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This morning, during my daily 5am debrief with Instagram and Mail Online, I was reminded about the success of a young woman called Jade Elliott, the inspirational founder of Iconic London.  For those of you not familiar, Iconic is a global beauty brand (famous for Pret-Set-Glow, amongst other gorgeous products) and loved by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian and Ella Rae Wise to name a few.

Jade started the business from her bedroom and eventually made millions, but like many entrepreneurs, she worked around the clock for five years to get where she is today. What I love most about Jade’s story is how she was never taken seriously as a businesswoman because as an Essex girl (like me!), she loves her lashes, a bouncy blow dry and calls everyone ‘babe’. 

When you look and sound a certain way, people naturally make judgements, but nobody should be underestimated.

Jade’s story resonates with me on a number of levels but particularly when I think back to the beginning of my career and my own entrepreneurial journey.

Passion over everything

When I started out in PR, circa 2006, the industry felt dominated by the white middle-class. Many of my fabulous colleagues were private school educated and in receipt of first-class degrees from British Russell Group universities. I was in awe and slightly intimidated.

I, on the other hand, came to the PR party from the University of East London with a journalism degree under my belt and an obsession with media and celebrity culture. 

My passion for ‘3am’ (a regular column in the Daily Mirror) and the spotted pages in Heat! magazine, meant I knew every celebrity going – who they dated, where they lived and more importantly, how we could leverage them to support PR campaigns – or better still, win them as a client!  My knowledge and dare I say, ‘expertise’, brought something different to the agency and soon I was running the ‘celebrity’ department – an area of the business I had the opportunity to build from scratch, thanks to Phil Hall – my boss and mentor, and one of the best PRs in the business!

Using my differences

I was never well-spoken or particularly polished, but I was passionate and personable, and that differentiation served me well. Being a bubbly blonde from Essex (sort of!), enabled me to build strong relationships because I had bundles of confidence, could chat to anyone about anything and the sky was always the limit – and still is!

It’s easy to feel insecure and compare yourself to others, which I’ve done throughout my most of my career, but getting older and becoming a Mum has made me realise that my diversity is my super-power. It’s also the reason that I now run my own PR agency, diversity is so incredibly important to me.  We don’t hire because you fit a certain mould, we hire for talent and the more diverse, the better!

In fact, I’d go as far as to say we probably have the most diverse PR agency in London, if not the UK – a self-determined accolade that my co-founders and I are incredibly proud of.

For more from the Thinking Hat MDs, read Nic’s top five lessons he’s learned from great leaders.