The Rise of Story Shop
Taking the leap from a secure corporate role to launch a marketing agency with her husband during a global pandemic could have put Scarlett Hollerin off her stride, but after birthing a business and her first baby during 2020, little can spook her and with both flourishing, she is looking forward to what the future will bring.
After almost a decade in marketing management for some of Scotland’s biggest shopping centres, she and husband Gregor, a former journalist who moved into PR, started brewing plans for their own agency.
“Thankfully all three major life changes [baby, business and pandemic] didn’t come at once. The decision to start Story Shop came at the end of 2019.
“We would spend days forever talking about the difficulties of corporate working and we found that our PR and marketing worlds were naturally meeting when we supported friends in creating business strategies. We found we really enjoyed working together and that our skill sets complement each other naturally.
“We wanted to create something that took the learning from our careers and do things a little differently.
Ready to launch just days before national lockdown meant that prospects could have looked bleak but despite having to swiftly shift to remote working, the rise of Story Shop has been rapid, and is a reflection of their responsive and creative approach.
“We were in London because we had a few warm leads down there but all of our meetings were cancelled. We just decided to roll with it anyway and we picked up some clients through word of mouth.
“We turned our spare room into an office and got on with our launch event and we found that our roles just came naturally.”
Now with a six-month-old and a seven-strong team, Scarlett has full hands but with lots of support from Gregor, she has found a rhythm that allows her to balance motherhood with the job she loves.
“I try to carve out a whole day so I can work. I had tried to dip in and out when my son was younger but it was too stressful and now I know where I am at and what I need help with.
“When we found out I was pregnant we just had to keep going on this fast treadmill. It was quite exciting and it hasn’t stopped since.
“I’ll be feeding him one minute, then wiping sick off my shoulder. It’s great to hear what’s going on and have social interaction with adults. It feels like I haven’t lost my old self as I’m jumping back into my work headspace.”
Launching during the pandemic has been challenging but being able to focus on building up the business is one of the positives Scarlett has gleaned from a “tough” year that has kept her away from friends and family during her pregnancy and after the birth of her son.
“We don’t know the business without Covid-19 and in a way it has allowed us to put every waking minute into it.
“During the first few months of the year we were networking, meeting new and potential clients and spent so much time out at meetings that we wouldn’t have time to start emails. During lockdown we were able to cram so much work into meeting people online and that allowed us the time to get Story Shop off the ground.”
The speed with which the agency has expanded was unexpected but hasn’t compromised any of Scarlett and Gregor’s core business values that underpin their ethos at Story Shop.
“We only really want to work with people we care about and believe in – that makes such a difference to our day to day. We get so close to clients and founders who are so passionate and we have to gain that trust. They like the closeness and the small team.
“Being not sector-specific has helped us, some of our clients have thrived while others are struggling so we keep the word out about them and maintain their presence so we can build momentum for when they reopen.”
Balancing family and work has been one of the harder aspects of living and working from home.
“It’s probably not a healthy work life balance. There’s never a completed project, there’s always more you could be doing for somebody or our own business and it’s hard to watch my husband work so hard but we need to make sure our team has a good work life balance, so it can swallow us up sometimes.
“We try to keep weekends for the family, and the evenings for spending time together. Gregor has to carve out time for the baby and I’m getting no sleep and providing round the clock baby care but we are both very appreciative and supportive of each other’s roles, me with the baby and Gregor with the business.”
So what’s next for Scarlett and Story Shop?
“We want to spend time becoming the business we want to be and the bosses we set out to be and for our team to really enjoy the workplace. The recruitment side of things is very daunting and we feel very lucky with the people who decided to join us.
“Gregor and I are so heavily invested in our clients and we genuinely care about their success, If something doesn’t go quite right we need to fix it and that’s why we are so selective. We are honest and upfront with our clients as their results end up being better. We want to stay small so that we can always deliver that personal touch and be with them every step of the way.
“Our plan b is to own a bed and breakfast in Glasgow but we’re not there yet!”
You can read more on Scarlett & Gregor’s business, Shop Story here
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