“Retrain” he said, “Find new jobs”, he said

Well in the words of UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, that’s exactly what I did. Running my own business for 28 years does not mean I don’t listen and take on board sound advice. Of course I do! So, to Mr Sunak, I took your advice.

Firstly to all of my clients, my business contacts and my friends and family, I am certainly not giving up The Sowerby Group business where, with my amazing, talented teams, we have created something special in the recruitment, digital marketing and creative communications sector. This is a business that has been built on referral, recommendation, trust, longevity and in many cases, where clients have become friends. And I am so proud of everything we have achieved together.

But there have been times when I’ve thought about the skills I possess and how they can be channelled into something different and more ‘spiritual’. A place where I can still add true value to those who will benefit most.

Many will already know for a number of reasons.  I am a biographer, a storyteller, a careers counsellor. I have a strong voice on issues where I have a true passion. I am an avid supporter of our hospice’s bereavement café and I am Community Champion for our local council. I am someone who listens. I love to hear other people’s stories. I have a very enquiring mind. And I ask lots of questions – often crossing the boundaries of the ‘whys and wherefores” !

Putting all those skills into a big melting pot, I started my journey to train as a Funeral Celebrant. It wasn’t just a lightbulb moment either. You see, I have been to many funerals and have listened intently to the Celebrant – some very good ones too! And in the back of my mind I would think “I would like to do that”. I even spoke at my father’s funeral many years ago – and I have never, ever got over the emotional rollercoaster of losing my father, my friend and someone who was a strong confidante and who was taken far too soon. My grief is still raw 20 years on.

So I commenced the journey of an Independent Funeral Celebrant. I researched lots of celebrant courses and before I pressed the button to sign up to one in particular, quite coincidentally I was contacted by the owner of a new Independent Family Funeral Directors in the very place where I live in Essex. This had to be more than coincidence that the owner should ask me to write an article about their new business for our village magazine. And of course I accepted, whilst also asking if they were looking for a Funeral Celebrant. Very kindly, they put me in touch with one of their own Celebrants who has been in the ‘business’ for over 20 years. He is now my Mentor, my Trainer and someone who I have shadowed at funerals, meeting bereaved families and where I have role-played many times to ensure that I am the best that I can be. As part of the Funeral Directors’ team I am ready to go it alone, to work with bereaved families and friends to deliver the best and most memorable service to celebrate the life of their loved ones.

Do you ever believe that things happen for a reason? I know I do and this was more than evident on that afternoon when I took the call from Steve and Harry Drew, owners of Drew and Son Funeral Directors. I firmly believe that I am being ‘called’ to follow a particular path. A path where I can continue to help people, to listen, to write tributes and to deliver a Celebration of Life. It’s a path that I have chosen to follow, and it’s also a path that, I believe, has been chosen for me.

Sue Sowerby, Independent Funeral Celebrant – ‘To Honour a Life’

www.funeralcelebrantsue.co.uk

www.drewfunerals.co.uk

Recent candidate testimonial – September 2020

In the (at times) relentless world of searching for a job, Sue was one of those bright lights. She approached me with a relevant role and we had a good honest conversation about suitability and fit. She was highly personable and we quickly built trust with each other. Sue gave me valuable insight on which elements to emphasise in my application and provided relevant insight when I was subsequently asked to interview. I know she also gave the client a good honest assessment of me as a candidate too. Unfortunately another candidate from the strong field was selected, but Sue’s warmth, approachability and personal interest in me as a candidate meant the experience was a positive one – so hopefully we’ll find the chance to work on another opportunity?!

Elliot Wallace, candidate for the role of Head of Public Engagement, International Development charity

We didn’t see that coming! Or did we….?

So back in mid-March we got used to hearing “unprecedented times”, “weird times” “uncertain times”. But when you’re running your own business how do you plan for the unknown? After all, six months ago, whoever heard of Coronavirus or Covid-19, I certainly hadn’t and neither had the Sowerby team. Were we supposed to know? How could we have planned for it?

A new way of working…..

We had our year-end in February 2020, just before this Covid-19 pandemic became evident worldwide. Our year-end results were OK. Granted, we made some well-needed adjustments to our business model throughout the year and this contributed to our overall results. Actually, I had offered our team new ways of working months before that. I wanted the whole team to be more flexible to aid their own work/life balance and I gave them my blessing that homeworking is really OK. No longer is there a stigma attached to working from home. That idea went out the window years ago! In fact in 1992 when I set up The Sowerby Group, I didn’t dare tell any of my clients, media or suppliers that I was working from home – I had my reasons which will follow later. Nowadays it’s all about good time management, mental health and wellbeing, flexibility, trust – and people and businesses are openly embracing it.

Agency life…..

The last person to embrace this working from home thing was in fact me! When I started the business 28 years ago, I was 6 weeks pregnant, I was in a relationship with a client who subsequently became my husband and I ended up working from home for 4 years until the business outgrew the 2 up, 2 down cottage where we lived in leafy Epping. To be honest, in my early 7-year career at Unilever’s Head Office in Blackfriars no one ever worked from home. Granted, the technology in the early ‘80s was nowhere near what it is today, even though Unilever – a multinational organisation was at the forefront of many IT initiatives. In 1988 I joined the world of advertising. I worked for a Top 5 London Ad Agency and that experience set me up for life – deep down I have always been an agency girl, working in the office – never 9-5pm, more like 9-8pm. We would carry on working on an agency pitch late into the night until the work was done.

More recently, working on Harlow Business Park, invariably at that time of night, someone had already closed the security gates so I would be fiddling with my keys, trying to unlock the padlock and using the headlights on my car as my main source of light. But I would have finished my work for the day – and that meant I could sleep at night knowing that I had put the best effort into a proposal, a tender, a website brief or a design project.

