‘Sometimes it just takes that one client to really believe in you’

Inside Track: The Pudding founder Gillian Horan on growing her creative brand agency

The Pudding founder Gillian Horan: ‘We have really ambitious international plans.’

The Pudding founder Gillian Horan: ‘We have really ambitious international plans.’

 

Gillian Horan’s The Pudding is going places. The commercial and creative brand agency is expanding with a host of international clients and plans to create up to 10 new jobs in the near future. Headquartered in Dublin, with an office in Limerick, it won’t be long until we see this growing brand joining the international ranks.

What distinguishes your business from that of your competitors? 
We are disrupting the traditional creative agency model. We work with companies to build, reposition or grow corporate brands as well as employer brands and that’s something at not all agencies do. It’s really important to have companies look at brands internally as well, that would be to their employees, so we are looking at both side internal and external.

What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve had to face in business? 
I’m such a believer in impact of brand, however making brand as important as finance in the boardroom is really hard. It’s quite hard at times to just drop the traditional perception about design, marketing and brand – they are not often taken as seriously as something like finance.

We are seeing more forward-thinking CEOs and business leaders that are embracing the brand and they are seeing that it’s a huge lever for growth.

What’s been your major success to date?  
In 2017 we landed our first US client, a US private equity firm and fortunately, since then, we’ve gone on to work with some amazing global brands, Colgate, Norbrook, Sheraton, Hilton Group and lots more, they are quite global so it’s just fantastic. Sometimes it just takes that one thing, one client to really believe in you and then it goes from there.

What more could the Government do to help SMEs? 
I would love to see them prioritise brands, I don’t think that happens enough. In business plan forms from governing bodies brands doesn’t even appear on them, it always appears at the very end within the marketing section.

I do think that there needs to be more support for service organisations that could go internationally, we would struggle with getting supports because we are not product based even though we work internationally.

Do you think that the banks are open for business? 
We are getting good encouragement from the banks – but we are self-funded. We’ll probably look for investment or possibly loans etc. Investment would be the ideal scenario for us over the next six to eight months.

What is the biggest mistake that you’ve made in business? 
Not hiring early enough, unfortunately looking for someone when you need them is often too late. It’s a case of when you know you might want somebody or need somebody, you are kind of putting it on the long finger in terms of, it’s chicken and egg between when the work is coming in and when you need staff etc. You need to hire before you need the person definitely.

Whom do you admire in business and why? 
Jane Gallagher and Roisin Callaghan of Cogs & Marvel. They started from nothing and now they own a multimillion international event agency and it’s in the services industry. I have so much admiration for them. They actually came to us for help with their branding. I was very lucky because after we worked with them Roisin mentored me for a while. It has been brilliant to work with them and then be around them. They took a chance on us.

What is the best piece of business advice that you’ve ever received? 
The hiring early was it, that was the advice I got and I remember thinking I wish I’d gotten that earlier because I was always too slow in terms of hiring.

How do you see the short-term future of your business? 
We’ve really exciting plans, we have many brands we want to work with and deliver for, we’ve got partnership collaborations that we want to see come to fruition. We have really ambitious international plans, we want to continue hiring – in fact we are looking for people right now. I’d say we will be looking for between five to 10 people depending on how things go.

What is your business worth and would you sell it? 
I think that every company at some point would sell to the right buyer at the right time for the right price, however, for us, we do have really exciting plans and I want to be there and see them come to life. We are just focused on working hard to make it all happen, it’s definitely where we see the business in the next couple of years.

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