Sara is the founder of Sara Robinson Comms and is a multi-award-winning PR consultant and trainer working with clients and agencies across the UK. A former print and broadcast journalist, Sara has 20 years of experience delivering campaigns for clients in a wide range of sectors. Sara is a former Institute of Directors’ Young Director of the Year and is an award-winning columnist for the Western Mail. She also regularly contributes to Business Matters and BBC radio. Sara is also a Cardiff City Councillor, representing the ward of Grangetown in the city.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
After an early career in newspapers and TV, I made the leap into the dark arts of public relations. After a role heading up PR for the UK’s National Parks, I progressed through roles at PR agencies in Cardiff and London before starting my own agency at the age of 30. I am now a freelance consultant and trainer, working with a range of businesses, public sector organisations and charities. I love my work as no two days are the same and I get huge satisfaction from helping the organisations I work with communicate more effectively with their audiences. My real passion is writing and content design, and I’m very lucky to be able to earn a living doing the thing that lights me up.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I always knew I wanted to work for myself one day, it was just a matter of what and when. After running a growing agency for seven years, and getting further and further away from the front line of delivery, I realised I was doing more people management and numbers than creative work. So I took a break, trained in psychotherapy and took up gardening (yes, I’m that cliché, sorry!), which was hugely satisfying and gave me the time and space I needed to reflect on what next. I knew I wanted to do more direct work with clients again, so I started my consultancy in 2019 with a deliberate focus on working solely on projects where I can personally deliver the work. I have an agile model where I bring in trusted associates to support me where that’s the right fit for the client, and work with a brilliant virtual assistant who makes the business side run like clockwork. The consultancy has gone from strength to strength and my clients range from business support programmes and tech start-ups to charities, and from law firms to Welsh and international Governments.
How did you achieve awareness?
I already had a great network after seven years in business, and many clients chose to continue to working with me which was a lovely feeling. I did have to go out and win new business again, but I enjoy that process and it gave me a valuable opportunity to identify dream clients and go and talk to them. My main source of work is referrals and word of mouth, although LinkedIn has become increasingly important along with my own website.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
I didn’t need any funding for the business as my only overhead is myself, really. And this time around, my focus isn’t on growth – it’s on providing a world class service to my clients and working with clients that bring me real job satisfaction. I now work with a trusted network of associates and I enjoy working with people who teach me new things. I’m firmly of the belief that when you stop learning, you stop growing. That means my growth has been focused on personal and professional development.
What are the key successes?
Some of my proudest moments have been working with talented teams as an extension of their in-house team, and watching the results. From the Welsh First Minister’s press team to the Cardiff City official community charity, I love working with people that really care about their work and want to find effective ways of connecting with their audiences.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
My main challenge is always time – as a single mother and elected representative, work life balance continues to be a struggle for me. But I am very strict about carving out time for exercise, being in nature, walking my dog and being with people I love. Because that’s where my inspiration comes from – it’s never from sitting in front of a blank screen waiting for the muse to hit. If I’m struggling with a creative problem then my first port of call is to pull on my trainers and head for a run, or to take my dog out for a walk somewhere new. I’m also very lucky to work with the world’s most efficient and patient virtual assistant who frees me up to focus on client delivery while making everything else run like clockwork. I use apps like Sunsama to plan and manage my time, and I’d be lost without the tech that supports me to be organised and efficient.
What are your plans now/for the future?
I plan to continue doing good work with interesting organisations and people that care about making a difference through their work. The one thing I know is that I never want to employ a team or grow a business in the traditional way again. Having said that, I’m always looking for new challenges – I’m not very good at sitting still! I’m currently working on some exciting tech for good projects and working with an international learning provider, which gives me exciting opportunities to work on a more international scale.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Seek out as much help and support as possible; there’s so much help out there for new founders. Starting a business can feel very isolating, and it’s really important to ask for help and recognise your strengths and weaknesses so you can fill your knowledge gaps and focus on the things you’re brilliant at. Also, know your customers and their pain points and needs, so you can focus on crafting a product or service that fulfils a clear need. If you can’t, then you’ll struggle to stand out from your competition.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everybody but if you’re dreaming of being your own boss and have a solid plan, then go for it. I wish I’d left the traditional 9-5 world much earlier than I did – it was never an environment in which I thrived.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Seek out good quality business support
- Seek advice from trusted mentors you admire
- Network, network, network – you can do this virtually if you’re pushed for time but the bigger your network, the more opportunities will come your way, often from the places you least expect!
- Be prepared to adapt and change – the one certainty in business is that you will have to change tack, reinvent yourself and adjust to a fast-moving world. So don’t be frustrated when things don’t go according to plan – just change the plan!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
My son, James who is 16 and is just my favourite human on the planet. He’s so smart and switched on about the world and social injustice, he makes me see things differently and question my beliefs. He’s also great at showing me how new tech works and introducing me to new trends like ChatGPT and Dall.E, which is incredibly helpful in my line of work.
My grandmother, Nana Hazel, who is now 91. She started a business with my granfather in the 1960s and is a fierce matriarchal figure who inspires me with her strength and resourcefulness.
My girl gang. It’s a cliché but I have found so much kindness, solace and inspiration from my female friends, who really are amazing and hilarious (there’s one man in the gang too – sorry Neil, you’re also the best!). I wouldn’t be without them – they’ve held me during the tough times, shared the good times and encouraged me so much. I don’t know where I would be without them.
My partner David, who encourages me to think about problems differently and to ask better questions. He has the biggest brain and heart of anyone I know.
Joni Mitchell – for her sheer breadth of creativity, from painting her own album covers to writing beautiful music, she refused to conform to traditional expectations of a woman in the 1960s and found her own path, constantly reinventing herself and pushing the boundaries.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Toda Pasa – Spanish for everything passes. It reminds me that the tough times will pass and that when things are good, you can’t stay static. Everything really does and will change, and accepting that makes life a lot easier!
I’m also a big Dr Seuss fan and love reading, so I often have this quote from one of his brilliant children’s books in my head:
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
I’ve definitely found that to be true in my life and my son had it on his wall for many years before the teenage years kicked in!
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