Case Study: Jackie Bennett Shaw

Jackie Bennett Shaw owns and runs a public relations consultancy in Lancaster called Marzipan PR, and has done since 2017. Jackie took part in our project, where local, established women in business are trained to support and mentor other women who are running a business, in a non-hierarchical mentor relationship. This was a fully funded project by Lancaster City Council, as part of the recovery and resilience strategy, and was a brand-new initiative in the region.

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Tell us a little bit about your business...

I set up and have been running a PR consultancy in Lancaster called Marzipan PR, since 2017. 

I started working in Public Relations many years ago: first with large national not-for-profits in London, then in-house for a large global facilities management company whose marketing department was in Morecambe at the time, then branching into agency working remotely for a business in Brighton, alongside working part-time for a small Lancaster community dance charity. So my work and experience has been varied, to say the least. 

I had a bit of a break from PR when I moved from London, where I went to university and my career started out, back to Lancaster, where I grew up and my family still is. I wanted to bring my young baby daughter up in a quieter place with a strong sense of community so moved ‘back home’. I learned about running my own business when I took on a local post office and newsagent, which we ran for seven years. 

It’s my job to help businesses to communicate with and stand out in front of the people they want to notice, listen to, and support them, so making their organisation more successful. I help them to engage audiences by talking to them in the right way and in the right place. I do this in a variety of ways, for example – creating communications strategies and creative campaigns to support marketing plans; writing – website copy, press releases and articles for target media, creating content for social media, writing case studies and blogs, putting together newsletters, writing awards entries, creating brochures and leaflets. 

How did you find out about The Growing Club CIC?

Gosh, I’ve known about The Growing Club for a number of years so it’s a little hard to remember exactly how. I believe I met Jane Binnion where she was speaking at an event for women and I signed up for the newsletter and then started to read about the organisation online. 

What were your goals when you started your course?

These were to:

– network with other local businesswomen

– gain mentoring skills and to get practical experience of mentoring   

– build another support group to help me and my business resilience

What have been the benefits from the course you did?

The course contained some theory, which was interesting and helpful to build upon and it also contained a lot of active learning with plenty of opportunities to discuss, and put into practice what we were taught. I’ve gained some fantastic skills from learning about the different roles of the mentor and mentee to active listening and how to ask good questions, offer feedback and help to increase self-awareness. 

I’ve met and learned from some amazing local businesswomen already and I hope to continue with and build upon that network, especially when we can meet face-to-face. 

I hope to continue to develop my mentoring skills and to benefit as a mentee from the one-to-one sessions that we’ve committed to over the next year.

I’ve now got a support mechanism in place, through the mentoring, that will help me to guide and change the direction of my business, shaping my thinking, creating my strategy and building resilience as the pandemic continues to throw its challenges at us.

I also added mentoring people in public relations and communications at the beginning of the year to my professional services  – the skills I have learned and the experience I will gain will help me do that more successfully.

I’ve also got a thirst for learning in this area and hope to go on to do further study to develop my work.

The course has also confirmed for me what I have been learning throughout the pandemic crisis – that business resilience isn’t just about financial plans and business plans, it’s about having a good, supportive group of people around you with shared values. 

This last year has been a difficult one for everyone. What are your plans for the coming year?

It’s difficult to make plans still, I think, as everything is still so up in the air. I’m going to set myself realistic and manageable goals over a shorter period of time. I’m going to review these often and be prepared to flexible and to adapt. I’m going to focus on my business values, what I want to be, and what makes me feel happy and fulfilled. This has certainly changed over the last year, as for many other people. 

I hope to continue to support my existing clients through the challenging times. Helping them and their business to stand out from the competition, and to create strong brands by focusing on the personality and values of their brand, as well as the quality of the service and product they are selling. I believe that buyers are going to increasingly want to buy from brands that they can clearly understand and engage with going forward. 

I would like to continue to learn more about mentoring and to use this to help other businesses.

I would also like to develop more variety in my work and to actively seek to help more smaller SMEs. My business model, to date, has been working with larger SMEs.

I also hope to be able to start networking face-to-face again and to use this to grow my business. Hopefully locally. I’d like to work with more local businesses. Over the last year, I’ve been blown away by the local talent and innovation in our area, backed by our strong community. And I think that this offers Lancaster and Lancashire many positive opportunities for growing out of the pandemic.