Lauren Kelly is the CEO and Founder of the design and talent agency Fearless, she launched the business in the midst of lockdown and the start of her pregnancy. Her business now has spread internationally supporting end to end designers globally, all while being a full-time mother.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I started off my career in visual design and later moved into more UX design and ended up being a design director early. So, my first consulting gig was across a global client working on a project. By the end of it, I was running design in a studio which I had later been included on the board.
After working both client side and agency side, I saw an opportunity to do something a little different and streamline how design services work both from the perspective of providing talent, and delivering the work.
We created Fearless and have three worlds working together with one shared vision: to create a better world, by design. We provide world class end-to-end design services, talent consultancy and access to a global network of design thinkers and doers.
The three strands are:
- Talent Consultancy (Fearless Talent) – Connecting businesses with outstanding design talent
- Design Agency (Fierce) – World-class end-to-end design services
- Design Network (Fearless Community) – A global network of designers, driving change for social good
Within the first 3 months, I attained 50 designers to work with, building a global network for creative designs.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The idea came about because me and my cofounder at the time had worked out that clients that needed to hire designers, also needed design agencies to deliver and if we connected these services, we could scale design capabilities for our clients faster, and most importantly sustainably and people first.
Fearless community was initially born in the pandemic in an attempt to help designers stay connected during lockdown and give them a place to go and network and get access to free support via each other and events. We later on started to look at charity initiatives where we could have impact and drive change such as the scholarships we provided via our partnership with mento. This enabled people in less fortunate circumstances to get access to design education and careers. We then also kicked off charity projects such as work parents to again drive awareness.
How did you achieve awareness?
One of the ways we achieved awareness was through proactive initiatives with the community. For example, when the Ukraine war broke out, we reached out to charities and asked them how we could supercharge their products to help them collect donations faster.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We have managed to grow through our strong relationships and without any funding.
What are the key successes?
After launching and crossing many hurdles thrown our way, one key success I’d say was being able to grow globally. We now have people at Fearless working across the UK, Europe and US.
Another key success would be forming partnerships with big brands. As a start-up we sometimes see it’s hard for large companies to take a chance with smaller companies. It just shows that when the messaging and aims of the brand are strong, it’s worth taking that chance. Now we can say we’ve worked with brands like Klarna, BT, Toyota and Zalando.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
As a new design agency, people are unaware of our track record. We have transitioned clients from simply using our talent to using us fully as an agency. We now have more autonomy and can drive better results and have more impact.
We have started to influence culture within organisations as well as how to integrate and deliver design with a real strategic impact.
We have earned our stripes and credibility. We do more with clients and have built trust along the way.
What are your plans now/for the future?
My aim is to continue growing Fearless and working with companies to solve real problems / design a better world, as well as expand our offering outside current subsidiaries and digital design.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
5 things to consider if you’re starting a business:
1. Why – Purpose
Simon Sinek will tell you that at the core of every successful business is a powerful why.
When you build a business around purpose your customers are more likely to create an emotional connection to your brand.
2. Who – Audience
Don’t fall into the trap of – everyone’s my audience.
If it’s everyone, it’s no one. Take the time to understand who you’re selling to and what you can do differently to answer the needs that they’re not getting from your competitors.
3. What – Service
Think about how you can communicate your service in a way that’s repeatable yet flexible.
4. How – Team
Nearly every entrepreneur falls into the same trap of hiring a team of juniors to keep their costs down.
Every team needs junior members but the minute you can afford a Senior team, hire one. Otherwise your capacity will be sucked up supporting your junior team and they’ll get frustrated feeling unsupported if you don’t have the bandwidth.
5. When – Planning
Building a business is a delicate game of supply and demand. You need to have a clearly planned out pipeline to marry up against your hiring and keep that balance running smoothly otherwise you’re at risk of stretching your team, having to turn away work or worse hurting your reputation because you don’t have the team to deliver. Even worse, having to make redundancies because you over anticipated your pipeline.
If you’re thinking of building a business, just start. Don’t overthink it.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Resilience is the key to any successful person I have met – dealing with failure and bouncing back from it.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Rihanna sees opportunities and has built an empire.
Elon Musk knows who he is and owns his differences. Whilst I might not agree with all of the things he does or says, I admire how he owns who he is and despite whether he gets negative or positive responses, he owns his difference.
Ruth Davison from Refuge, who I interviewed recently, always shows up.
My team inspires me every day.
My daughter. If you’re seeking personal growth – children are little mirrors / doses of karma.
What is your favourite inspirational /motivational quote?
I always remember a quote that was told to me – between two people’s versions of the truth lies a version of the truth. It helps you to be in a space of humility and proactively look for growth and lessons from difficult situations.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
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