are not entitled TO ANYTHING. Work your butt off for the things you want.
If you could recommend one book or podcast that has helped you get where you are today, what would it be?
If you could have a coffee with any woman in the world, who would you choose?