This is the first in a monthly feature, interviewing local business’ and finding out what they do, how they started and getting an insight into who runs them. If you’d like your business to be featured please email [email protected].Advertisement
Six months ago Colin Sneath took the biggest risk of his life and started his own business. Stage 9 Marketing was born out of a desire to re-connect with companies marketing needs and after years in the marketing and PR business, for national agencies, Sneath felt it was time to become the master of his own destiny.
“I spotted a gap in the market,” says Sneath, 45, “I firmly believe that clients want expertise and value from an agency and I felt that with Stage 9 we could give that.”
Sneath was brought up in Lytham St Annes, just along from Preston on the Fylde Coast, and he spent a considerable amount of his teenage years in Preston.
He said: “I was always on the bus into Preston from Lytham, I have some really fond memories of the city as I was growing up.”
It may have been these fond memories that caused Sneath to pack in his job managing clients such as Pizza Hut for Whitbread Retail and start his own business – and choosing Preston as a base was a no brainer.
“Preston is a fantastic city,” enthuses Sneath, “one of our long term goals for the company is being involved in Preston’s renascence as third city of the North West. We love where we are.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working for agencies in Manchester, but I think Preston is more honest and vibrant for business. I think the old guard need to change their views and not treat change with such suspicion. I think there is an exciting future for Preston.
“In marketing it has become less important about where you are based. For example, we are in advance talks with a company in Spain to run their PR, and because you can fly out of Blackpool it’s actually cheaper to visit a Spanish company than to visit a London head office!
“Preston needs to shake off any hesitancy about not being a city, it is and it should think of itself as a North-West outpost and it’s got every right to be where it is and growing like it is.”
With Preston located as a base for his office, in the Docklands area, and with some help from the local chamber of commerce and government agency Business Link, Sneath was able to quickly grow his business.
He said: “I brought with me some opportunities to start work on straight away, and I’m a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and that opened a lot of doors for me.
“It’s tricky when starting a business as you have to strike a balance between doing a great job for your clients and constantly wanting to expanding the business and find new clients.
“The work ethic is also tough. You live and breath your business, I was up at 6 this morning sending off press releases, took the kids to school and then straight back into it. I’ll be working all day and often late into the night, but it’s great being able to control your own fate.”
Sneath came up with the name for the business, something that many small business’ agonise over before launching, as it’s grounded in marketing theory.
He said: “I wanted one of those names that had something to it, which made people say ‘why did you call your company that?’. Stage 9 refers to the stages of marketing a product, with Stage 9 being the point where your customers become an evangelist for your product and actually sell it for you.”
Having found a name, a location and had some solid leads for his first set of clients you have to question how such a small business will cope with the country currently heading into a recession. However, Sneath is positive that a recession actually presents opportunities for small businesses.
“A lot of the larger companies and agencies have become fat and bloated during the sustained period of growth we’ve just enjoyed, ” he says, “and they will have difficulty innovating and adapting to meet a new set of priorities from clients.
“As a small start-up we’re perfectly placed to take advantage of that and be able to offer much better value for money, and push the boundaries in our industry, while our larger competitors will be struggling and fighting their large overheads.”
Sneath, a graduate of the University of Sheffield, has some wise words for young people and graduates looking to forge a career in marketing.
He said: “There’s an increased number of opportunities during a recession, you just need to know where to look. I’d consider going with a small agency first and learning your craft, rather than just hoping some big company will come along and pick you up – this is very rare. Stay with a small agency, get your experience and then the big job and pay packet will come.”
Stage 9 Marketing website