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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Claire Ayles

Claire Ayles, co-founder, set up Eleven Hundred Agency in 2018. Her award-winning company specialises in providing PR and content services to business-to-business technology brands, and she’s been working in the industry for more than 20 years.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

After graduating, I didn’t have a clear idea of what career I wanted to pursue. I moved to London and worked in a series of temporary and permanent roles. If I’m honest, none of them were particularly exciting or rewarding.

At the age of 29 I knew I needed something more challenging. I took a postgrad course in PR and decided to start again – taking a pay cut to take an entry level role at a PR agency. It felt risky at the time, but it’s turned out pretty well.

Fast forward 24 years, and I now own Eleven Hundred Agency along with my business partner, Mike King. We specialise in providing PR services to B2B tech brands, and have seen a lot of success by helping our clients with content generation.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

Mike and I have been working together for a very long time; we’d built and sold one agency, so we knew what it would take to start another one. The time was definitely right for a fresh challenge.

We saw a gap for a company who could provide senior-level consultancy to each and every client, and that could also use its skills to create compelling marketing content. Complex tech brands often struggle to articulate their stories, and can be guilty of over-relying on jargon and acronyms. We’re here to help them communicate in a way that ensures people listen.

How did you achieve awareness?

As a PR agency, we have a few tricks up our sleeve about how to raise brand awareness through the media and on social platforms, but we also worked our professional networks really hard; talking to ex-clients, potential partner agencies and many others, to let them know what we could offer. Word-of-mouth recommendations definitely helped get our business off the ground.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

We self-funded the business, which was a little tough to start off with. Pumping money into a company – rather than taking a salary – meant a very frugal existence for the first few months! Since then, our growth has been 100% organic, which is immensely rewarding and ensures we remain in control of all business decisions.

What are the key successes?

In 2023, our work for long-term client, Norm Cyber, was rewarded at the prestigious UK Digital PR awards, where we walked away with the award for the best PR campaign for a technology company. It’s always great for our brilliant team to get formal recognition like this.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Working in tech is unpredictable and fast-paced; the industry’s peaks and troughs are often more accentuated than in other business sectors. As owners, we always need a plan A, B and C in place. It’s important we’re nimble, prepared to take risks and ready to seize new opportunities.

What are your plans now/for the future?

In 2024, we have some aggressive growth plans which should see us grow our headcount and launch new services aimed at specific sub-sectors of the tech market. Stay tuned!

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

For the majority of my career, I never envisaged starting and running a business. I certainly didn’t see myself as a budding entrepreneur. There’s no stereotypical personality type or optimal age. If you have a good idea, there’s a proven market for it, and you’re prepared to work hard, you have all the ingredients it takes to make it.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Make your employees your number one priority. Happy, motivated people will help everything else fall into place.

Enjoy logging off on a Friday; use the time to reflect on your week’s successes.

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