Six months on……

And now we are in June 2020. Still in lockdown though the government tells us we are slowly coming out of it – the number of deaths is on a downward curve. We are still cautious though. We are all working from home – in the UK and in Poland. The teams are happy, they have work – and I need to be the driving force to keep that work coming in and the team motivated. So although many of our clients and media reps have been furloughed, we remain active on social media, still talking to clients that are working, still engaging with some media – those poor media whose bottom has fallen out of their market – particularly in recruitment. Some of our clients have a recruitment freeze. Goodness knows when they will be lifted but we plough on from the safety of our home offices, maybe having too many coffees, too many snacks at our desks because we can now reach into our kitchen cupboards and shamelessly take a packet of crisps, a Mars bar or in my case a whole pack of cashew nuts. Looking at the bottom of the packet….did I really eat all of those? Well I can because I’m a plant-based vegetarian and cashew nuts are a good source of protein. So that makes it OK, right?

It’s lovely to engage with the team over Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This new way of working is actually quite empowering and when we have our quiet days, we go out walking, respecting social distancing, being sensible about meeting up with friends and family and generally being mindful of those in a vulnerable situation.

So what now? Well we continue with projects – websites, digital and design work, even some recruitment/search assignments, case studies to write, but that’s not enough. I wanted to do more outside of work. I needed to fill my life with other ‘stuff’, so I become an NHS Volunteer.

NHS Logo

My ‘other’ job…..

I read on social media that our local hospital – Princess Alexandra NHS Hospital Trust had a Covid-19 Support Group and the Group was looking for volunteers, predominately in the Harlow area where the hospital is based.

Well I sort of fitted the criteria as the Sowerby offices are based in Harlow, but I live in Theydon Bois, just outside Epping in Essex. So how could I help? I looked down the list of volunteers. So many were based in Harlow. A few in Epping. A couple in Loughton, but none from my village of Theydon Bois. So thinking I will have some extra time on my hands during this Covid-19 thing, I applied to be the Authorised Volunteer for Theydon Bois. And what a journey it has been.

My task was to bring in as many donations as possible that would subsequently be distributed to those who needed them most. Often working around the clock, the Covid-19 team comprising of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at the hospital were desperate for basic toiletries such as shampoos, conditioners, soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, toothbrushes, as well as some welcome treats like snacks, biscuits, drinks and chocolate…lots of chocolate! The teams were also asking for scrubs, other items of PPE and very soon my NHS donations box was overflowing with all sorts of items, along with bedding and fabrics that could be made into scrubs, scrub caps, laundry bags, headbands and face masks. My little volunteer project had turned into a pretty full-time job as I engaged with Regional Coordinators who had to get the products into the hospital. I even roped in my husband to deliver fabric to the amazing sewing teams who worked their magic by turning unwanted bedding into creative and very colourful scrubs for our NHS keyworkers.

The donations project became so successful that the Harlow hospital (initially, with one of the highest cases of Coronavirus in the UK) one day advised that they were overwhelmed with supplies and so we promptly stopped donating.

But what was I to do with all the items I had collected over the past weeks? I did some local research and realised that St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping were in need of PPE and toiletries – not only for their District Nurses but for patients who had no visitors due to the Coronavirus, along with other patients in the community. So armed with boxes of much needed supplies and wearing a face mask and disposable gloves there has been a few trips to the hospital to give out the donations. My work has stretched even further to support care homes, our local hospice and food banks.

You’re nuts…..!

My friends and family thought I was nuts! “Why you?” they said. “You run a full-time business, you undertake other roles in the community and you still make time to volunteer.” I have to say I have met some incredible people. People who have put their lives on the line in order to save or help others. People who have stepped outside of their own comfort zone to donate, to fundraise and to help make a difference. And collectively, we really have made a difference. Our journey continues for as long as this Covid-19 thing is on our radar – but even then, I can honestly say that the best rewards are seeing smiles on people’s faces when they open their box of goodies or to receive their homemade set of scrubs.

But for now, I turn my attentions back to agency life – and I still love that too!

Sue Sowerby

New CEO, new Trustees, new branding…and a shiny new website

Celebrating a bright new future for North London based mental health / sexual health charity – Brandon Centre – ‘Here for Young People’

New website: https://brandon-centre.org.uk

Dear Sue, Ricky, Pav and your team members

I am sending you this email to say a massive thank you for the amazing Sowerby Group leadership work in regards to this very important project.

The website is looking absolutely wonderful – modern, clear, welcoming, informative, caring, energising and more…. The love and attention that has gone into supporting us to shape this new and leading website is such a magnificent achievement. I have learnt so many things over the whole process from – what is required in developing a website – to what was key for us at Brandon Centre – including new branding and how best to describe our services – to unpicking the rather entangled domain names / links / passwords – and ensuring everyone was on board with our journey.

The website is our golden thread throughout Brandon Centre linking past history with up to date and accessible information about our services and is now our key platform for Brandon Centre to continue to grow. We raised over £3,000 last weekend for the 2.6 Challenge and we could not have done that without the new branding, donate links and website.

I thank you all for your incredible professionalism, energy, patience, stamina and most importantly the passion for supporting us to get this right.

My relationship started with The Sowerby Group with me enquiring about the Brandon Centre CEO role – just an enquiry as I was not really looking for a new role at that time – If it had not been for Sue and her incredible engaging and professional manner I would not have applied.

Once I had decided to apply and was offered the role, Sue and I met for the first time last summer. At this meeting we discussed the next steps of recruiting new trustees and I just happened to drop into the conversation that I needed to urgently refresh our website. Sue mentioned to me that The Sowerby Group could help with this too!

Well, it has been quite an amazing 11 months at Brandon Centre – new role, new Board and governance framework, new website, new electronic patient records, new IT cloud based server and I am now going to be leading an organisational restructure at the senior management team aligned with our new website framework. When I started it was like a little sailing boat going round in circles one way and then the other (you may have experienced some of this yourselves whilst working with us!) – well now it feels like we are surfing the wave.

This is just the start of an incredible partnership together. Despite all the world Covid-19 awful challenges the developments we have created together are to be celebrated. The key foundations are now in place for Brandon Centre to go on the next stage of our journey – and we will be celebrating our 50th celebrations over the coming months together.

I am looking forward to continuing our very, very special relationship.

Thank you so much to you all

Best wishes

Julia Brown
CEO

Brandon Centre – ‘Here for Young People’

Making every meeting count…

Marketing Campaigns | Chigwell | Essex | The Sowerby Group

So there I was on a Saturday morning having my nails done in Chigwell, Essex. As per the usual, the conversation starts:

Manicurist: ‘OK, colour chosen. How are you and how’s work?”

