Our Founder & CEO Elle Moss Talks to Us About Being a Woman in Business and How She Got Here
It's a very special week this week as we celebrate International Women's Day on Thursday 8 March. We thought it would be the perfect time to put our CEO and Founder Elle Moss under the spotlight to tell us about her experiences as a successful woman in business, life before Drew London and what has inspired her to get to where she is today.
Can you tell us a little bit about life before Drew and how you came to start your Agency?
I truly believe I was destined to run my own agency! I absolutely adore people, I’m energised and excited by being with others. But also, I’ve always been aware that I grew up in a very privileged world, so I have always wanted to give back by supporting others. That’s a huge value of mine personally, and for Drew as a brand.
Since relocating from deepest darkest Somerset to London in 1998, following a Visual Communication Degree, I worked for a variety of creative agencies; from advertising agencies such as The Family to marketing agencies Enterprise IG and Circle IMC, then finally branding agencies such as Bow Wow International and Moving Brands.
Then I had a baby (he’s now 14!) and I was told that returning to work as a senior creative part-time was not possible. I had to be full time or nothing. So I resigned. I freelanced like crazy, taking my son with me if required. Then one day, I was talking to my grandpa, Major George Drew, about freelance life when he said, “Elle, you should start your own company. Everyone needs good marketing to sell their products”. And he was right.
Drew was born and fondly named after my grandpa. I £2,000 start-up capital and Grandpa bought my first laptop and Pantone swatch books… the journey had started.
Do you think it was harder as a woman in business to get your voice heard and start your own business?
Yes and no. Initially, I was quite taken aback by the fact that when I launched in 2005 how unsupportive other female entrepreneurs could be. I found this especially surprising given I’d come from an agency set-up successfully lead by two strong women. Thankfully, I’ve seen the support shift completely and it now feels as if women leaders do look out for each other. There is still a mindset that needs to change though, where a man would be described as ‘visionary’ for being brave, a woman is sometimes branded ‘crazy’. Again, this seems to be changing, the tide has turned which I find super exciting.
Were there any other big challenges you faced when you started?
I had absolutely zero clients. None. I didn’t want to approach previous clients, therefore I started from scratch.
How did you find your first clients?
First, I created a brand identity and messaging that communicated what I was intending to deliver to my clients: Beautifully creative work.
A lot of early clients still remember my first strapline: ‘Finding Beauty in Everything’ which is quite touching. I produced a little set of postcards to promote my brand and services offered, then I then networked like hell. Literally twice a week. Quite quickly, I met clients and perhaps, more importantly, suppliers. I always followed up an introduction with a gift such as a printed cotton bag. I even went so far as to set up an e-commerce website in 2007 to sell the bags.
What were the first steps you took when you started Drew London?
In terms of the essential (but somewhat boring) company set up like naming your company, registering the limited company, purchasing the URLs, setting up your email, opening a bank account, finding an accountant, etc I leaned on the support of generous friends. Lesson learned: ALWAYS ask for help.
What do you think the keys to success are when starting and running your own business?
1. Be brave, believe in yourself. Ask for advice and don’t ignore the bad stuff, learn from it.
2. Always LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN: There will be nuggets of information shared that you can learn from, or use, or expand upon.
3. Finally, and most importantly, your gut does not lie. If something feels off, it is. Act upon it. I’ve made SOOOOO many mistakes ignoring my gut feeling... expensive, emotionally damaging mistakes, but I’ve learned now to trust my instincts.
Could you give a little bit of advice to any female entrepreneurs just starting out?
You are not alone, so don’t choose to be. Share your ideas, share your fears, ask for help. Most people are more than happy to support others, after all, we want everyone to succeed, don’t we? And don’t set up too many companies! I realise that sounds odd, but seriously, once you’ve set one up… you feel empowered. I had Drew, CareAboutTheFuture (cotton bags) and Together Creative Collaboration. It was too much.
Obviously we know...but for our new readers, what makes Drew London so special?
The family vibe both for my staff and clients. I genuinely want EVERYONE to be happy and succeed in both professional and personal life. I care.
As a team member, one of my favourite things about Drew is the work / life balance, could you tell everyone about why this is such an important aspect of life at Drew London?
I built a business around being there for my son, school holidays, after school, weekends etc. and I expect the same for my team. Life is simply too short to work to death!
We deliver, and as far as I’m aware we’ve never missed a deadline, yet we very rarely work late.
What’s your favourite thing about Drew London?
I can’t name just ONE! Our team, our clients, our eclectic music taste, our biscuit choice, our location, our culture, our brand, our Drunch club, our process, our partners, our love of learning.
Finally...Who or what are some of your biggest inspirations?