A day in the life of an Enterprise Nation member: Emma Alexander: Mother Bran

A day in the life of an Enterprise Nation member: Emma Alexander: Mother Bran
Emma Alexander
Emma AlexanderMother Bran Ltd

Posted: Sat 17th Aug 2019

Emma Alexander is the founder of photography production agency Mother Bran. The Enterprise Nation member shares insights into her typical day and how she has grown her business.

My alarm goes off…

My alarm goes off at 6.45, but there's no need really as my two kids are usually up and bouncing on my head by 6am, if not earlier! They are three and nearly six, so they often bowl in and have a snuggle before we kick start the day, which is lovely. 
However, if I have a photoshoot that day, it can be anything from a 4am or 5am start depending where it's based - quite the rude awakening!

My morning rituals are…

I'm not one of those people who can breeze through the morning not eating until lunch. By 7am I am absolutely ravenous, so it's usually a hearty bowl of hot porridge in winter, or cold overnight oats in a jar, with seeds and berries in the summer, to get me through to lunch.   
And coffee. Always coffee! We use an Aeropress at home, with either almond or hazelnut milk (so creamy!). I have both coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis, and don't tolerate a lot of milk well, so it's gluten and dairy- free all the way in the morning.  
Then the task of trying to get four of us out the door on time begins…

My morning commute is …

We are a family of ardent cyclists, so my morning commute starts with the school and nursery runs, before riding to wherever I am based that day.  
I am a digital nomad and like to move around. Luckily London has so many brilliant coworking spaces. So for those office-based days I like The Last Crumb cafe in Stoke Newington, which has a lovely, quiet coworking space downstairs, excellent coffee and gluten free treats. I also have a membership at Second Home, which has a great community vibe.  
I love to ride, it's the only opportunity I get to just think. On the bus or Tube I'm always drafting something: emails, pitch decks, briefs or proposals. But on the bike, it's just the road and my mind, it's my only meditative time!

My typical day…

My days are really varied, and can see me whizzing around the city recce'ing locations, meeting clients, photographers or my mentees, shopping for kit pre-shoot, or knuckling down at my desk in pre-production planning.  
As a production company, Mother Bran covers all the logistics that go into organising a commercial photoshoot, including sourcing and booking photographers, crew, talent, stylists, make up artists, set builders, model makers, locations and studios.

We arrange all the transport and accommodation for crew and clients, and don't underestimate the catering, it is vital to make sure everyone is fed and watered (well and regularly!) on those long, and intense days onset. We handle insurance, permits and licenses and, once the edit is done, oversee the post production and delivery. And, of course, we run the shoot on the day! 
There is a phenomenal amount of planning that goes into bringing a commercial photoshoot to life, it's a producer's job to think of literally everything, and to have a Plan B, C and D in your back pocket, to ensure each production runs smoothly, and that each job is delivered on time and budget.

My responsibilities are…

I am onset less these days, as I focus on running the business, but as executive producer I am across all the jobs that are running concurrently, and involved in some more heavily than others.  
I have two fantastic VAs for my day to day support, and an enormous network of stellar freelance producers, so I build the perfect team for each job based on the skills required for the brief: e.g. shooting automotive is very different to working with a children's fashion brand. That being said, I still have some favourite clients that I love to work on (British skincare brand Childs Farm being one!), so try and make myself available for these as they are just a joy.  
Mother Bran offers a consultancy service, helping independent photographers establish goals, develop strategies for career development and gain PR exposure, recently helping a wonderful photographer get featured in Forbes Arts.  
And personally, I mentor five creatives; a mix of photographers, stylists and designers, both male and female. Some are through the women's network She Says, an organisation that focuses on the engagement, education and advancement of women in the creative industries, and others have developed organically.  
After 16 years in the creative industry, in both studios and advertising agencies, I realise that I have a wealth of knowledge and it feels more important than ever to be helping artists to grow. Call it giving back or paying it forward, I love helping creatives develop their practice and scale their businesses. Working in isolation, as so many photographers do, it's really important to have someone you can call on: in 2020, Mother Bran will be opening a structured mentoring programme for young photographers.

My most memorable moment is…

Mother Bran turns two in October, and it seems that every week there's something to get excited about! We've produced shoots for clients as wide-ranging as Google, with the talented William Marsden, Smirnoff and the NSPCC.  
Every brief has its unique challenges and when it all comes together it feels amazing, whether it's getting access to shoot in places of worship, sourcing a 12-tonne truck, wrangling hoards of children, or coordinating the delivery of premium products from Sweden to arrive in just the right order, these are also the things that keep a producer on their toes and using their brain (remember that plan A, B, C, D..!)

Mother Bran

Image credit: Gigi Francis

Why I love my business…

There are just too many reasons why I love Mother Bran. I've built a company that allows me to truly strike a balance between making creative work that enriches me, and raising my young family. I've been able to support my eldest through starting school and, for me, that is a very rare and precious thing.  
I get an enormous amount of fulfilment working with independent artists, whether helping them pitch for and produce creative briefs, or through my consultancy and mentoring work. There are some phenomenally talented photographers out there and it's fantastic to be able to play a small part in their journey.  
Mother Bran has also created opportunities and introduced some incredibly inspirational people I would never have met slugging away at the 9-5 (or the 9-9!), I've been invited to join panel discussions about being a working mum, and guest lecture about the creative industry - it's been a wild ride, and I've enjoyed every second!

The most challenging task is …

Having spent half my career in advertising bringing creative strategies to life, I thought social media would be second nature, but it's actually one of the hardest tasks for me. So much so that I outsource some elements - although I do love searching and editing the 'Artist We Love' feature myself, as I love to see new work and find new photographers.

After work …

Work pauses at roughly 2:57, and we do the morning journey in reverse going from nursery to school, and then perhaps to the park for a play. I try and truly switch off in the afternoon, and dedicate this time purely to my kids. I've done the whole 'hiding in the toilet to answer emails' gig before, and you just don't give anyone your full attention.  
I launched Mother Bran to create the work-life balance that just wasn't feasible in the advertising industry, so it's important to me to make sure I'm making the time to really 'be' with my family.  
My kids are usually in bed by 7:30pm, so it's inevitable that I will spend half an hour in the evening picking up emails and planning for the next day, then it's a cup of tea and a good book, all very tame!

When growing up, I wanted to be…

For most of my childhood I wanted to be a marine biologist, and dreamt of being a stowaway on the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship! I might have taken a bit of a career detour, but social responsibility is still important and for every job completed, Mother Bran plants a tree with The Woodland Trust.

The best piece of business advice I've heard…

My Grandad used to say "there's no such thing as luck" and I believe this more and more the older I get.

We see potential and create opportunities through our own hard work. I've learnt to stop being so self-deprecating and to recognise my wins, no matter how small they may be, to celebrate each one, and think of them when I need a lift. And to recognise that I made all these opportunities happen through my own boldness, skill and creativity.


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Emma Alexander
Emma AlexanderMother Bran Ltd
Emma is the founder and Executive Producer of Mother Bran, a production company based in North London which supports independent photographers to create exeptional commerical work. She has been bringing creative ideas to life for over 16 years, commissioning and producing commercial advertising imagery for a host of clients, including Diageo, Chivas Regal and GSK. Emma has produced work across the globe, and shot most of the things people generally advise against, including animals, children and A-list celebrities! Emma is also a visual consultant and creative mentor. @motherbran /

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