Me: “All good thanks and very busy.”

Manicurist: “Oh that’s good.”

Me: ”It’s manic in the Sowerby agency at the moment – with a completely different landscape of work coming through.”

Manicurist replies “What kind of work?”

Me: “Well, we are running 4 different Marketing Campaigns for Essex County Council, we are designing and developing a few interesting websites, some new branding work and then of course I have my recruitment and search business.”

Manicurist: “Wow, makes my job sound quite boring.”

At that point I get into a conversation with the lady who was sitting next to me, also having her nails done.

Nail client: “Hi, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation about Marketing and Branding.”

Me: “Hi. Yes I have run my own full service advertising and marketing agency for nearly 27 years. It’s called The Sowerby Group.”

Me: “What do you do for a living?”

Nail client: “I am the Marketing & Brand Manager for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).”

Me: “No way! I have been the RIBA’s Senior Account Director for the last 17 years.”

Nail client: “Gosh, I don’t believe this. Here we are, having a chat whilst getting our nails done, and it turns out we have a client/agency relationship. Do you have a business card?”

Me: “Yes, I just happen to have one or two in my purse.” (using my cheeky grin face).

Nail client: “Could I have one please as I am sure we will be able to put some business your way.“

Me: “No problem, we have an internal creative design studio as well as a digital design team and we already work with RIBA’s HR Team.”

Nail client: “Great, I’ll be in touch soon. In the meantime shall we connect on LinkedIn?”

Me: “Absolutely! What a coincidence!”

Moral of the story is:

  • Wherever you are, always take your business cards with you (you never know when you might need one – even a curled up one at the bottom of your bag!)
  • Never have a conversation with your manicurist/hairdresser/barber and disrespect another organisation (you never know who you are sitting next to…)
  • If someone engages in conversation, ask them what they do, where they work and find some ground….as sure as hell I have a brand new contact within an organisation where my agency name is already known through the HR team, but to get an invite into other parts of the business is a dream.”

Ps. You couldn’t make it up!

Candidate in the Human Rights sector

I just wanted to say a huge huge thank you for the fantastic opportunity you gave me to work with Freedom from Torture. You are an exceptionally warm, smart and beautiful (both on the inside and out) woman and when I look back at my time at Freedom from Torture and the wonderful friends I made at that place, I count myself quite lucky that you saw so much potential in me.

Whenever I do finally go back to Melbourne, please always know that there is an open invite for you and your family to come and visit and stay with us whenever you would like. It would be my pleasure to show you around my beautiful city (which is phenomenally better than Sydney) and show you what an Australian Summer is.

Thank you so much for everything,

Nishi x

An interview with Nicola on her 18th Anniversary

So, on the 6th December 2017, I celebrated my 18th anniversary with team Sowerby. When people ask me how long I’ve been with the company, you often see the shock on their faces when I say 18 years – after all, how many employees stay with a company for that long these days?

Why have you stayed with Sowerby for so long?

I love the fact that I honestly do not feel like I work for just one company. In my role here at Sowerby, I am very lucky to have the pleasure of working with many clients, across all industry sectors in the UK and internationally. I feel as much part of their team as I do my own and this really is a big USP for me. You could therefore say I like my clients…

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The variety. You really do not know what each day or month will bring. One day you could be mainly media buying and planning, the next you could be working on a totally new brand and all the marketing material that goes with it. It’s really great when you get to work on exciting projects where you can push the boundaries in terms of marketing and creativity.

What has been your most memorable social agency experience?

On a social front it has to be when RBI (Reed Business) took the Sowerby team to the Ice Bar in London. You could say after sampling the entire cocktail menu, it got pretty messy. Not one of us made the train home, we will just leave it there.

What’s been your most memorable project?

There have been quite a few. Taxi wraps for a search and selection company based in London, branding a real life sized concrete cow this year, risky ad campaigns for Solution Recruitment, project managing the naming and branding of two care organisations – CuroCare and Accedo Care and much more.

What is the most frustrating part of your role?

When you spend hours or even days on proposals, speculative work, negotiating ad campaigns and you don’t hear back from the client / prospective client. We go into so much detail in order to provide our clients with the right and relevant information. When you chase for an update or you don’t hear anything back it can be quite deflating. I really do believe honesty is the best policy so just a courtesy response is much appreciated by us agency people.

What’s in store for 2018?

We have a great team and believe that we are big enough to cope but also small enough to care. In 2018 we want to attract more new business, work with more clients and provide a whole variety of our extensive services from branding through to website design & development, SEO, advertising campaigns, design and print and more. In addition, it would be great to recruit and possibly take on a new apprentice.

Spending ‘time’ in HMP High Down Prison

By Sue Sowerby

To say that I was excited to be invited to HMP High Down Prison by an old colleague is an understatement. I love new experiences, new challenges and the older I get, the more intrigued I become. But this one was different. Not for the fact that I relished meeting prisoners who were doing ‘time’ and paying the price, but just because I experienced something a few years ago – and this was part of my ‘recovery’. Over a four-day period, our ad agency was burgled. Our offices were ram-raided and the burglars stole everything – computers, studio materials – they even cut all the electrical wires! Why? What had we done to them? We were just a normal business with a lovely team and we were all trying to earn a living. Too much to mention, too sore to be reminded.

So on Thursday 19th October, my colleague Armen and I met in the visitors’ car park at High Down on the Banstead/Sutton, Surrey borders. I was security checked a few weeks before, so with passport in hand, I stood at the reception desk, looked up at the camera and was validated through the security system. Armen is a regular visitor at High Down so no introduction was needed. In fact he often visits The Clink Restaurant and entertains clients and media, and of course this is where we were intending to have lunch that day.

About 40 of us were checked in for lunch and we were given a briefing by one of the prison staff. “No knives, no scissors, no nail files, no keys, no mobile phone, no bags and….no bombs!” she said. Our possessions had to be tucked away in a locker until our return. On the day we arrived, there was a recruitment campaign being filmed. This piqued our interest because Armen and I have a very long history in recruitment and that’s how we first met.

