My name is Nina Walton, marketing bod, food and wine enthusiast, keen runner, cat lover and Mum of two. I launched Walton Marketing & Communications in January 2015 having completed a 10-year career at PwC in Newcastle managing their marketing department. Before that I enjoyed various roles within the media which gave me a real appetite for all things PR and communications.Tell us about your business
In short, some might say we are their strategists and storytellers. We provide businesses with the direction and focus they need to achieve their goals through effective marketing planning and mentoring. We also love sharing our clients’ stories and bringing brands to life through our PR and communications services.What are the most sparkly bits of what you do?
Meeting so many inspiring people and business that are all living out their dreams and ambitions is one of the reasons I love what I do. The variety and ever-changing nature of business is exciting and being around that energy, drive, entrepreneurialism and creativity is infectious giving me the appetite to better myself and what I do.
There is also something about the North East grit and determination that really inspires me. It’s a great part of the world to set up a business and I’m proud that as a Newcastle University graduate I decided to stay and ‘set up shop’ in the region.
Ultimately though, seeing our clients grow and achieve their goals is one of the most rewarding parts of what we do.
What are the biggest challenges you face running your business?
There are many challenges to running a business. When you work for yourself there are never enough hours in the day and it’s trying to find the right balance between working on your business and in your business that can sometimes be difficult. For example, finding the discipline to prioritise and deliver your own marketing can often be a challenge when you are so busy supporting clients with theirs.
Decision making can be tough as there are so many to make on a daily basis. I think having a mentor or sounding board from the start is a good idea, someone to give the reassurance that the choices you are making are the right ones or even just to offer a fresh perspective.
For someone who likes to plan and be in control of their work, this can also be a challenge of self-employment. Work inevitably comes in when the client has a need for you to deliver it rather than when you have capacity, so finding flexible ways of managing that can be a challenge. Thankfully I have built up a strong network of experienced associates that I work with regularly to help deliver different projects meaning that no matter how large or small the project we have the resource to meet demand.
What have been your biggest achievements and how have you celebrated them?
Having worked in house and not in an agency environment, I didn’t have the benefit of a ready-made client list to start working on straight away or the knowledge of certain business practices, pricing strategies and charge-out rates etc.
I was in the dark with a lot of things, meaning quite a bit of upfront work was required in building my networks, contacts and researching the market as much as possible to create the strong client base and business model that I have today. I have other business owners to thank here who were very generous with sharing their time and advice, despite working in the same arena and in some cases being competitors.
Through my networks and relationship-building I’m proud to have won work with great clients over the years, including Siemens, NHS Employers and Newcastle University. I should probably celebrate those successes more along the way. I think a lot of business owners, myself included, are guilty of looking forward and not stopping to celebrate the successes they have achieved to date. We need to live in the moment more and give ourselves a pat on the back before moving onto the next thing.
I will never forget the first day I registered as self-employed though and also issuing my first invoice. Whilst small things to some, the buzz and excitement I felt from both of these were immense.
What are your goals – for yourself and your business?
I would like one day to achieve a sub two-hour time in the Great North Run … I’ve run it three times now for my favourite charity, The British Heart Foundation, but am yet to nail it! Despite only being a few minutes out, I blame the John Reid Road!
Business wise, I’m keen to keep learning, growing and developing a strong list of retained clients. We love nothing more than working with businesses over the long term, really getting to understand their issues and helping support their growth plans over time.
Collaborating more with associates to deliver even bigger projects will also be a priority. We have a great community of SME’s in the North East with an abundance of talent and we can all be stronger and grow further if we work together more.
We have also recently rebranded to Walton Marketing & Communications which has been both exciting and a wonderfully creative process. Our new brand and website align more with where we are as a business now and the markets we operate in and we can’t wait to launch it.
What is your favourite place in the North East and why?
We are so lucky in the North East to have so many beautiful places on our doorstep including the most spectacular countryside and coastline. I love Northumberland, Tynemouth, Jesmond Dene and Grey Street.
The preserved greenery of the Town Moor in the heart of the city is also something special and one I’m lucky enough to live near. Running past and dodging the cows is a real treat, albeit a bit scary … I still think they are going to launch at me, despite being the daughter-in-law of a farmer!
Who puts a Sparkle in your eye?!
My family, my late father and my business contacts … Losing my father five years ago certainly put the fire in my belly and sparkle in my eye to go out and set up my own business – to stop procrastinating and just do it! I’d wanted to set something up for years but didn’t have the courage. However, ironically when you experience loss like that it can give you a strength and determination to make the most of things and do what you want to do as you realise life isn’t a rehearsal. The three birds in my logo are a nod to him and his love of Bob Marley! He was certainly a cheeky, fun-loving chappy with more than an abundance of sparkle.
My two children, Jack and Lauryn, also keep me bright and on my toes. One of the reasons for starting my business was for flexibility so I can drop them off at school, never miss a school play and make the odd homemade casserole!
It sounds cheesy but all the people I have met, business contacts and clients, also give me my sparkle. Being around such creative, driven and lovely individuals inspires me to be my best. We all have goals and are chasing dreams ….
A final Sparkly thought – what tips would you give to busy, hard-working entrepreneurs
- Enjoy the rollercoaster ride: Owning your own business can certainly be a rollercoaster ride at times but enjoy the highs and lows and when times get difficult or you feel like you are losing focus, remember the reason why you set up your business in the first place.
- Go with your gut instinct: When there are difficult decisions to make, weigh up the pros and cons of the situation and always go with your gut instinct – it’s never wrong.
- Reach out to others: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your business community and seek the help or advice of other entrepreneurs. I have found the North East to be rich in very supportive people who are always willing to lend an ear or have a coffee; I try to reciprocate this too when people reach out to me.
- There are also lots of great online networking platforms like Digital Sparkles to join or mentoring programmes like Newcastle University’s Captured Course. It can be lonely when you work for yourself but forums such as these create a community that you can reach out to, share advice with and gain support from.
- Switch off: Also remember to ‘turn off’ your business at the right times so you get the mental break you deserve. There is much to be said for practising the art of mindfulness when you are a business owner, putting your phone down and taking a break.
- Finally believe in yourself and persevere through the tough times: As Bob would say ‘every little thing gonna be alright’.