Tell me a little bit about yourself. What’s your background/career path?
My name is Fiona Burrage, I’m 33 and originally from Essex but live in Norwich, Norfolk. I’m a graduate of graphic design and went straight into a client facing role in an agency after art school. At the same time, I studied marketing (CIM) and project management (Prince2). I’ve been quite obsessional about branding for as long as I can remember. I love meeting a new client, listening to their needs and interpreting that to the team. I’m also a wife and mother of one.
Tell me about your agency. What is it you do and what prompted you to start up your own?
Following the birth of my son, I stepped back from my more traditional 9-5, Client Director role at The Click Design Consultants and created Nor–Folk. This is a multifaceted lifestyle brand that works with clients but also allows me to be in more control of my destiny. We have a studio that works collaboratively, I also work as a photographer and we have a store. It means every day is different and I love that.
What do you think the are most important issues for developing your company culture?
My language is visual. I ensure that anyone I partner with understands and shares similar values / interests and in that way we can grow together. If the chemistry’s not there it’s just not going to work, I don’t believe in forcing relationships, it never works in the long run.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a women in business?
Only at the start of my career in my early twenties, I felt I was underestimated as a tall, blonde, shy, Essex girl, but that only served to make me work harder and prove myself. The screen printers who I use are all men and I’ve worked with them from the very start, they’ve become great friends and I never consider the gender difference. Infact Andrew’s even offered me advice on meditation!
The Wow Company’s recent survey of 471 agency owners across the UK has the figures as Female 27% – Male 73%. Can you share your thoughts on this?
I assume that a big part has to play with the traditional role of the woman in the home. And if someone wants to prioritise family then that’s entirely their choice and definitely nothing wrong with that. I am lucky that we are 50/50 and completely respect each other’s profession. We worked together before becoming a couple and were/are best friends. We still work from the same studio and Bobby often says I know him better than himself. He’s great at pushing me when I need it. We’re both guilty of working a bit too much in the evenings but that’s just because we really love what we do. We wholeheartedly subscribe to the phrase find a job you love and never work again!
That’s not to say it isn’t easy remembering to keep on top of the more mundane everyday stuff like food shopping but I couldn’t imagine working in any other way!
Do you have a mentor, or are you a member of an agency owner community?
I’ve been working with a client turned friend since Nor–Folk was conceived. He is one of two potential investors involved with a separate project we are developing.
Thanks to social media I have a great group of likeminded friends who I can reach out to when I need a different perspective (locally and globally). A close Swedish friend lives in Dubai now and we often Skype to talk about how best to approach things.
I feel very lucky to be able to build a business in this era, technology has played a huge role in developing and shaping my business.
Do you feel as a female agency founder, they offer the level of support you need? Do you need additional support that isn’t currently available?
I’m not part of any formal network groups but I think having a group of people who are in a similar position and you can call on for support is invaluable.
What other female founders inspire you?
I’m most inspired by visual output rather than the business operations, as I guess I’m a true creative so someone like Margaret Howell is a big inspiration for me. But as a team I’m very inspired by the couple responsible for Cereal Magazine.
What do you think makes a great agency?
A shared philosophy, common interests but the security that enables people to still challenge ideas.
What would be your one piece of advice to future female leaders?
Be passionate and proactive.