After even more security checks, one door opens and another locks, and repeat. We were finally escorted through to The Clink Restaurant. The place was fully staffed by inmates. Drinks waiter, food waiter. cashier. Cashier? We were in a prison so how does that work? Armen told me that 50% of the bill is paid in advance and then the balance is paid on the day with a cheque. So effectively no money crosses hands in The Clink.

A very polite young man came to our table with pencil and pad in hand. He gives us a warm welcome. Drinks ordered. Time to look at the menu. What a selection! Pigeon, black pudding, smoked bacon and poached quails egg for Armen. Gorgonzola tart tatin, fennel slaw and candied walnuts for me. Hardly prison food and that was just for starters! The main menu was vast and equally tantalising.

We talked to our waiters. Of course they were on their best behaviour. They had to be. They needed to impress the diners, play by the rule book, smile, respond to questions and they did, In bucketfuls. ‘Our’ prisoners were smartly dressed, complete with long waiter’s apron, courteous, helpful and above all customer service was the order of the day! But what holds for them once they leave the restaurant, go back to the shouting, the swearing, the bullying and the constant noise. The noise of sound, disruption and mayhem. Do they seek sanctity in their own cell? Do they weep inwardly for fear of being ridiculed? So many questions you just don’t want to ask. For a few hours, these guys enter the world of normality, try to be the best that they can be because on the outside, they all hope to secure a job, make a new life for themselves, make people proud and prove they can change. Help is on hand at the prison. The guys receive training, career counselling and even the offer of work, so when they enter the outside world again (‘our’ drinks waiter comes out in March). I did not ask what he was in for. Perhaps I didn’t want to know. Perhaps it would have blurred my appreciation of his good manners and his efforts to serve and impress. Throughout the meal, my eyes welled up. Tears fell down my cheeks like an annoying dripping tap. Armen called me “soppy”. I am. I always will be.

On the drive home I cried buckets. Uncontrollable tears. I called my mum and told her about my day. Explaining everything through my sobs. What will become of ‘our’ waiters when they are released? Will they reoffend or will they really try and make something of their lives and put a life of crime behind them? Were they incessant drug dealers, burglars, muggers, murderers? We will never know, but I truly hope that they reform themselves and do well. In the visitors book I wrote “Thank you for fantastic customer service by two great lads. Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Let’s hope they don’t blow it.

From kitchen table, to stately home, to modern business park! Our 25-year history

It was 1992. The country was in recession. The whole team at our London ad agency was made redundant. So what was I to do? I had never managed people before. I had certainly never run a company before. But one thing I knew I could do was manage the 29 clients I had acquired over the previous 7 years. As an Account Manager, I was proud of the relationship I had built with them and they were friends of mine, as well as clients. My company car went back to BMW, so with my government statutory payout of just £1,000 I bought an old Ford Sierra (complete with oil leak) and decided to work from home. My family clubbed together and bought me an Amstrad computer. They were the best in those days! My spare bedroom was turned into an office which was fine for 9 months…until my baby boy came along. Sharing an office with a new-born was not ideal, but with only a two-up, two-down cottage in Epping, we had to put up with each other. In fact my son and I shared his bedroom for 4 years during the day, where the ‘office’ walls were adorned with images of the infamous Teletubbies!

By 1996, the business had grown and we had certainly outgrown our little cottage. With a fax machine on the landing outside our main bedroom door, and a four-drawer filing cabinet in the bathroom it was far from an ideal setting for a thriving advertising agency. So decisions had to be made. As we took on more clients and increased our service offering, we had to find some office space – quickly.  From starting as a recruitment advertising agency, we very quickly became a full service agency offering media buying, national and international advertising campaigns, copywriting and, now with an in-house design studio, we no longer had to outsource our creative campaign work. My husband decided to bring his headhunting business into our new offices within a fabulous 17th Century country house set in 10 acres of glorious countryside. Both media and clients loved visiting Warlies Park House, Upshire in Essex where we ended up staying for 16.5 years. During that time we won lots of industry awards – Small Business of the Year two years running, Customer Service Awards, Advertising Campaign of the Year, a Spirit of Ingenuity Award and Essex Business Woman of the Year. It was not unusual to find ourselves making more space in the awards cabinet every year for about 10 years.

The beautiful grounds where we worked were ideal for outside entertainment. We put on two fabulous events – one celebrating 10 years in business, and again for 15 years. Both were held in a marquee in the grounds of Warlies Park House. Media, clients and other guests turned up in their black tie suits and gorgeous evening dresses. We organised a brilliant band, a casino and a three-course dinner with plenty of bubbly for everyone! Times were good. During our time at Warlies, we were burgled twice. Every piece of office and studio equipment was stolen. We managed to get everything ordered and installed, then three days later, the burglars came back and stole it all again.

And then another recession hit the industry. The word ‘digital’ was also being bandied around the industries too. To a certain extent we were ‘shielded’ from the online revolution because we worked with a number of construction and engineering clients and they would buy up advertising space like there was no tomorrow. Full pages, full colour, double-page spreads, captivating inserts in membership magazines and renewing annual media contracts was something that was the ‘norm’ in Sowerbyland. After the burglaries, our ideal countryside setting far away from civilisation (the nearest rail station was 10 miles away) didn’t hold the same appeal, so we decided to uproot our business and search for new premises. Most of the team were living in the Hertfordshire and Essex areas and after much searching to find the right kind of offices for our business –we found a suite of modern offices on Harlow Business Park. It was very far removed from our previous country house where our nearest neighbours were sheep and the odd cow mooing in the background. Our new offices had a real buzz about them, and we had lots of businesses to network with. We have now been at Greenway Business Centre for 6.5 years. Time has flown. Throughout that time we have worked in collaboration with both Harlow Chamber and Stansted Airport Chamber of Commerce to put on great Business Exhibitions that have truly gone from strength to strength. Our ‘Check-In at Stansted’ event is now in its 4th year and we are getting more and more recognition as THE place to get noticed within the fantastic venue that is Diamond Hangar, London Stansted Airport.

