“Having nothing to lose was a real plus point” - Nyree and Laura, co-founders, Jack & Grace

Meet the co-founders who launched the agency Jack and Grace during the COVID-19 lockdown. Nyree and Laura discuss the challenges and opportunities that the pandemic has presented for their business.

“It sounds dramatic...launching in lockdown...but it’s worked in our favour”

Laura: “We started our conversations to start up Jack and Grace at the beginning of the year not expecting to be officially launching in a pandemic situation. But we were both in a fortunate position to be risk-free in our personal situations, so we had nothing to lose and ploughed on with our plans.”

“It gave us a chance to really focus on working with the clients that did fit with our ethos and values.”

“We were starting from a zero position in terms of work, so we were building from scratch. We couldn’t benchmark against a drop off in demand. Demand was still there, although their circumstances had slightly changed.

“What was useful was that everyone was at home and very accessible. That’s so much easier than trekking across London and physically meeting someone who was running from different meetings.”

Nyree: “I know from speaking to colleagues who are working in big and medium-sized agencies, that when Lockdown first arrived there was such panic. We were protected from that. Partly because the type of work we do is more resilient, we’re not in travel for example.”

“It sounds dramatic, ‘launching in lockdown,’ but I think it’s worked in our favour. ...Having nothing to lose was a real plus point.”

“You almost have to pretend you don’t have kids or that you don’t want them.”

Laura: “For us, childcare was the main issue we had to adapt to. But we just had to work differently - balancing things between our partners and being more flexible in terms of working hours.”

Nyree: “Laura and I haven't worked with each other for around 10 years. But the timing just came together for this. Some of the conversations we had early on helped when everything went into disarray.”

“For example, we wanted to be really upfront about childcare demands and the potential about having future children. I think we don’t talk about that enough as an industry. You almost have to pretend you don’t have kids or that you don’t want them. We wanted to do the opposite of that.”

“We’ve also had to think creatively with our freelancers, again because of the type of work we do, the freelancers that we work with are less affected by lockdown. One of the freelancers we work with labels herself as an events manager, but after breaking down her skillset we found that she makes an amazing project manager and campaign manager. We re-tasked her because her work in events had completely dried up.”

“The social media side of our work has also become increasingly important”

Nyree: “A lot of the work has been on the strategic side and figuring out how to communicate in this new world.”

Laura: “The social media side of our work has also become increasingly important which reflects a very fast-changing environment for the temperature at what was happening at a consumer and citizen level.”

“When we were working with our local authority client’s requests for services were around communicating quite tricky subject matters around domestic violence or child abuse campaigns that we were supporting on because those situations were amplified by lockdown. It was important to respond quickly and sensitively to those issues, as well as in a way which was accessible to an audience who was locked indoors.”

“Lockdown has been a massive leveller”

Nyree: “We launched before we had any clients, we had a Board in place. That was an absolute priority to help guide, challenge and make introductions for us. I also think that lockdown has been a massive leveller. Everyone has been in their homes, and that didn’t matter to us, clients were seeing us how they saw everyone else without a big budget of a larger agency.”

“Some businesses moved forward their working practices by light years overnight”

Laura: “We’re six months in, so we’re still in the early days of setting up our internal processes and establishing our culture.”

“We’ve grown quite quickly and it’s about making sure we don’t grow too quickly so that we can’t look after our clients.”

Nyree: “We’re looking at the future as a chance for real opportunity rather than risk. Our concern isn’t on our radar, we need to consolidate what we’ve built so far and grown in the right way. We want to grow in a manner that’s slow and steady.”

Laura: “I do think that as an industry we’ll be moving towards more of a hybrid model of working from both home and the office. I can’t see everyone in the office again. We’ve proven that we can be more productive and flexible at home. There still needs to be a consideration of the fact that mental and physical well-being can be affected by being at home all the time.”

“It’s interesting to see how quickly the shift happened. Literally overnight, business modes were turned on their head and companies adapted. Some businesses moved forward their working practices by light years overnight. So, we can adapt to change quickly if there is a motivation behind it.”