Although we love shouting about the fantastic work our clients do, we’re not all that well-versed when it comes to blowing our own trumpets here at Scriba HQ. However, when the opportunity arose to share our ‘start up success’ with leading business title UMi a few months ago, we couldn’t resist.
In case you missed it, our founder and chief word nerd Katie Mallinson answered a range of different questions, taking her from day one, right the way thought to day 2,313 (or so). Catch up on all-things-Scriba below!
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Scriba PR is an award-winning B2B public relations firm specialising in niche, technical communications for UK and international clients.
Celebrating the written word through multichannel PR, we are a proud Yorkshire business that gets under clients’ skin to tell their stories across complex industries such as waste management, demolition, engineering and tech.
Having launched in 2013 as a one-woman operation, we have built our results-driven agency to deliver expert communications for 39 retained, and dozens of ad hoc, clients.
Where we might be (relatively) small in team numbers, we’re perfectly-formed and love what we do.
What did you do before you started this business?
When I left university, I was offered a role as an account manager at the PR agency where I spent my work placement. I worked there for six years – climbing the ladder to account director.
In addition – throughout school, college, university, and my working life – I’ve held voluntary sessions for children with special educational needs, helping them to become more confident readers and writers.
What inspired you to start up?
While at my previous agency, I really enjoyed working on the ‘weird and wonderful’ clients which believed they didn’t have a story to tell. My peers often wanted to work on big B2C brands, or more well-known B2B clients, but I take pleasure in helping businesses which – in truth – are the real unsung heroes of the economy, in my opinion.
My father is an engineer by trade, so I’ve grown up around a passion for understanding how things work, or how technology can completely overhaul the norm. So perhaps it’s no surprise why I became drawn to the technical organisations who – I believe – deserve their place in the headlines.
I also heard a lot of business say they avoided PR because of the budget structure, which is something I empathised with – and wanted to change. So, I thought, why not do it the way I think it should be done?
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We help organisations of all shapes and sizes – throughout the world – to tell their story. In turn, this means that more people can benefit from their products and services, and they create jobs in the process.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
First and foremost, I speak to my colleagues as we have a culture whereby we support each other. There’s no organisational hierarchy at Scriba PR, so we share ideas when it comes to a new or challenging brief. Of course, I do make business decisions solo – or with our operations manager Louise Jaggar – but lots of our evolution stems from the discussions we have as a team.
I also have a mentor – Natasha McCreesh of PiP to Grow Strong. Her approach is one which places a lot of emphasis on the role people play in a business journey. I think she shares my opinion that you can work hard and have a good time while doing it.
I always wanted Scriba to be a company with soul, which lives through its values. Natasha has a background in marketing – so understands our world – but she also cares about workplace wellbeing and team dynamics, both of which are very close to my own heart. She doesn’t profess to know all the answers, but instead leads me along a path and gives me things to think about.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
I was very lucky, given the nature of the business, that I didn’t need a lot of capital to set up – mainly a laptop, internet access and a phone. I used a little bit of savings to buy the minimal things I required in the early days and adapted my standard of living to account for the change to my income.
I was also lucky to receive a start-up grant which allowed me to invest in some of those key things, but crucially, it entitled me to free hotdesking space in a co-working environment and complimentary wi-fi.
Scriba grew organically, so each new appointment or the move to my first – and subsequent – premises was all done when it was both needed and financially viable to do so.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Probably growing to a team of 10 in my first six years – although it was never part of my initial plan – and having each person completely on board with the same vision as I have.
It’s easy – particularly as you grow – to find people who want ‘a job’, but my colleagues at Scriba genuinely care about our clients, and are just as interested in recycling, engineering, construction and tech as I am! Phew!
We’ve grown a solid reputation as a go-to PR agency for niche, complex B2B firms. While we’re the first to admit that it’s not the ‘glitzy’ stereotype often associated with PR, it makes us get out of bed in the morning, because we find it professionally stimulating.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Aside from that we operate in a niche part of the PR market, it’s probably that we’re fiercely determined to get results for clients. No company is going to say they aren’t results-driven, but we make sure we do everything in the right way.
Our reputation is built on ethics, pride and loyalty. We’re not ‘yes men’ and are happy to upskill clients to empower them to take ownership of their social media content, for example. We’ll also flag when they need to be spending less on PR too. It’s this honesty which has seen us grow entirely from word-of-mouth recommendations.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Daunting and amazing in equal measure! Every day is like a blank canvas, which can be frightening at times, but is also incredibly exciting because you aren’t restricted by people saying what you can and can’t do.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Who knows! Five years ago, I thought we’d stay a small close-knit team of four – and I certainly didn’t think I’d have become a mother-of-two by 2020.
I also avoid writing lengthy reports or strategies, simply because a five-year forecast or plan can go out of the window completely during that time. I know that I want to have a business with a solid reputation for genuinely caring about clients, colleagues and partners, so I’m as focused on the here and now as I am on ‘what’s next’?!
I’d hope we have an office dog by 2024 though – workplace pets are great for wellbeing. I’m also determined to stay in Huddersfield, but perhaps we’ll have moved to a purpose-built space by then. I hope we’ve proven that you don’t need to be in a city centre to do well.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
When you ‘Google’ the qualities of an entrepreneur, many articles claim you either have them or you don’t – but without belief, I think everything else is almost irrelevant.
I set up Scriba on the toss of a coin, and while there was plenty of considered planning prior to and following that, without faith in myself and the business proposition, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s that conviction which keeps you going through the tougher days.