In this first part of a three – part guest blog by Lauren Yaxley of LY Copywriting, she reflects on her 10-year journey from freelancer to mum of two and agency owner, sharing the particular challenges of building an agency as a mother.
As she documents her experiences and the stories of other women, Lauren recognises the struggles and juggling acts involved, while emphasising the undeniable rewards of this unique trip worth taking.
From the initial idea to the overwhelming response, this article offers powerful insights into the highs and lows, wins and losses of building an agency while navigating the joys and responsibilities of motherhood in the agency world.
Why this, and why now?
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of my business, LY Copywriting. So, I felt it was a good time to look back and reflect on the last decade. In that time, I’ve gone from freelancer to mum of one, to small business owner and mum of two, and then to agency owner.
I wanted to write a piece highlighting the particular challenges of growing an agency as a mum of two small children.
Whilst there are working Dads who deserve a voice, and women who would have loved to have been a mum, but it wasn’t to be for whatever reason, for a personal piece, I can only speak about what I’ve seen and where I’ve been.
Sharing the often unshareable
Once I had the idea for this article and mentioned it in passing to a few people, I soon realised that the appetite for this article was almost overwhelming.
What started as a way to document the last decade quickly blossomed into what I’ll hope you’ll agree is a powerful piece about the highs and lows, as well as the wins and losses, not just in business but in life.
I can’t thank the lovely ladies who shared their stories with me enough. So here are just some snippets of what it’s like to build an agency as a mum in marketing…
Back to the beginning
Fast-forward through university, a few years living in London and redundancy from a full-service agency in Norwich and I realised freelance life was calling.
Redundancy can often be thecatalyst for people ‘going it alone’, but I believe that so many people’s careers are also defined by a single sliding doors moment.
For me, it was the death of my grandad. We were close, he was fighting fit until the day he died and the shock and grief, not just at the time but over the coming months, quite frankly, floored me.
So, I decided that freelancing felt like a way to work, earn and take some time to move at my own pace. This was all at a time way before working from home was the norm, especially for a usually extrovert twenty-something fairly fresh from the buzz of London and the social side of the agency scene.
I’ve asked a few other people if they felt their career has been influenced by a single event happy, sad, strange or unpredicted. Rebecca Lewis Smith of Fountain Partnership, who I think is one of the brightest stars on the Norwich agency circuit, reflects that the catalyst can be meeting the right person at the right time.
She shares “We’re a yin and yang partnership. Marcus, my co-founder (who also happens to be my partner) knows where we want to go, and I put the steps in place to get us there.”
And get them there she did, as Fountain Partnership is now a global digital marketing agency working with household names.
I soon caught the bug of being my own boss and couldn’t see myself returning to a full-time office-based role. I’d called it LY Copywriting, but it was barely a business in those first week and months.
I was doing bits and pieces for more and more clients, then over time started subcontracting to other talented writers, one turned into two, two in three and so on. I’d gone from no business and no plan, and definitely no business plan, to starting to build a small copywriting business – and I was hooked.
Waiting and ovulating
I’d always known I wanted children one day, and after getting married in 2015 I soon turned my attention to starting a family. As an impatient person, I was fairly discouraged and frustrated that I didn’t fall pregnant straight away and found myself walking past pushchairs on the pavement and noticing pregnant women everywhere – on the telly, in town and even in my own social circles. But after what felt like a long year of trying, I was lucky enough to fall pregnant and, (morning sickness out of the window of moving cars aside), enjoyed a healthy pregnancy with my son.
Me in the final weeks of my pregnancy in 2017 with my son, Hugo
Medication and dedication
This led me to wonder about agency owners’ journeys to becoming a mum and the impact it had on their work, from the ability to focus when it was often elsewhere, and what can at times feel like an obsession with getting pregnant.
The challenges some people have to overcome to achieve the thing that many may take for granted can’t be understated, not only when it comes to both falling pregnant, but carrying to full term. Kelly Molson, the unstoppable force behind and founder of Rubber Cheese shared the heartbreaking and traumatic time she and her partner had in their effort to welcome a child. “It was a long and traumatic journey for us. We tried for eight and a half years to have a baby. We had multiple miscarriages, multiple rounds of IVF and lost twins at 17 weeks.”
Throughout all this Kelly was running and growing Rubber Cheese and admits that “sometimes I wrongly put the agency ahead of my own well-being and looking back I know I didn’t take enough time off after some of the losses. I felt like if I can’t be good enough at this, then maybe I can be good at that. The effect on your self-esteem is incredibly challenging.” Thankfully Kelly is now mum to a happy and healthy daughter called Edie.
Helen Rudd, of Prominent PR, was also generous enough to share her story. “I had a miscarriage in late 2018, and in the summer of 2019, I started fertility treatment. We were lucky to fall pregnant in November of that year. My colleague had a miscarriage in the spring of 2020; I was pregnant at that time, but I’d been through the horrors of a miscarriage so was able to support her through it, albeit over Zoom in lockdown! In summer 2021 we made a decision as a team to join the Miscarriage Association and commit to being a responsible employer when it came to this most traumatic of events, and we signed their pledge. Luckily, we both have healthy little ones now but creating a safe environment for mums-to-be has become a huge part of our ethos as an agency.”
Helen adds, “My team knew I was ducking out for appointments, and it was really important to me that the team knew what was happening at home and were there for me.” Helen, fortunately, did fall pregnant but as she had a baby during lockdown, what should have been a really special time was slightly marred by solo scans and giving birth without her partner. But, with the memories of lockdown life fading, Helen is now enjoying juggling work with looking after her daughter, Kennedi.
Hugo at around 4 weeks old in July 2017
It was just two weeks after having my son that I sent my first work email. I was far from Karren Brady who famously went back to work after four days, but nap times soon meant I’d be reaching for the laptop and when my little boy was six months old, he’d go to my parents or in-laws for a few hours a time so I could work without Peppa bloody Pig in the background.
I’ve since learned that this desire to return to work was shared with many other agency owners. Fountain’s Rebecca revealed “I was uncontactable from the business for 3 months, luckily as my partner was my co-founder, I was still kept in the loop, but I remember breastfeeding on a V-pillow whilst in an important meeting fairly early on. I also remember feeling guilty all the time; I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for the business. I felt guilty when I was working for not being solely focused on my son then I felt guilty when I was with my son for not working.”
When speaking with the women I interviewed for this article, I found there was a similar theme when it came to the length of maternity leave. Prominent PR’s Helen shared that her maternity leave was just over 4 months, whilst Kelly of Rubber Cheese shared that “I didn’t feel like I could take a huge mat leave so I took three months. I felt like I didn’t have a choice.”
Next time, Lauren talks about the challenges of maternity during Covid and how the lockdown led her and many other women to start their agencies.
If you enjoyed this blog, you may also like this episode of The Agency Collective Tales Podcast
Lauren Yaxley started LY Copywriting Ltd. in 2013 and it’s grown from a full-time freelancing career for one, into a growing copywriting and content marketing business for 8 (and counting).
Coming from an agency background, and having worked in marketing roles for the Home Office and blue chip companies, Lauren channelled her passion for writing into a freelancing career, initially offering copywriting and content marketing services to businesses in and around Norfolk.
6 years on and she now work with a team of seriously talented content marketers, providing copywriting, blogging, social media management services, and more, to brands across the UK and around the world.