Posted on May 11 2016
This week's Wednesday Woman is Creative Director and co-founder Lisa Field who set up specialist bridal PR and events agency Sweetpea PR alongside her twin sister Gabi Sheen. Clients include The Bingham Hotel, Blackburn Bridal Couture, Emmy London, Brooklyn Bridal and Lynda Loves, among others.
Here's Lisa's story, and some of the lessons she's learned along the way:
Newnham: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you and Gabi were like growing up?
Field: Growing up, we were extremely close, sharing a bedroom until our early teens but we definitely had our ups and downs and teenage arguments! We come from a very creative household, our father being a musician and mother having been an actress for years so we were very much urged to follow our own dreams. I studied fashion PR and Gabi studied Media Studies at universities at different ends of the country so our careers took different paths. I worked for a number of international fashion brands prior to Sweetpea whilst Gabi’s background started in events and exhibitions before turning to the wedding industry to work in marketing and PR - we both hoped that one day our two paths might cross.
Newnham: What gave you the idea to start Sweetpea PR and how did you make it happen?
Field: Working together is something that we had discussed many times over the years and considered strongly after my own wedding five years ago, however at the time our busy jobs and day-to-day life got in the way.
It wasn’t until Gabi was planning her own wedding that the prospect of setting up a business together suddenly seemed like more of a tangible reality. We were actually wedding dress shopping for Gabi at Blackburn Bridal - she was job hunting at the time and I was on maternity leave when Russell Blackburn (owner) mentioned that he really needed someone to carry out the PR for the shop, so that day (2 years ago) really was the catalyst for setting up the business and everything quite quickly took shape after that.
Newnham: What have been the biggest obstacles you have faced running your own business and how did you overcome them?
Field: I think one of the biggest obstacles was just finding our feet working for ourselves rather than big corporations, realising that we had to juggle everything from finances to website and IT issues to client contracts and everything in between. We’ve relied on advice from lots of helpful friends and family to draw upon their skills that we didn’t have experience of before – our families, and in particular our husbands, have been extremely supportive right from the start which allowed us to take the initial jump!
Newnham: As twins ourselves, we're curious - how do you find it working with your sister and what skills do you each bring to the business?
Field: Luckily both Gabi and I have a very similar work ethic and trust each other explicitly to go above and beyond to make sure a job is executed perfectly and that our clients are happy. I think we’d both agree that working together is definitely the best thing to come out of us setting up Sweetpea.
Gabi is definitely the driving force behind the business (working on it full time whilst I work part time around looking after my young son) and she’s fantastic at getting us new business, keeping us ship shape with our monthly reporting, strategies and client liaison. I’m probably the slightly more creatively minded of the two of us and most happy when hatching plans for a shoot, event or coming up with feature ideas to pitch to the press.
Newnham: You are covering a niche area with weddings - what have been some of your highlights and what advice would you give other women who want to start their own business?
Field: We decided very early on that we wanted to stick to the niche wedding market so we could really utilise our relationships with the press rather than dilute things too much by branching into the wider market of fashion and lifestyle.
I think ultimately our biggest highlights are when our clients are happy and we get great feedback, whether that’s from pulling off a great event that we’ve been working on for months or securing a double page feature in print.
I think one of our biggest pieces of advice for anyone looking to start their own business would be to follow your gut instinct. At times we’ve made decisions that on paper seemed mad but by following our gut we definitely realised in the long run it was the right thing to do…oh and get yourself a good accountant early on, so vital!
Newnham: We love your social media feeds - particularly the pastel influence on instagram - what are your top tips for selling your brand online?
Field: Thank you! We’re both proper girly girls at heart so anything pink, pastel or glittery catches our attention immediately! We want our instagram to be a true reflection of Sweetpea, both in how it looks but also the messages we portray so you’ll often see snaps of the coverage we’ve achieved for our clients' beautiful products.
Quite early on we also attended an instagram workshop with the fabulous Sundari from The Wedding Stylist where we learnt about photo composition and to really consider every image and message we were posting – so it’s often less about quantity and more about quality! She also encouraged us to put more of ourselves out there so we play on the twin angle where we can and introduced our hashtag #sweetpeasisters
With thanks to Alex Field for introduction. Photo credit: Claire Graham