Friday 10 January 2014

2Inspire Network Business Profile: Kelly Ruston, Communications and PR Director of Lightbox

In this 2inspire Network profile we meet Kelly Ruston, Communications and PR Director of Lightbox, mother of one and partner to an accountant who shares her story on how she gave up her formidable and somewhat envious career to go into business in the Marketing and PR industry. Read her inspirational story below and hopefully you can also believe in the power of your own dreams.
Kelly Ruston
Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
There’s no such thing in my world! I work flexibly so every day is different but it’s always an early start and always a late finish (and that’s seven days a week!)
I work around my two year old daughter, so I’m usually up around 7am checking emails; journalist pitches mainly and then onto motherhood duties like breakfast and getting dressed.
After an hour of juggling business and childcare, I’m usually found in the office or at home working on proposals, PR campaigns, calling clients or something very different like toddler swimming lessons or soft play. As I said I am very fortunate that my business allows me to work around clients and my family so neither play second best in my life.
I have at least two days in the office or client facing so I am fully up to speed on what’s going on whether that’s internally at Lightbox or on the accounts we manage.  Office days seem like a breeze in comparison to working from home as you can actually drink a hot cup of coffee whilst working, but trying to have a cup of coffee and some lunch whilst working from home and juggling childcare is usually non-existent.
In PR, every day is different; so one morning I could be on the phone to a journalist for a National or I could be working on a pitch very late at night as PR doesn’t stop – especially now social media platforms are taking off! Over 59% of journalists use twitter for work purposes and lots of opportunities come in at night time – especially those that have a significant reach, so I can often be found tweeting after 8pm for clients after my daughter has gone to bed.
In a nutshell my day starts around 7am and finishes around 9-10pm on a good day but tied up in that is having fun with my daughter.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?

Throughout my ten year plus career as an employee I was frequently told to ‘go it alone’ but never had the guts to do so.  It was only when I was on
maternity leave in 2012 that the idea of going back to my then glamorous and very envious job as Head of European Communications at Claire’s Accessories and all the travel involved, did self-employment really appeal to me. At first I did a little bit of freelancing for small PR firms and then realised I wanted more. After a chance meeting at a networking gig in Birmingham, I met my now business partner Rob Pollard as we decided to merge our businesses together to offer all Marketing, PR, Creative and Digital services as a fully integrated creative services agency (Rob had a web and digital agency at the time).

We’re relaunching Lightbox as we speak through traditional and viral platforms including social media, filers, new website and more to highlight our new service offering and tell the business world so to speak about our ‘perfect marriage’ of marketing and PR.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
That’s a tough question, as I’ve been an ‘employee’ for so many years and have some fantastic shout out loud achievements but as a new business owner, I’d have to say landing our very first clients coverage in Hello Magazine. That was quite something.

I love to make clients happy and achieve their goals and this client in particular was new to their industry, had very little budget and was slightly concerned at paying for PR so when I called them to say one of their products was going to be featured in Hello’s Christmas Gift Guide for Foodies they were over the moon and so was I!

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?

Probably the workload, I’m used to working hard, working long hours – I’m a mum to a two year old so I never stop – but when you are working for yourself, you work a lot of hours and don’t get paid. That’s the challenge right there – turning your efforts into profit.

What are your future plans for the business?

Rob and I are very ambitious and have already said our short-term strategy (12-18months) is to double our 2013 turnover from the original business entities and recruit 2 more personnel. Our longer term strategy (3-5 years) would be to double our staffing and resourcing, move premises to the city centre and again double our 2014 projected income.

Our five year plan is somewhat bigger but we are very humbled to be where we are now so any growth is better than none.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’m a big believer in fate, so I think my time came to go into business after having my daughter.  I could easily say starting my family earlier and going into business but then the timings might have been completely different and would never have met my new partner in crime (so to speak – we do everything by the books!)

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

Women always have it tough; whether it’s staying at home to be a mum, running a business, getting ahead in business or for some just getting a job in a very male dominated industry. For me I want young women to realise that we can indeed have it all…yes you might have to make a few sacrifices like I have done (for example my party lifestyle of a singleton is no longer now I have a family and a business to run!)

I want women to realise that having children doesn’t mean ‘end of the road’ for their career or end of motherhood either. Working flexibly around your children and business commitments should be easy to ask for in today’s world but sadly it isn’t and women are usually faced with a dead end part time job or full time nursery care for their children.  I say live your life as mum and career woman and don’t sacrifice either. Many mums nowadays are setting up their own businesses, known as ‘mumpreneurs’ so they can work flexibly around childcare.
 What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

Get experience in paid employment both client and agency side. Going it alone in Marketing and PR can be a lucrative choice but there are so many agencies out there and without experience, credentials and contacts you’ll get overlooked – regardless of how brilliant you are.

What or who inspires you in business and why?

Tricky one! I have so many but I’d have to say the founders of netmums; Sarah Russell, Cathy Court and Siobhan Freegard who have just received OBEs in the New Year’s Honours List. A very simple idea that was born from these three women meeting at a toddler group and spotting a need in the market. It certainly goes to show how ‘mumpreneurs’ can get ahead!

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Everything is situational and depending on where I am in my life, but I’d have to say my ‘borrowed’ inspirational quote (it’s actually my other half’s) is from Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Christo; Wait and Hope.
I’m normally a very impatient person who wants things done there and then and well I believe ‘Wait and Hope’ has kind of led me to where I am today; mother, partner, successful business woman and all-round nice person (I like to now think!)

Contact Details:

Twitter - @kelliruston
Website –

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