Tell me a little bit about yourself. What’s your background/career path?
Hello! My name is Louisa and I’m the founder of a web design agency called OrangeGrove.
I’ve been involved in the webby world ever since leaving university can lend my hand to most aspects of it (design, UX, HTML, WordPress, SEO). My passions within this sector have changed as I’ve grown. Initially I loved the design and psychology behind it, then it progressed to the coding and SEO. Now my passions are more about working with enthusiastic business owners or marketing teams and delivering them results through my agency.
Tell me about your agency. What is it you do and what prompted you to start up your own?
Initially I thought I was a victim of the recession, now I see that it was nothing but a positive. In my role as a web designer for two companies, I was made redundant from both. Then, alongside a third job, I started taking on freelance work. This grew organically, which allowed me to take the leap and set up on my own as OrangeGrove.
Before long I was outsourcing aspects of my projects to freelancers and it has steadily grown from there.
8 years on and the vision for the agency as a whole is to create a user-friendly web. Our focus is always on the user. For our clients, we convey our vision as ‘online persuasion’, and we’re masters of it. Our goal for each and every website is to gently persuade visitors to buy, book, enquire or sign up. This means a website built to bring our clients lots of business. Therefore the enquiries we get are usually from businesses wanting a site that will ultimately increase their bottom line.
What do you think are the most important issues for developing your company culture?
Developing a culture that embraces flexibility and striking the perfect work-life balance for all team members. I have no qualms hiring women who have young children. In fact I’ve found a huge pool of talent in that very group. With it, however, there needs to be flexibility in terms of school/nursery pickups / drop offs, illnesses etc.
It can be hard to make it work, but it’s important that it does.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a woman in business?
A huge challenge has been having children. I had my first last year and the first six months were tough. There’s a lot of judgment in sending your baby to nursery while they’re so young and I’ve often felt pulled emotionally in all directions. It’s been a huge learning curve but I’ve made it work…somehow!
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?
Sometimes I like being the minority! It gives you an edge. Other times I’m shocked at the lack of female representation at networking events I’ve attended. Walking into a room that’s 95% occupied by men can be a bit daunting, but I’ve got used to it now.
If I’m not taken seriously because I’m female then I’ve not been aware of it.
On the whole I try to see and concentrate on the positives of being a minority and use it to drive me instead.
I currently work with a business consultant and I’ve also been a member of one of the communities you mentioned. I’m also a part of a great network of local agency and business owners where we’re able to air any problems and ask for advice.
Do you feel as a women agency founder, they offer the level of support you need?
Not necessarily. Sometimes I felt I wasn’t taken seriously by the community organiser. That could have been because my agency is still fairly small though rather than because I’m female. Either way, not ideal!
What other women founders inspire you?
I have a friend who works for a huge local marketing agency run by a woman. I don’t follow in any real detail other than what my friend tells me, but it’s always inspirational to hear how well they’re doing and how fast they’re growing.
What do you think makes a great agency?
A great agency is a specialist in what they do. They don’t spread themselves too thinly in order to please everyone.
A great agency always has the needs and end goals of their clients in their sights, and customers should achieve a return on their investment with them.
What would be your one piece of advice to future women leaders?
Don’t be scared to take the plunge and don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t do it. If you encounter anyone like that, use their negativity to spur you on and prove them wrong.