Thursday, 22 September 2016

Girls who lead: Emma Hart

We sit down with PR maven Emma Hart, 39, who founded Push PR from her bedroom at just 24 years old. With a team of 20+ and over 30 clients, Emma tells us the challenges and rewards of being a business owner, and how you can do it too!

Written by Katrina Schollenberger
How did you get your start in PR?
I started as an intern at the Evening Standard, I got that through a friend of a friend. I then worked there as a journalist. I was a beauty and style writer, I completely loved it but the thing I found really frustrating was dealing with PR's. I'd ask for information, it wouldn't come over on time, and I was starting to wonder what PR did for anyone. If I feature something, what's the impact on that business, on that brand, on that designer? Nobody could ever tell me.

I thought I know what journalists like, I know what works. I know what they need from a PR and I'm not getting it most of the time. So I then decided there were lots of people I knew in PR, and I asked if they would like a journalist to be working in their office. One of my ex bosses said it would be great, because all of my friends were journalists, so I could just pick up the phone to them and place editorial in a much easier way. So I moved from journalism to PR. I became quite senior quite quickly because I had all the contacts, and that's how it all began.

What inspired you to want to start your own business?
I think it was a bit of frustration, but I always felt like I wanted to mentor, help and grow other people's businesses. When you work for someone else, your always to a certain extent doing things their way, and I always had the idea of things I could be doing differently. I thought I'd just give it a go.

Has anybody or anything in particular inspired you in your life, and why?
It sounds like a cliché, but my parents really inspired me. They've always been very liberal in their thinking, they've always been very supportive in what I've wanted to try and do, or believed in. They've both worked really hard and have been focused on hard work, values, treating people well etc. They're really the values that I've tried to apply to business. They've definitely inspired me.

A lot of my clients are also really inspiring. I'm fundamentally promoting them, and in the past they used to be start-ups and individuals. I'm inspired by their energy, they really want to make their businesses work. We've really fed off each other and inspired each other along the way.

How difficult was it to turn your business dreams into a reality, and where did you start?
I don't want to say it was easy. I was 24 when I started the business. I took the plunge and I didn't necessarily have a business plan and I just felt that at that time flexibility was really important. So I just took each day as it came at that point. I thought ok, If I don't set myself up for a fall and say 'this is what I'll be doing in a years' time' then I won't disappoint myself or others. So, at first, it was very simple. I just started working from home. Then it was just about organic growth, really. I think probably the biggest challenges now as the business grows and you have responsibilities are having a team of 20. It's not just me anymore. I pay their wages, make sure their happy, and make sure their fulfilled. We also now have over 30 clients globally so again, the biggest challenges are probably now rather than the start-up period.

If you could go back and give yourself any advice when you started your business, what would you say?
I think the biggest thing would be taking people's support. Sometimes I would be a bit headstrong and say 'no, I can do this! I can do this on my own.' So now I've learnt to take people's support, because they are generally offering it to be nice and be kind, whereas I used to think 'I don't want to put them out, or abuse their kindness,' we're in it together.

What are the most important rules to remember about being a business owner?
Be ethical. Be kind. And be respectful.

What is the reality of a day in the life of Emma Hart? How do you manage to juggle everything?
Well no two days are the same. My day starts with getting my children up, taking them to school, that's one thing I have changed now. My children are 9 and 6 and I feel like I'm at a time in my life where I want to manage my time in terms of my working hours. One thing I really want to do every day is take them to school. I didn't do that up until recently. My predominant role now is start the day with being mum.

And then I'll have a lot of meetings throughout the day, I spend a lot of time in meetings with people whether it be new brands, new designers, meeting with journalists. I have digital meetings and editorial meetings with the team here, to look at what we're posting on our social media, what we're talking about, what's of interest. Looking at trends, looking at interesting people globally. I have a financial and strategy check in with my husband who's my business partner and MD, so he does finances and I do creative. Then I'll check out the campaigns we're running, make sure were on track, maybe offer a little bit of a challenge to some of the things were doing to make sure we're not being blinkered. I like to offer a bit of objective on everything we're doing. It's a lot of meetings day in and day out.

What's the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
I think seeing businesses grow, and continue to grow and flourish. We're in an environment now where retail is incredibly tough, it's competitive. It's really rewarding to see our clients consistently growing and going into new markets.

What's equally as rewarding is seeing the team grow. I'm really focused on that development. I want people to feel that they've got a career, not just six months and then they move on. I want them to tap into what they love, and their creative side, and their personal interests.

What would you do if not PR?
I'd be an art journalist. Or I'm really passionate about alternative medicine and alternative therapies. I would like to be a reflexologist or holistic therapist, or nutritionist. Anything in that bracket.

Top tip for girls wanting to start their own business?
You have to really think about what your business is. Look at your competitors. You need to build your network. I don't mean in a cold calling networking kind of way, I mean looking at your friends and passing ideas through them and saying would you buy this? Would you do this? What are you passionate about?

I think it's about creating some form of organic growth for your business in the market first and foremost. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to immediately succeed. You have to give yourself time. Have as many people around you, go to as many seminars, as many talks, meet as many people as you possibly can.

Plan in terms of questioning yourself...'why do I want to do this? What's the return? What am I going to get out of it and what are other people going to get out of it?' and evaluation. Once you're up and running, you can't keep doing the same thing. You need to constantly be evaluating yourself and what you're doing. A bit like if you went to the gym five days a week doing the same exercises, progress would stop and change would stop. You constantly need to be challenging yourself.

And before you go out to market, make sure you having everything ready. It's not easy, but it's brilliant.

See more of Emma's work at
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