Haddy Folivi is the founder of ClarityMedia. As a publicist/PR, she actively secures media features (TV, radio, magazines both online and offline and podcasts) for her clients. Since launching her business in 2010, Haddy has secured just over $2 million in media coverage for her clients in over 46 countries.
What drove you to start your own business?
I have always loved the media industry, but having my first child changed everything. Prior to having my daughter, I felt restless in my local authority job but when I was pregnant, the thought of being away from my child crushed me. I knew I would have to go back to work,
I went back to work seven months after I had my daughter but I left in 2010 and started my business. The reasons why I decided to start my business were because I wanted to do something that I truly loved, and I wanted to be a stay at home, work from home mother and see more of my daughter.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I started working as a freelance journalist in 1997 whilst at university, so my career started very early. Whilst I was at university, I worked for a number of publications and radio stations, and was pretty much always freelancing as a journalist.
I started working in PR shortly after as people would ask me to write press releases and secure media coverage because I was a journalist, so I thought “why not?”
In 2005, I got a job as a project coordinator for a local London authority and ended up working four days a week for five years. It was a total change, and I learnt some transferable skills. I tried to continue doing all things media on my day off, but it was tough. I relented and gave in to my passion after my daughter was born, and became a fulltime business owner in 2010. It;s been my sole source of income ever since.
Tell us about the business planning stage
I did not write a business plan, which looking back was not the wisest thing to do, but I did speak to a lot of business owners. One of my contacts is a business coach, so I had a little bit of support from them. I also read a lot. I’m a real nerd and I love reading, so I read lots of different websites, and generally observed different business owners.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I tend to plan about 12 months ahead. My business model is simple, which makes it easy to track, but I am a crazy creative so I might have an idea and decide to implement it quickly. Although I plan, I allow room for creativity, because some of my best and most profitable ideas have come when I least expected it.
I think it comes down to knowing and understanding how you work, and your strengths. One of the things that keep me going is an abundance of ideas. It helps my clients’ businesses too. What keeps me motivated are my clients. They are all different, and I genuinely love client work. My kids keep me motivated (I now have two, an 8-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy), and knowing that I am building a future for them. Also, the thought of giving back. I want to inspire people, as I am a natural giver, and the thought of inspiring, encouraging and uplifting people keeps me motivated.
Can you describe a typical working day?
My working day usually starts around 9 am after I have finished my first cup of tea. I rarely get started without my tea, being the typical Brit that I am! I then write a plan for the day and allocate time to my clients.
I start my day by reading the news, and seeing if any of my clients’ features have gone live (we always have media pieces waiting to be published). I do a batch of client work from 9.15 – 10.15am, where I am writing and sending media pitches. I then have client calls and or new business calls with potential clients from 10.30am – 11 am, before I get back to pitching for another client until 12 pm.
I do client work in hourly chunks, where I am focussed solely on one client at a time. I normally have a 30-minute lunch, and during that time I might do social media bits whilst I am having my second cup of tea, and then I have an afternoon of pitching different clients in one-hour bursts up until around 2.30pm or 3 pm, when I prep dinner. I step out to do the school run at 3.30pm and finish any bits up for the day between 4.30pm – 5.30pm when the kids are having dinner. This usually entails writing back to journalists who might have responded to my pitches during the day, confirming deadlines for pieces etc.
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
Gosh, there have been so many. One of the highlights was securing a speaking engagement for a client at an event that featured Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker. That was a huge deal for me. I went to the event, and just seeing the response she got on stage and watching her absolutely killing it was amazing.
Another was when I secured two pieces of coverage in Forbes magazine from one pitch back in 2014. That was a defining moment for me and my business. I have since gone on to secure 9 pieces and counting in Forbes, and one of my clients made it on a Forbes 30 under 30 list which is great.
Finally, going out to Amsterdam to teach a small group on all things media. It was a 4-day event I believe, and the atmosphere was amazing from beginning to end. The energy was totally different to anything that I have experienced, and I got a standing ovation when I finished teaching my 45-minute slot which was very nice. So yes, there have been a few. Effectively, I built an international business from my living room. That rocks, lol!
What has been your scariest moment?
The scariest moment was in the beginning when I was starting out. I’m the first business owner in my family, and when we started, I had a new baby and high expenses, so we didn’t know how it was going to work out financially, but thankfully the risk paid off.
How do you work on making your business grow?
By constantly growing as a person. I never stop learning, and I will invest in training and/or products and services that will help my business to grow. An online course that I took cost around £400, and it has brought me probably 20 times the investment and counting.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
Meeting some amazing people and being able to work around my family. I also love the flexibility of being able to go for walks in nature when I need inspiration or to clear my head, without having to justify my creative process to anyone.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
I have to remind myself not to be isolated. I’m comfortable with my own company, and I work from home most of the time, so I have to push myself to work from different places, like my gym, David Lloyd in Enfield which has a breakout area to work in, or hotels, etc to ensure that I don’t spend all day at home.
It’s nice to work from different locations. I have a support team, including my assistant, but we are in different parts of the country, and my researcher lives abroad, so I don’t have need of an office…yet!
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
As a business owner, my biggest inspiration is my mother. She instilled a sense of hard work into my brother and I, and seeing how hard she worked for us inspires me daily. She is probably my biggest fan too. She does not quite “get” the technicalities of what I do, but my mother taught me that nothing is impossible. I run with that in business.
Also, my pastors at Jubilee Church London. I admire their level of service towards people. They are totally selfless, and I have learnt a whole new level of service just by watching how they constantly encourage and uplift other people and meet them at a practical level. It’s something I use in business constantly, by aiming to serve the best way that I can and using my business to benefit others.
There is so much reward in being able to use business as a tool to really help others or to go into a school and do a talk. Business gives me a platform to invest in the lives of others, without commercial benefit; as not everything I do is commercially driven. It gives me a higher sense of purpose.
My dear friend Natasha, who has frequently pulled me aside to say, “stop trying to do everything, slow down and sleep.” This has had a huge impact because it takes away the “superwoman syndrome” and I am more productive when I am working.
You don’t have to be working on your business every minute of the day in order for it to be profitable. Also, I’m not sure who said it, but work to your strengths, and delegate!
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
Spas. When I first started my business, I was working hard every minute, but now I have started to build relaxation into my week. My gym has a jacuzzi, sauna and steam room so I try to use that weekly. I also love going for walks in nature and eating out with friends. One of my favourite spots is Chai Ki in Canary Wharf.
I also use my kids as an excuse to do silly stuff (not that I need an excuse!), so things like trampolining, and chilling with my children. They are beautiful, and I am very proud of them.
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