Our longstanding client – Ricoh UK, has been with the agency for 25 years. Other loyal clients who have been with us for around 10 years or more include Royal Institute of British Architects, British Heart Foundation, Solution Recruitment, Remtec Search and Selection, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and of course we have our amazing client contacts who move on to other exciting roles and once again retain our services. Referral and recommendation is by far the most effective way we have constantly gained new business. Right now we are working on some exciting projects with some fabulous new clients and we also have some great incentives which we are offering to our media friends by way of recognising our 25 years in business.

So we have arrived at the present day. I have to say a massive thanks to our wonderful and loyal teams – past and present. That includes Nicola Wisbey, our Director of Marketing who started with us at just 17 years of age. She is now in her 18th year (over half of her life!). We also have Richard, our Director of Finance and Sylvia our Accounts Controller and Ian our Company Accountant who have collectively notched up around 50 years with us too. And then there’s me. Still enjoying the business and not quite ready to hang up my high heels just yet. Thank you to everyone who has been on the 25-year journey with us – our clients, over 3,000 media titles and our many suppliers.

By Sue Sowerby

Website now live for Nationwide Security

We’re pleased to announce that we have now gone live with a website design and build project for our client Nationwide Security which can be viewed here nsl247.com

The content management system used is WordPress with a bespoke design and customised back end to allow the client to update the site as/when required their end. Professional shots were used of the team to help bring the site to life, along with a little brand direction to showcase the services and sectors the company specialise within. A simple yet effective design allowed us to create a friendly, corporate feel to the website – showcasing the quality and professionalism Nationwide Security offer to their clients.

We have all thoroughly enjoyed working on this exciting project and look forward to the next!

Building a better future – with Telford Homes!

We just love it when a prospective client contacts the Sowerby agency after popping a few key words into Google. And that’s exactly how the Telford Homes’ Learning & Development team found The Sowerby Group.

Telford Homes, with offices in London and Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire were looking for a full service agency with an in-house design studio and experience within the fields of Human Resources, Recruitment, Property and Construction who could handle all their internal communications projects – from HR initiatives including Employee Engagement and Policies & Procedures through to Learning & Development training materials, and more.  This was a client we were really excited about.

When we arranged our first face-to-face meeting with the Telford Homes’ team, they were very clear about what they wanted from their new supplier – and we knew we would be part of a 4-way pitch against three other agencies. The chemistry also had to be right from the outset. We have to say it felt ‘right’. Our design team set to by producing some amazing ideas which the client loved – so much so that they immediately acknowledged the designs could run independently as well as complement the overall Telford Homes’ brand. And then it was a waiting game… Only a week, but it felt like two!

When we discovered that The Sowerby Group was the chosen agency who understood the Leadership Team’s vision, we were ecstatic! We really wanted this contract and we worked together to make sure that we came up with something special to blow them away!

What a wonderful win for team Sowerby. This communications business is full of surprises. When we are approached by a prospective client you can never be sure of the final outcome despite investing in numerous hours of team collaboration, research, design, copywriting, proposal design and lots more. After all, there are no second chances to go back and correct the documents after they have left the agency.  Suffice to say, we have a great future ahead of us as we partner the Telford Homes’ team to help achieve their own vision. We indeed look forward to building a strong future together.

An interview with Nicola by the CapitalSpace PR agency

The CapitalSpace PR agency were keen to find out more about Sowerby and the latest project ‘Herd About MK’ they were undertaking on behalf of the Milton Keynes Business Centre. Here’s what they asked our Director of Marketing, Nicola Wisbey.

What do you do for a living? How did you get started in your industry or field? What makes you different from your competition?

My name is Nicola Wisbey and I am Director of Marketing for The Sowerby Group Limited, a full service creative and digital agency based within the Harlow CapitalSpace premises. I have been with the company for 17 years and my role is extremely varied. I manage the internal teams as well as large client projects covering the entire marketing mix – design, print, digital, branding, large format print, events, marketing & pr, social media and more. The personal, one to one service we provide to each and every client (UK and internationally) is our biggest selling point. Yes we ‘wow’ our clients with our creativity too, but the dedication, loyalty and attention to detail we provide is enjoyed by every single Sowerby client. People buy into people – and we’re extremely proud of our team.

When did you move into CapitalSpace business accommodation? Why did you choose this CapitalSpace location? What facilities were important to you? (E.g. location, parking, fully serviced, connectivity, ability to scale up/down, meeting rooms, opportunity to market to other companies on the site, centre staff)

We moved into the Harlow Business Centre in May 2011. We were looking for an easy in/easy out facility, where we could move around and grow / decrease the team as the market dictates. Parking was extremely important as was the friendliness of the Centre team. We provide our customers with exceptional customer service, so it was extremely important for us to receive the kind of service back.

What has your experience been as a CapitalSpace customer?

The CapitalSpace team here in Harlow has been extremely polite, friendly and accommodating to our business. We have met lots of tenants on site and managed to ‘do business’ with our neighbours as well as the CapitalSpace team. Which is why we are working on the extremely exciting, Herd About MK campaign where we will be branding a life sized concrete cow for the Milton Keynes Business Centre to mark Milton Keynes’ 50th Anniversary. Not many creative agencies can say they have done that!

It’s a challenging project, which requires lots of research, creative brainstorming and exceptional attention to detail. We met with the Milton Keynes Business team to discuss the brief in detail and have put some creative concepts forward for consideration. The whole aim is to create awareness of the Business Centre which falls on the outskirts of the town itself as a business hub where businesses can really take off. Especially with the flexibility that the CapitalSpace brand offers to all types of business owners. We cannot give away too much at this stage, but we are certain this campaign will put the Milton Keynes Business Centre on the map! The cow will be placed in and around Milton Keynes at various locations throughout 2017 and will feature at parades, networking events and more. We’re not just creating a branded cow, but an entire campaign that will feature across all social media platforms, various marketing and other channels.

Latest Project: Branding a cow…

Today the team at Sowerby get to start on a very exciting project – the design and creative concepts for branding a life sized cow… Holy cow… yes, you herd that right! Sorry, excuse the pun!

This limited edition concrete cow will be branded, painted and decorated (amongst 49 others) on behalf of our client Capital Space who have business centres across the UK including one in Milton Keynes. This is to celebrate Milton Keynes 50th anniversary this year.

