Meet the CEO: Sarah Senior of White Rabbit Creative

Sarah Senior

[ceo]

Manchester-based branding and design firm White Rabbit Creative have had an encouraging start to 2018 with the firm recently adding eight new clients to its ever-increasing portfolio.  

Originally, the firm setup a five year business plan, however, two years after setting up the company, White Rabbit Creative has completed every objective it originally set out.

BLM spoke with Sarah Senior to talk about the company’s formation, its development and the journey surrounding its rise.

Tell me all about White Rabbit Creative, how did the idea come about?

In January 2016, my husband Michael (joint founder and creative director) and I took the big step to launch White Rabbit Creative after a spell working overseas.

We identified that the UK packaging design and branding market had a gaping hole – no one truly offered a considered approach to problem solving that put customer experience both front and centre.

So, we decided to set about plugging that gap, leaving senior roles in the creative sector and bringing with us almost 30 years’ FMCG experience, both at home and in the US. We launched with a vision to specialise in creating branding for FMCG products in the food and drink industry but also to bring our expertise to other sectors, creating identities for campaigns and presentation materials.

Fast forward to 2018 and White Rabbit Creative is celebrating our second anniversary with a clutch of new clients, across our specialist food and drink market and beyond.  Our portfolio spans names like Korean street food brand (and Dragons’ Den winners) Yogiyo, and organic Coconut brand, Puro as well as Northern sweet business, J&K Confectionery, who have been with us from the start.  The beer, wine and spirits sector is a key strategic focus for us and we’re also adding value to businesses including NHS Employers and Smartlife wearable technology.

How much initial investment did the company start with?

Initially, we had just a survival budget of just six months so the pressure was on from the start to get up and running and to get work in.

We’ve since attracted investment to help us grow to the next level but we always had the confidence in our abilities to make White Rabbit a success – we literally had to or we’d be back to working for someone else!

 You’ve setup a five-year business plan, how is that coming along?

I’m delighted to say that although we’ve only been in business for two years, we’ve exceeded our year 5 targets already – three years ahead of schedule! Moving into our great new building in Manchester’s vibrant Ancoats area has been a high point so far, as well as an exciting rebrand and website launch that reflect our focus and vision.

Our rapid company growth has resulted in the creation of three new jobs for the agency and we have further plans to recruit a further two members of staff at our Manchester HQ later in the year. At White Rabbit, we have already carved a reputation for delivering truly intelligent branding & design and a genuinely customer centric- approach – as a result we’re now benefitting from a stream of repeat referral business.

How important is an inspirational figurehead to a scale-up company?

We like to think that our drive and determination, sheer passion and vision for the company have played a part in inspiring highly talented and professional people to leave their senior roles at more established businesses and pin their colours to the White Rabbit mast.

I think, as a leader, it’s important to be able to listen and learn as well as provide strength and stability.  I always look for inspiration in other business leaders and love to hear their stories.

Now that we’ve progressed through the start up and emerging phases of the business quite rapidly, we believe that the high calibre, senior team we’ve recruited will be instrumental in driving the business forward with us.

What inspired you to go into business in the first place?

We’d always aspired to go it alone and have our own agency. Both Michael and I had extensive experience in small firms & large multi-national businesses which shaped our vision for what we believed an agency should be like. When the opportunity arose, we grabbed it with both hands and worked hard to turn our ideas into reality. I’d say that the inspiration was to be in control of our own destiny and also to prove to ourselves that we could do it!

How important is the role marketing and PR plays to your business success over the years?

As design & branding specialists we have applied these skills to our own business, such as this year’s re-brand and the new White Rabbit website. We’re pleased with the fresh and vibrant brand we’ve created, which shows our strong differentiators and USPs. And, we’re proud to say that whilst we believe our brand positioning has hit the right note and our new company premises reflect many of our brand values, so far the majority of our new clients have resulted from word of mouth referrals from our satisfied customers.

We’re also hitting Instagram as a visual platform to showcase our portfolio and brand personality to a plugged-in audience.  PR is an important part of our strategy, and we’re working with Manchester-based Conker Communications to tell our story and raise our profile in all the right media.

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced in business, and how did you overcome it?

I think the biggest hurdle was actually taking the leap in the first place which I’m sure is the case for most aspiring entrepreneurs.  It’s not easy as a couple to both quit the security of a wage and plunge into the unknown but we knew we had to hold our nerve and go for it.

There are so many unknown quantities when you go into business – you don’t know what you don’t know and so you have to do a lot of research and surround yourselves with a support network of people with skills and knowledge beyond your own.               

Any advice to entrepreneurs?

I’d say that nothing can replace hard work and persistence, especially in the early days, but it’s also important to examine and regularly re-examine every area of your offering. Keep your ideas fresh and relevant to your customer and learn from any mistakes you make along the way.

It’s also important to take it easy on yourself from time to time. Sometimes you need to step back a little from the business in order to be receptive to new ideas and sources of inspiration.

What’s the future looking like for White Rabbit Creative?

The future of White Rabbit is to keep focussed on delivery, especially as we scale up. We are always looking for ways to future proof our offer, partnering with experts in other fields to help us meet our client needs.

We’ll be continuing to help established and emerging brands to fulfil their true potential – growing our business along the way, hopefully by referrals from happy clients.

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