Laura Fox is the Co-Founder of Off The Wall; a creative consultancy agency specialising in brand, communications and customer experience.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
My partner Ed Thomas and I saw, based on our own experience, that brands often offer strategy and marketing in isolation to designing customer experience. This way of working results in inconsistency between what brand’s say they will do versus what they are able to deliver. To fill this gap in the market, we combined our expertise to launch Off The Wall and we now help businesses design and deliver consistent end to end brand communications and customer experiences.
How did you achieve awareness?
Before starting the business, Ed and I were working at The Collective, a pioneering start up in the property sector, when we were approached by our first client: an investment firm with a portfolio of co-living properties but they were unsure of how to market or operate them.
We took a brief and were given 12 weeks to design a brand, customer experience, marketing strategy and website from scratch. This is how Folk (www.folkcoliving.com) – a co-living brand on a mission to set a new standard for renting was born, and within a matter of months, we had over 2000 people on the rental waiting list, and have since gone on to open an additional two properties across the capital, taking our portfolio to three buildings in total. They are based in Harrow, Earlsfield and Battersea.
Off the back of the creation of Folk and the work we did setting up the brand, we were approached by other businesses needing similar services. Although our experience is primarily in the co-living sector, our strategy and approach can be applied to and benefit many other businesses that have a physical element to their offering, such as residential, senior living, hospitality, retail and travel.
What are the key successes?
Firstly, creating the brand Folk. We were challenged to create this from scratch within 12 weeks which was difficult but successful and was key in getting us where we are today. Folk itself has grown incredibly gaining over 200,000 visits to the website and almost 12,000 enquiries since launching just a year ago
We are also extremely proud of our marketing strategy and how quickly the Folk studios were leased by residents, with 70% being leased within 6 weeks of launch at our second building in Earlsfield.
In terms of clients, we’re extremely proud of the client work we have achieved since launching. We have built and continue to build a diverse client base including hotels, retail, hospitality brands and mobility companies. At the moment, I am working on a campaign with a hotel brand that I’m really excited about while Ed has been working with retail and hospitality chains and is doing some great work for both.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
We follow the motto, “you’re only as good as your next job”. This means that we need to be constantly looking for work and finding opportunities to network. Balancing this alongside actually delivering for our existing clients can be difficult but we challenge ourselves to say yes to everything that comes our way even if, at first, it doesn’t seem like it will lead to anything. For example, some of our best connections have come from non-professional events such as dinners or parties that we didn’t attend with the intention of networking.
Maintaining a work life balance can be challenging for anyone but it is made harder when working with your partner. Ed and I met at work so we already had some experience in working together but we have learnt to set boundaries such as having set times to talk about work and not bringing it home with us.
Starting the business during Covid was also extremely difficult. Setting up a business while living together and only seeing each other was intense but setting clear boundaries from the start definitely helped.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We have already begun experimenting with an associate model in which we bring in an external workforce to help with the workload. We’ve found this way of working very interesting and helpful especially as the business grows so it’s definitely one we plan on continuing with going forward. Now that we are a year and a half into the business, our ambition is to expand our client base and also move into other sectors.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Be bold and take risks. I am naturally a risk averse person and never thought I would start and be running my own business, especially during a time in my life in which most people are settling down, buying houses etc. Taking that leap of faith and changing your own mindset is terrifying but completely worth it. If you have an idea that has legs and you’ve been thinking about it for a while, go for it!
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Having a strong support system around you is so important. Being an entrepreneur can be scary and time consuming so having a network around you is good for when things get tough and you need help maintaining perspective.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I’m inspired by so many people, but I particularly admire people who relish change, embrace failure and lead with empathy.
What are your favourite inspirational/motivational quotes?
My all time favourite quote is “What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you”.
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