Clare Heighway on what it takes to make a name for you professionally as a company
It’s just gone 8am and Clare Heighway is keeping an eye on puppy Hobbes out in the garden whilst making a coffee and checking social media and any emails that have come in over night. Before we let her launch in to work for the day we sit down with the founder of Exquisitely British to learn what it takes to really make a name for yourself as a brand.
From her base in Bristol, Clare runs Exquisitely British, an online platform showcasing the best in luxury British businesses. She’s seen the brand very quickly grow from 50 views a month to a hugely impressive 40,000 and, quite frankly, we want to uncover her secrets to the success. So, we wonder, where did it all begin? ‘I had always been passionate about buying local, unique products and decided to start a blog that supported local British businesses. I was particularly inspired by some of the great business directories supporting British-made…but saw there was a gap in the market for an online business directory that was exclusively for luxury British brands – and Exquisitely British was born’.
Starting a business from scratch can be brutal, and at times disheartening, but Clare is an example of someone who’s persevered through all potentially rocky moments. The founder and CEO feels that consistency has been key; she habitually interacts with her followers through social media and by posting regular unique content on the site.
The former is something we’re particularly interested in. ‘Social media has been the crux to building Exquisitely British. By interacting with our following on a daily basis we’ve developed a great following who are hugely supportive. Social media is the reason for 90% of our sales and subsequently our growth!’ Here lies the importance of fantastic branding that people instantly recognise and respond to.
‘Branding has been a joy and a struggle since day one’, Clare admits. ‘As Exquisitely British has evolved so has our branding, and it’s taken a while to develop it so that it embodies who we are and what customers can expect from us’. Asked what others can learn from her struggles Clare tells us to remember to set in stone all values and the company ethos right from the outset, and then let your branding signify this to your audience. ‘Use this ethos in all your communications and ensure everyone who is representing your company knows it.’
Clare has a unique insight in to entrepreneurship because not only does she manage her own brand, but she works with the best of other brands too. What positive attributes, we question, does she see in the businesses she features on Exquisitely British? ‘A high quality product or service! Great customer service is also a highly important trait of all the businesses we feature’.
It becomes clear that the branding of the businesses she features is just as important to Clare as her own: ‘we review businesses by analysing if their branding is consistent – through their website, blog and social media platforms. We also review their product page – are they photographed well and showcased in the best way possible? I can usually know immediately if they are a good fit for us and if we can wholeheartedly promote and support their brand to our audience’.
So, after developing a coherent personality that runs through the veins of the business, what other advice would Clare give a new business looking to stand out from the rest in their field? ‘Develop your expertise and find innovative ways to show that to your audience’, she says. ‘Getting and keeping their attention is paramount to developing a successful personal or corporate brand’. She’s also adamant that thorough research is the foundation of a successful business, so always be reading, watching and listening: ‘there are so many businesses out there but the ones who are truly successful know how to position theirs well’.
Finally, there’s never going to be a ‘right time’, so stop making excuses! You’ve just got to dive in head first with all the passion, perseverance and dedication that you can muster! Having met Clare Heighway we can vouch for her having an abundance of all those attributes, and she’s most certainly doing pretty well for herself!