Real Talk With Hayley Smith, Owner of Boxed Out PR + FlowAid
When Hayley Smith’s position at a PR agency in East London was eliminated, she seized the opportunity to start her own company. Boxed Out PR is a one-woman show, but that doesn’t keep Hayley from giving each client personalized PR service. As if being a solopreneur isn’t enough work, Hayley also founded FlowAid, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless women access sanitary products (aka period supplies).
Name: Hayley Smith
Location: London, England
Company: Boxed Out PR, FlowAid
What it is: Boxed Out PR are specialists in lifestyle PR. FlowAid campaigns for free sanitary products for homeless women.
Educational Background: 2.1 Bachelor Honors in Writing/English Literature, Dartington College of the Arts
What inspired you to get your start?
I was working at a PR agency—it was at the time when Twitter had just been launched, and Facebook for business was still growing (I know, right). I wanted to implement PR services for small businesses to use social media effectively to grow and develop further opportunities. It was a unique prospect and I’ve since developed my love and skill set for growing businesses using social media.
What did you do before founding Boxed Out PR?
I was working at a PR agency in East London. I was made redundant in 2013, and then took a temp job at a secondary school library whilst setting up the business.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up early, and spend an hour planning my day for each of my clients so I know what I want to achieve. Then I spend time scheduling social media posts for clients throughout the day so I save time and can focus on other areas.
Each day is different depending what I have on. Sometimes, days are packed out with meetings, either in person or Skype, when some days I am in the office all day working on client projects. I try to finish by 7 p.m. most evenings, but sometimes it’s impossible, especially if I’m on a roll with something.
What’s been the hardest part of starting your own business?
Working on my own…the hardest challenges are organizing and prioritizing, which is why I depend so much on planning. And it can get lonely. Music helps, but you don’t realize how beneficial it is to have someone to bounce ideas off of during the day, or just have a conversation.
My biggest challenge now is managing growth and expectations. My reputation has developed and I want to grow slow and steady without compromising anything.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
Working for myself is rewarding, and getting to make my own decisions. But I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing businesses and business professionals, many who have been with me since day one.
Why should businesses hire someone for their PR instead of just hiring an intern to do social media?
Your business is your baby, and you wouldn’t leave your child with someone who isn’t qualified. Everyone has to learn somewhere, but interns are meant for larger companies who have the time and resources to train someone. Your social media platforms are the face of your business, and it needs to reflect what you do and you need to do it well. When you hire a professional, you receive the following (very simply put):
- Someone who understands how social media works.
- Someone who can use social media to grow your business, online presence and reputation.
- Someone who can implement a social media strategy and create engaging content.
- Someone who wants to dedicate his or her time working on your business .
- Someone who can consistently work on developing your social media communications.
In your opinion, what should businesses look for when they’re hiring someone for PR?
Someone who can understand your business and the industry it’s in, and someone with good contacts and relationships. You want someone who is engaged and not going to pass you off to account manager after account manager. With me, all of my clients get my direct line and that’s invaluable.
Don’t work with someone who offers set hours, as this will make your PR inconsistent, and most importantly, someone who isn’t charging extremely high fees. The most important element is achieving a strong ROI.
As a PR professional, what’s your #1 social media tip?
Don’t use social media to promote and sell. Instead, engage, start conversations, and share interesting content. This in turn will produce sales and customer interaction.
When did you add FlowAid to your busy entrepreneur schedule?
I set up FlowAid in late 2015. I work with FlowAid in the evenings and weekends. However, it’s a little easier to manage now that I have volunteers helping.
What inspired you to start FlowAid?
There isn’t a big story to it. I read an article in VICE about homeless women and periods. Periods in the media are often mocked and made fun of, and this was the first article that I had read that was honest. I hadn’t really ever considered the issue either and decided I wanted to do something.
There’s a Tampon Tax here in the US, too. For readers who don’t know, what is a tampon tax? And why is it so controversial?
A luxury 5% tax is attached to certain products, including sanitary products. It classes these items as non-essential and makes them much more expensive and inaccessible.
Products that don’t have a tax attached to them include jaffa cakes, bingo, house boat moorings and crocodile meat.
How is running FlowAid, a nonprofit, different from running Boxed Out PR?
It’s quite similar in some ways. For Boxed Out PR, businesses rely on me to develop their business and implement PR activities. For FlowAid, I have charities and individuals rely on me to provide donations and raise awareness.
However, how I work is different. With FlowAid, I need to be ruthless; people don’t listen, or in some cases care and it’s imperative I get a yes. It has allowed me to adapt a better business attitude and strive for better results.
Also, FlowAid doesn’t make any money; I solely rely on donations so I don’t have a business account or expenses to fall back on. It is a personal investment.
If you could have given yourself a piece of knowledge or advice when you started, what would that be?
I would have told myself to leverage my contacts. I was so eager for business when I started due to the need to pay bills; I networked for business rather than contacts. I also rushed into things, and took on the wrong clients that weren’t suited to my business.
My saying now is “your network is your net worth,” and I’ve gotten the majority of my business from referrals.
Would you do anything differently?
I don’t think I would, because even from the mistakes I’ve learned so many valuable lessons; they’ve made me a better business person and PR professional.
How do you define success?
Happiness and confidence in what you do. Waking up every day looking forward to work, and excited for Mondays. After all, we spend most of our adult lives at work.
How do you balance your work with your personal life?
It’s important to switch off. I try to finish at 7 p.m. every day, and then go to the gym for a break. I work from home, so it can be difficult to differentiate between my desk and the living room. I also try not to work weekends so I can see my partner, friends and family.
What are your hobbies? What do you do when you’re not working?
I enjoy going to the gym, as this keeps me active and allows me to switch off for a couple of hours. I also love traveling and exploring. I try to read as much as I can, but they usually end up being business books. And my partner is a marketing manager for a record company, so we go to a lot of gigs and festivals, which is great fun.
What’s next for you?
At the moment, I’m focusing on Boxed Out PR and FlowAid, and at the end of October, I’m doing a TEDx Talk in London. Who knows what 2017 will bring? I have a few ideas.