The Herd About MK initiative is set to be one of the biggest art projects Milton Keynes has seen; 50 life-sized cows, vibrantly decorated at different locations in MK! This presents lots of branding opportunities for our client who is a main sponsor amongst other organisations including: Red Bull, Taylor Wimpey, Rightmove, PwC, SMC, Santander and MirrorOutlet to name a few.

Nicola Wisbey, Project Manager here at Sowerby said “As a full service creative and digital agency, we never know what is coming into the agency next. And when we were asked to quote for this exciting project, we couldn’t help but get a little excited. We started with a kick off briefing meeting with the client and Herd About MK organisers last week in Milton Keynes, as not only is it good for us to discuss a creative brief in person, but it’s also important for us to see the set up, location of the premises, meet the team and fact find as much as possible. This is certainly a project that’s going to be challenging as the message / concept needs to be simple, yet impactive and creative as well as provide the strong message that our client wants to portray. The team are really excited about this project and we cannot wait to see the end result.”

OFFER ALERT – Phone Boxes

We have a fantastic Monday offer for phone box advertising (like the picture shown) across the country, available all in one town or spread across various locations. This offer covers any in-charge from Monday 16th January 2017 up until the end of October 2017, so bookings will need to be quick and are based on area availability.

Phone Boxes

20 + = £2,000
50+ = £3,500
100+ = £6,000

Print is included (1 design, all posters). Rates are based on a 2 week booking period and costs provided exclude VAT. Interested in this amazing offer? Contact Nicola on 01279 408 665 or email nicola@sowerbygroup.co.uk

Congratulations to Pav who celebrates 1 year working here at Sowerby

January 2017 is the start of a new year. It’s also the 1st anniversary for 1 Sowerby team member, our highly creative and talented designer, Pav. Congratulations on your 1st anniversary Pav. We looking forward to seeing what you’ll be creating this year for many Sowerby clients.

#design #creative #indesign #photoshop #imagination #creativity #inspiration

2016 saw us welcome new client, Firma Foreign Exchange

2016 saw The Sowerby team welcome new client Firma Foreign Exchange. Based in London and with a Head Office and Marketing Team operating from Canada, the London team were keen to find a UK supplier who could co-ordinate and deliver for all of their printing.

The Sowerby team are experts in print buying. Not only that, when we inherit creative artwork from clients and 3rd party suppliers, we always check and advise on any issues that we may see – sizing, colours, CMYK and more. With their Head Office overseas, we were instantly able to flag up the printing size variations and amend the artwork accordingly.

When it comes to printing, we only work with the very best. Digital, litho, promotional merchandise – we have preferred suppliers who have been tried and tested. Not just on delivery – but also quality and price!

For Firma Foreign Exchange we have so far delivered various business cards, Christmas cards, personalised envelopes and thermo flasks. We’re looking forward to the 2017 order book, where so far we are looking at supplying printed material for their events to include exhibition stand graphics, furniture, brochures, flyers and more.

We’re pleased to say we are keeping the team in the UK happy and of course Marketing in Canada too.

We don’t just serve the UK market, we’re operate globally.

Sowerby work on Radio Campaign for Essex County Council

Everyone knows that Sowerby is the place to go when it comes to recruitment marketing! And we were pleased to be given a radio campaign project for Essex County Council who are looking to attract a number of carers to join various companies within the county.

Running on Heart FM across 3 transmitters to attract people to open days in Basildon and Chelmsford, we’re giving our readers the chance to listen to the commercial:

Sowerby project managed the entire radio campaign for our client including negotiating and purchasing media space, through to working with Heart FM on relevant time slots, working with the creatives on scripts, music and voiceovers and finalising the end piece all within a tight timeframe and budget.

We’re really pleased with this campaign and it’s been a pleasure working with the Essex County Council team. We wish them the best of luck in finding their ideal candidates.

A day in the life of Kelsie

Kelsie

I started as a Sowerbabe back in March 2015. I heard about the job opportunity via the Harlow College apprentice website of becoming an Apprentice Account Handler and straight away, knew I would love this opportunity! I was currently under an apprenticeship scheme working for a nearby hotel and wasn’t totally happy but with this opportunity I could see a career outcome.

My day-to-day activities involve planning, negotiating and buying advertising space on behalf of a key Sowerby client – The British Heart Foundation for all of their Furniture and Electrical Stores. I liaise daily with different area managers across the UK to ensure we get the best deals in the form of print advertising. In addition, I work closely with the Sowerby studio to create artwork based on BHF’s corporate guidelines and work closely with BHF head office (marketing) to ensure correct styles have been used, trackable numbers have been allocated etc.

When I am not working on the British Heart Foundation account, I upload a range of job roles onto different job boards for a variety of clients including: World Vision UK, Lee Valley Park, Freedom from Torture and more. This includes job boards such as CharityJob, Reed, Guardianjobs etc.

As well as working full time, I also attend Harlow College on a Wednesday where I have been studying Business & ICT. College has been a great experience for me, as it has taught me further about the business industry. It was also a way of meeting new people and sharing experiences as an apprentice.

My apprenticeship actually ended in March 2016 and I was over the moon to have been offered a full time role here at Sowerby as an account handler!

I am looking forward to carrying on my journey within a creative and friendly agency, learning more skills to cover the diverse range of services the company has to offer. Every single person is a pleasure to work with, colleagues and clients, and I am excited to see what the future holds.

Media Planning / Buying – the benefits of using Sowerby

Make us your creative choice for all your advertising needs and you will not be disappointed. Advertising is right up our street. We have years of experience in this arena. You may have heard the saying ‘not all advertising works’. We appreciate that and will not try to tell you any different. But what we will guarantee is that with our media buying skills and advertising/marketing expertise, we will come up with the right choice for you and your company.

Local, national, trade, international and online media, radio, recruitment, graduate, themed / campaign, TV, cinema, train, tube, outdoor, graduate – you name the advertising brief – we can help!

