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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Francesca Cullen & Rosie Lees

Francesca and Rosie are the co-founders of Nineteen94, a communications agency established in 2018. Nineteen94 specialises in public relations, content creation, social media management and event production with teams based in the UK and in Italy.

Francesca bio:

Francesca has a love of languages and as a quadrilingual, following a Masters in Business, made a beeline for the communications industry. She worked across the industry from event production to PR, working on award-winning campaigns, picking up spirit qualifications and enjoying plenty of tasty drams along the way.

She founded Nineteen94 which blends her communication skills and her love of social occasions.

Rosie bio:

Working and travelling around Australia’s best bars kick-started Rosie’s passion for all things food and drink. After graduating with a degree in Climate Science, Rosie set her sights on the drinks industry and spent a number of years producing events for world-class clients such as Patrón Tequila and Suntory Whisky.

Happiest whilst producing events and working up a media angle,

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

We met in a previous communications agency where we worked in the same team. We didn’t expect to get on so well when we first met and as time went on, we became the best of friends, both inside and outside of the office. We were a really tight team and worked so well together and shared an entrepreneurial spirit, that deciding to build our own agency just felt right.

Our agency focuses on public relations, content creation, social media management and event production for the food, drink, and lifestyle industries. In the last year, Nineteen94 has also expanded into Europe with teams now based in the UK as well as Italy.

Nineteen94 has gone from strength to strength despite the challenges of the pandemic and our advice has been featured in such publications as Monocle Book of Entrepreneurs.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

We found that within the communications industry, there could be an uphill struggle to implement new ideas – especially when coming from predominantly younger staff. There seemed to be a ‘but this is how it’s always worked’ attitude which left some work not providing impact and feeling stale. We were also used to seeing the industry full of women but where men still dominated senior managerial positions. We decided to make our own foray into the industry, our name Nineteen94 (the year we were both born) makes a point on cutting through the imposed limitations on age.

How did you achieve awareness?

Instagram and Linkedin played a huge role in achieving awareness, as well as word of mouth. Before we knew it, old business contacts were approaching us with their ideas, clients and friends alike were introducing us to potential new business and so on. Our previous network that we’d cultivated throughout the years really rallied around us and supported us and we couldn’t be more grateful; we feel it’s very important to keep that network of supportive people around you.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

We have never tried to raise funding for the business. We invested in the agency at first with our own money that we had saved up over time, and the rest was working hard, achieving new business, and growing to achieve financial stability.

What are the key successes?

One of our greatest successes was retaining our staff and clients throughout the pandemic. It was a very challenging few years, especially for our hospitality clients but being able to navigate through the pandemic created a strength and resilience that continues to serve us. 

Overall, being able to curate a healthy and happy workspace for our employees and to have such fulfilling relationships with our clients and assisting them to achieve their business goals is our key success.

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

Our biggest challenge came when we first started Nineteen94 agency. We both gave up our steady and stable jobs to fully dedicate ourselves into starting the business from scratch. Thankfully, we had a lot of faith in ourselves and our vision, and with our hard-work and determination paired with support from our friends, family and business connections – we were able to take the leap and land on our feet.

The second biggest challenge was of course, Covid-19. The pandemic hit businesses all over the world, especially those in the hospitality industry. We had to pivot our own business practices as well as working closely with our clients who were also needing to change and adjust their businesses to ensure their survival. It was a challenging time and whether it was increasing focus on social media, setting up virtual events, pivoting to online orders and restaurant kits, thankfully we’ve all managed to make it through to the other side.

What are your plans now/for the future?

For now, our plans are to keep our current clients as happy as can be, we want to grow with them and give them our best every day. We are also always keeping an eye out for new business and seeing what potential is out there that makes a great fit for our agency.

For the future, we would like to continue expanding our team and our client list – especially in Italy. And then who knows, maybe tap into more cities worldwide.

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

If you’re considering an entrepreneurship journey, our biggest advice would be just to start. There will never be a perfect time to start, but just start. It may seem very scary at first and of course you might even second guess yourself a few times, not only when you start the journey but even during it. You just have to keep reminding yourself why you want to be an entrepreneur, for us, we created a job that we actually want to get out of bed for in the mornings. That’s what’s important, that you’re doing it because you’re passionate about it.   

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

  1. Believe in yourself. As cliché as it sounds you have to have confidence in yourself and your abilities
  2. Keep a positive mindset. We believe that the energy that you put out into the world is very impactful, if you keep a positive mindset and energy, that energy will be shared back to you
  3. Work hard. Success won’t come to you overnight, keep your goals in mind and work hard to achieve them.  
  4. Learn from your mistakes. There will be many mistakes on the way, make sure that you take the time to reflect on them, learn and grow from them.
  5. Don’t ever forget your finances. At the end of the day, you’re running a business, and this is a crucial part. Make sure that you have the right software so that nothing is missed and where needed, hire an accountant to help you on your way

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

Five people is just so hard to choose from! We are inspired from the amazing women that guide us and we continue to meet each day. Of course, our mums are a massive inspiration to us, they have always been supportive in what we wanted to do and are always a phone call away whenever problems are encountered! But we also are influenced by our friends, who we reach out to all the time for advice and our clients who inspire us to become better business owners.

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

“Little girls with dreams become women with vision”

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?

@nineteen94agency for all social media channels including TikTok if you want to have a laugh!