About Time You Met: Rosie Davies-Smith, Founder of LFA & PR DispatchBy Mayola Fernandes
Rosie Davies-Smith is the founder and director of LFA and the founder of PR Dispatch. Since 2014 she has been changing the way brands with great products approach the press. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, in 2016 Rosie won Great British Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the year, in 2017 LFA was included in Start-up 100 and in 2019 PR Dispatch was chosen as 1 of the final 3 businesses for Female Start-up of the Year. Rosie has done many talks and seminars about how she founded her businesses, teaching brands how to do their own PR, how to pitch their products and how to get featured by the press. We caught up with Rosie to talk all things life, business and vision:
Can you tell us about LFA and PR Dispatch?
LFA is a creative PR agency for lifestyle, fashion and homeware brands. Founded to give growing lifestyle businesses a 2019 approach, we flipped the traditional agency business model and dated PR methods on their head. Instead of having expensive and out-dated press showrooms, we focus on creating targeted digital PR strategies and securing great quality coverage for our brands. We pride ourselves on our transparency and honesty when doing business, being the first agency in the UK to detail our pricing online; we’re about providing our clients with a partnership over just a PR service.
PR Dispatch is LFA’s sister company that gives smaller independent brands the tools and contacts they need to DIY their own PR, as well as workshops and live press call-ins directed from LFA, to get their products featured in the press for an affordable monthly subscription of just £59.
What inspired you to launch LFA and PR dispatch?
Both companies started organically with no funding or capital. In 2011, I completed an MA in Textile design and was interning to build my CV. One internship was with independent, ethical fashion brand, Lowie. As a small company, they needed help in every area so on my second day they had me calling magazines and pitching products. A few weeks later and I started seeing the results of my hard work; previously I had no idea this was how magazines found the products they featured but I was hooked.
I convinced the brand to pay me one day a week, built a basic website with some good SEO and people started to get in touch about doing PR. The agency was born from hearing the same problems over and over; “PR is so out-dated”, “PR is so expensive”, “We had an agency and it didn’t work out”. Having Lowie as our first client, meant that other beautiful brands always wanted to work with us. Over the years we’ve managed to work with some of the UK’s best brands including Beija London, Estella Bartlett, Matthew Calvin and Bedfolk. Our reputation of working with only a few clients but always the best in their field means the press trust us. I’ve never taken on a brand because we ‘need the cash’ as that could ruin the trust that we have worked so hard to build.
Through developing and growing LFA I got the idea for PR Dispatch. We were talking to great independent brands with amazing products who just didn’t have the budget to pay for a PR agency. In 2017 I decided to set up PR Dispatch, a members PR platform where we share the advice, insider PR secrets and contacts we have gained at the agency with those smaller brands so that they can DIY their own PR.
How does a morning traditionally play out for you?
I wake up at around 7am, though in the summer it is much earlier. If I don’t have a meeting or appointment that I need to get to, I’ll fit in about 10 minutes listening to headspace to start the day. Then if I am feeling particularly energised, I head to the gym for a 30 minute work out session.
I won’t leave the house until about 8:15am after a few cups of tea. I live in St John’s (South East London) so I catch a quick train to London Bridge and then walk Milo, the office dog, from the station to our office just down the road in Borough.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
First things first, I always have to start my working day with another cup of tea. We then have a team meeting, one for LFA and one for PR Dispatch, to go through the action list for that day and talk through any projects that need extra attention. Then I often sit down with the team individually to go through specific tasks or I may have a client meeting, either downstairs in the bar or at a client’s office.
Lunch is provided by our co-working space daily so is usually a salad bowl from the restaurant that I eat whilst tackling my emails in the garden and Milo has a mid-day run around.
Admin tasks tend to take up most of my afternoon; so paying bills, liaising with new clients, contracts, direct debits, etc. The admin-based jobs are still mainly done by me so I am pretty involved in every aspect from managing team moral to paying salaries.
I leave the office at around 6pm with the rest of the team; we work a 9-6 work day Monday to Thursday and then have a half day every Friday. I usually go home for dinner with my husband, out for drinks with some friends or I could be hosting an event for PR Dispatch, so my evenings can be just as varied as my days.
How do you manage your daily time between both companies?
I have to try and split my time as equally as possible between LFA and PR Dispatch, which is easier said than done, but I just can’t have specific days for each company as, in PR especially, you never know what each day will bring. Usually I have to switch between the two companies throughout the day, depending on what emails come in and what deadlines we are working towards.