Registered agencies like Sowerby receive agency commission from the media – not you, the client. If you were to place your advertising direct with the media it would cost you exactly the same as if you were to book through us. But agencies can provide a lot more as part of their service and as part of the Sowerby experience, below are the extra services we will provide:

Free account management – your account will be handled by advertising experts. You will be given a ‘Sowerby team’ who will work solely on your account. The team will get to know you, your brand and your full requirements. We also operate a ‘no voicemail’ policy so there will always be someone you can talk to regarding your advertising account.

Free media advice – we have been buying media space for years and have the knowledge and expertise to know exactly where best to place your adverts. We also have access to a comprehensive media database in the UK and overseas which will free your time up in researching publications through the likes of Google!

Competitive copywriting of advertisements – if you place your ad bookings through Sowerby, we will prepare your copy at an extremely competitive cost. With a team of qualified copywriters on board, we know how to attract attention and capture your audience through creative copywriting – online and offline.

One invoice at the end of the month – outlining all of your transactions. This means less paperwork and less frustration for you when it comes to checking numerous invoices that land on your desk from all different publications.

Competitive design of advertisements – with an in-house studio team, we are well equipped to provide graphic design services to you at very competitive rates. Our team will work to guidelines if required or create ‘wow’ factor campaigns for you. This will give you the chance to see your advertisement in all its glory and upon approval, we will transmit the artwork directly to the press so that you don’t have to.

Negotiation – as we purchase media space on a daily basis, we are in a better position to negotiate rates with the media. This will then be passed back on to you, the client, making further savings. 

Offers/features and incentives – we are in constant contact with the media and receive regular offers, news on features and incentives. If we feel that one of these may be relevant to your business, we will provide the details.

Less sales calls – How many calls a day do you receive from the media? Wouldn’t you like to know that you could say “contact my agency Sowerby?” We will gladly handle the calls on your behalf.

Fast turnaround – we operate a fast turnaround policy.

You work with us and we’ll work with you….

IMG_2875A combined regional radio, print, online and social media campaign paid off nicely at Ricoh’s UK Recruitment Open Day on Thursday 1st September which was held at Ricoh’s Head Office in Northampton. The client gave us a budget. We obliged!  They gave us a very strong message about their recruitment requirements – we listened and acted, and the best part of all was the fact our Client Relationship Director, Sue Sowerby was there to ensure all went without a hitch.

Sue said “With a range of positions with the IT Service Desk, Sales and Procurement teams, we were slightly anxious about the timing because it was held during a Bank holiday week. However we received 198 online applications and over 140 walk-ins on the day.” Sue added: “Being onsite with the client meant we could see first-hand how the event developed throughout the day. From a slow trickle of job seekers at around 8.30am to various spikes of visitors during peak times of the day, we were able to manage our client’s expectations who were able to spend valuable time with their candidates. After registration, we had a number of presentations from the Ricoh team to ensure that all our visitors had a real chance to understand the business. In addition, each was offered a Corporate tour of the high-tech building where they met with teams from Human Resources and Corporate Responsibility while also learning about the benefits, training and development opportunities within this blue chip organisation.”

Sue was also on hand for another reason; to find out how people got to know about the event. “There was a strong mixture of response via every media we used and in addition the Ricoh UK employees were excellent networking ambassadors as many came through referrals.” She added: “The day was such a huge success. Yes it was a tiring day (particularly wearing high heels!) but would I do it all over again, I certainly would – I would love to bottle the enthusiasm and gratitude from the client as well as the overwhelming comments from the candidates that I  ‘captured’ on their way out of the uber-impressive building. The whole day was a great success and if there is one word that sums up the Sowerby / Ricoh Client / Agency relationship – it has to be “phenomenal”. Great people make a great business and this was one great day!

IMG_2877IMG_2868IMG_2871IMG_2866

We have moved…

We’re pleased to confirm that as from the 1st August 2016 you will find the Sowerby team settled within their new office at Suite 21, Greenway Business Centre. We’re all loving our new desks and surroundings and welcome visitors looking to discuss their next creative or digital project.

Could you be our next Graphic Designer?

A fantastic and rare opportunity has become available for a talented Graphic Designer to join our friendly team here in Harlow, Essex.

We’re looking for someone who not only possesses creative ability (to wow us and our clients), but someone who also has the passion, enthusiasm and determination to succeed in producing award winning work. What we’re saying is that your portfolio must be impressive.

Typical projects you will work on include; artwork/typesetting of press advertisements (which require a speedy turnaround), online banners and buttons, stationery, brand identity/logo designs, posters, flyers, exhibition stands, newsletters, brochures, promotional items and much more.

Previous experience (ideally gained within an agency) is key and digital/social media experience is highly desirable. You must be fully competent in the usual software including InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, PowerPoint, Excel etc.

We’re a full service agency so we’re looking for a full service designer. Someone who can hit the ground running and deliver from the start. Not everyday is the same – we never know what project is coming in next and how quick it is needed.

Attention to detail comes natural to this agency so we’re looking for someone who takes pride in their typography, choice of colours, adherence to corporate guidelines and anything else required to create a masterpiece.

This is a Monday – Friday position, 9am to 5.30pm, however flexibility based on workload and deadlines is required.

Have you got what it takes to be our next creative?

Do you want to work with a company that truly values its staff?

If so, in the first instance, please email a copy of your CV and portfolio indicating your salary expectations to Nicola Wisbey, Director of Marketing on nicola@sowerbygroup.co.uk

www.sowerbygroup.co.uk

NO AGENCIES PLEASE

TNT Cleaning website and rebrand goes live…

We’re pleased to confirm that a website design & build project we have been working on for some time has finally gone live – check it out – tntcleaning.co.uk

In addition to the lovely new rebrand our team have worked hard on, we developed this responsive website over the past few months within a content management system which is easy for the client to update with all their latest news, services, team members and more.

TNT cleaning continue to grown from strength to strength and the Managing Director wanted their brand to represent this. Professional, established, reliable, clean and crisp. It’s certainly different to what they had and we’re pleased to see the brand already in situ on their company vans!

Website for Arena Red goes live…

We’re pleased to announce that a website we have designed and built ( responsive and CMS ) for a new client Arena Red, a Premier Sports Consultancy providing revenue generating strategies and solutions to sporting organisations and sponsorship right holders, has now gone live!

Take a look at www.arenared.co.uk

Welcome baby Prowse

Sowerby Baby

We’re pleased to announce the arrival of a new Sowerbabe – India Rose Prowse who was born on Wednesday 3rd June 2015 at 4 am weighing a healthy 8lb 5oz.

Congratulations to Katie and Mark.

We’ve found our apprentice!

We’re pleased to announce the appointment of our new and first ever apprentice, Kelsie Chalkey. Kelsie will join us on Monday 2nd March 2015 where she will begin her career within the communications industry.

Kelsie will join as a trainee account handler, working with the team and clients mainly on the advertising function where she will train to plan, negotiate and buy advertising space (online and offline), liaise with clients on their requirement, brief the creative team, provide excellent customer service, deal with lineage requests, meet and greet visitors, research and much more.

Kelsie will also attend Harlow College (our training provider for this apprenticeship scheme) one day a week to continue with her studies in business.

We’re thrilled to welcome Kelsie to the Sowerby team – we truly believe in giving a kid a chance and this is our opportunity to support the younger generation.

Director, Education client

“AMAZING! Just love the design, and the little icons on the ‘What’s It All About’ page especially. Superb.”

Chief Executive, Charity

“The letterheads arrived this morning and they look excellent. Thank you so much.”

Search Consultant, Recruitment Agency

“The best caricature by far! Simply brilliant.”

Assistant Director of Organisational Development, NHS Foundation Trust

“I have worked with Sue many times over the past 12 years and she is amazing. She gets it! Her subject matter expertise is unrivalled and after every conversation you come away richer in knowledge, more enabled and totally inspired. She has created a fabulous team who are all cut from the same cloth – guaranteeing creative, quality solutions which you, your customers and your teams will benefit from. Wishing everyone at The Sowerby Group a happy 21st birthday!”

Manager, Business Development, Clinical Research Company

“The exhibition stand has been received by us. I have been having a play around with it this afternoon putting half of it up (for lack of room) and… I absolutely love it! And so do the rest of the guys here! Thank you for all your work with this. You have been very patient throughout this whole process but, moreover, wholly professional – I can only thank you again very much for both of these things.”

HR Director, HR Solutions Company

“A very capable company, easy to deal with. A source of expertise and a great contact for all aspects of employee communication, recruitment campaigns and creative branding. A pleasure to work with.”

Operations Manager, Recruitment Agency

“A company with great vision and passion, often taking the trouble to go the extra mile for a client. I work closely with Sowerby on a number of projects and value the honesty and clarity of the support given. I anticipate the support I receive to make a fundamental difference to the business.”

HR Consultant, Global provider of Consultancy, Engineering & Project Management Services

“Having worked with Sowerby through a consultancy project within our business and other wider support, I was very impressed with the professional, thorough and ‘not afraid to challenge’ approach taken by them. The Sowerby organisation take a partnership approach with us and that is what provides the additional value.”

International Director, International Recruitment Organisation

“The best advertising and design agency I have ever encountered. The team are experts in their field and are always looking to push the boundaries of what is achievable. I would highly recommend Sowerby for any advertising/design requirements.”

Director of Marketing, Care Organisation

“Our company has commissioned Sowerby to design our corporate website, marketing publications and merchandise. Attention to detail, unique design and originality has produced an end product that surpassed our initial remit. Sowerby has provided excellent services from initial consultation to interim site updates. We have had a bespoke service. Sowerby has valued our custom as we have valued their expertise, service delivery and value for money. They come highly recommended.”

Managing Director, Global Talent Management Company

“A tremendous help since I started my business and ever since really. They come up with great designs, layout and copy and have always worked hard to get me a great deal. One of the adverts even placed us as a finalist in the National Recruit Rank advertising awards last year. Always responsive, always on time I would recommend to anybody needing the services of an outstanding advertising agency.”

HR Director, Regional Park Authority

“Sowerby’s up-to-date, expert advice is second to none. They challenge us to look at our brand in different ways, whilst ensuring the ultimate solution is was aligned to our organisation’s values.”

Marketing Manager, Executive Search Company

“Thank you for the complete creation and design of our company brand and identity. The brief was met fully in the conceptual stages to design and create a brand identity using such strong colours and straplines. This has not only enhanced our image but our business ethos as well.

Through the logo design, business stationery, marketing material, advertising, website, exhibition stands and London taxi branding – the brand has been consistent and strong and we have enjoyed excellent feedback from both staff and our clients.

We cannot thank you enough for not only creating a beautiful brand identity, but meeting tight deadlines and being the ever consummate professional agency.”

CEO, Hospice

“Thank you to the Sowerby Group. Your support has been wonderful and enabled us to achieve a great deal, and to know that you are continuing to support the Hospice is truly wonderful.”

Communications Director, Children’s Charity

“When I started working for the company our designs were all over the place. Our brand was inconsistent and we looked unprofessional. Our relationship with Sowerby has been a God send. We undertook a comprehensive re-branding process last year and Sowerby has been very quick to pick up on our house style and we can now fully rely on them to turn our briefs into excellent documents, whether it be flyers, posters, leaflets or even booklets. The relationship has also significantly eased the burden on our communications and fundraising teams, freeing them up to work on the areas for which they specialise. Long may it continue.”

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Recruitment Advisor, Global Office Solutions Organisation

“Sowerby, a professional company with passion and visibility.  I find them to be a great source of expertise, providing friendly, honest and clear support – an excellent advertising agency whom I would highly recommend for any recruitment advertising requirements.”

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Managing Director, Independent Family Funeral Directors

“Thank you most sincerely for the support for the Charity Ball we organised for St Clare Hospice and Isabel Hospice. I am pleased to inform you that, together with your help, the fantastic sum of £40,000 was raised. Approx. 270 people attended the event and enjoyed a terrific evening. Once again, many, many thanks for your support.”

Communications Department, Charity Organisation

“You guys make my life so much easier, our last designer just didn’t get it and was so cumbersome too. What’s being produced now is to a much better quality and in a quicker turnaround time. Thank you.”

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Marketing Assistant, International Recruitment Agency

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