What is the most challenging part of running two companies simultaneously?
The biggest struggle for me is also one of the reasons I manage to get through it all. For a long time, it was just me at LFA so as I took on more people, delegating became a big challenge for me to overcome.
When you are so used to doing everything yourself, and you are very aware of how much is relying upon each company’s success, it can be hard to let go and trust someone else to take control. It was an on-going challenge to overcome when I only had LFA but by the time I decided that PR Dispatch was a viable idea that I was going to pursue as well, I knew I didn’t have much choice but to let go of certain things.
Over the last few years, I’ve managed to hire an amazing team of people who really know what they’re doing and that I can completely rely upon. Now we’re at the stage where I’m kept in the loop but I know that if I go on holiday or have to have a few sick days, everything will continue to run smoothly and the team will always get the job done, with or without my involvement.
What are the highlights of your role?
With something as time demanding as PR, you have to love it. Not just the big glamorous events but also the day-to-day grind.
Finding new angles and planning new strategies are some of the things that I love to get involved in and it is always so rewarding when you see your plans pay off and brands flourish due to the press we have secured. Whenever a client gets coverage, it is still a big deal in the office; if you ever find us doing a happy dance we’ve probably just had an amazing email and secured a great space for a client.
However, working with the team everyday is probably my biggest highlight. Clichéd I know but collaborating together to grow and evolve the companies is amazing to me and always feels like such an achievement, both professionally and personally. Since the beginning of the year our team has doubled in size and we are offering more services than ever with our PR, marketing and events. Looking back at where we were just 6 months ago is incredible to me.
How did your education or past experiences prepare you for this job?
I always knew that I would be an entrepreneur. My dad ran his own business, so from the age of 6 I knew I wanted to do the same. I used to write business plans regularly and then I would pitch them to Mum and Dad; one was for a tunnel that linked the Wirral, where I grew up, to Wales to make going on holiday quicker.
On the other hand, I never thought that I would end up in PR. I started out with no specific education or background so all of my knowledge has come from hands-on experience. I learned from reading books, taking people for coffees to pick their brain and making mistakes; they didn’t feel great at the time but in the long run my mistakes are what have taught me the most.
What has been your biggest accomplishment?
For LFA, honestly, I’m really proud of the great work that we do and the results we get. We’ve been fortunate enough for others in the industry to recognise that we do a great job too and have received some amazing acknowledgment for our approach to PR, even winning some awards along the way. When I started LFA, freelancing at age 22, people thought I was mad, so being able to have others recognise what the company is achieving and all of the hard work we put in is our version of ‘I told you so’.
As for PR Dispatch, we may be a younger company but in a short space of time, we have helped create such a strong community with our members. We give advice based off of our experience in PR but our members have a whole separate pool of knowledge when it comes to running a business and they are always willing to share with each other through our Facebook group or workshop sessions. We give a lot of tools, techniques, information and contacts to our members but we have developed so that one of the strongest resources we can offer is our community.
What is your message to young female professionals and entrepreneurs making their way in the world?
I have received a few bits of advice that have served me well so I’ll share those.
One is don’t be afraid to fail or afraid to try. Like I said before, my mistakes are how I learnt some of the best lessons in my career; they feel awful at the time but they always moved me on to the next step and the next success.
I would also say to believe in yourself and trust your gut. Not everyone is going to understand your vision but as long as you are secure in your abilities, you’ll be fine.
Finally, and probably the most crucial piece of advice is that it is a business, so you have to run it as a business. You may have invested a lot, both financially and emotionally, but if it is not profitable there is no point in creating a service or a product as a vanity project. It has to be profitable to survive.
What does the future hold for LFA and PR Dispatch?
A lot! LFA is still going from strength to strength and the team is expanding quickly to keep up with the demand. We have some exciting new clients coming on board soon that will sit perfectly alongside our existing brands in the LFA family.
For PR Dispatch, a big focus for us is expanding and to get more great brands on board. We currently have a network of 100- 120 brands that are doing their own PR, and doing it well, with the tools that we have given them and we want to show even more people that they can do it too. We are always working with our members to improve the platform, we’re running more workshops than ever and are working with our network to host pop-up workshops all over the country.
What would success look like for you?
When I strip it all back and think about the fundamentals, success to me is being happy and making sure that the people around me and those who rely on me are happy too. Right now, I think that I’m pretty successful.
Please tell us anything else that you would like to add about your job…
It’s challenging but honestly, I wouldn’t change it for world.