Amanda FitzGerald: ‘Knowing Emma Jones has opened so many doors’

Amanda FitzGerald: ‘Knowing Emma Jones has opened so many doors’
Ryan Elliott
Ryan ElliottOfficial

Posted: Wed 10th Nov 2021

Business owners looking for PR coaching and advice rarely look beyond Amanda FitzGerald these days.

However, she hasn't always been the much sought-after adviser she is today.

Chatting to Ryan Elliott, Amanda takes us through her voyage from selling Peruvian knitwear to meeting Enterprise Nation's Emma Jones, and ending up as an award-winner in the field of PR.

Did you always want to start your own business? How did it all come about?

“My first ever business was when I was aged eight, selling guinea pigs in Bridgnorth Town Hall market.

“I had two guinea pigs, they bred and then I had all these little baby guinea pigs. That was my first ever time getting money in my hot sweaty palms. My parents are both entrepreneurs and I think it’s in my blood. My mum said it’s in the breast milk!

“I’m one of four children and our parents would take us to toy and playgroup exhibitions across the country, selling and being entrepreneurial. I was literally born into it.

“I never knew I was going to be an entrepreneur; my mum ran a very successful mail order business selling beads imported from all around the world. I used to come home and see her working at her office, and at age 15 I thought: running your own business, that’s such hard work, am I ever going to do that?

“I went to Oxford Polytechnic to study Languages & Business. The one thing I remember learning there with regards to the business element is: WOM – word-of-mouth marketing. That acronym really stuck with me; I don't know why. But now I use it all the time when I ask my clients, do you want to rely on WOM (referrals) or create your own enquiries?

“Did I ever think I was going to set up my own business? No, because I was put off by my mum’s constant hard work. But then it all happened because I did my business degree and got married. I was working in marketing agencies before I got married.

“Then I had my first child, a boy, and as my ex-husband was from Peru, we were given all this lovely bright coloured knitwear; hats called Chullos, and ponchos for the newborn baby. And I thought, oh my goodness, this is lovely, and I’m so sick and tired of talking about nappies and baby grows at the NCT meetings, so I thought I want to set up a business like my mum did selling beads around the world. I wanted to start a business selling Peruvian knitwear.

“And that's how I first met Emma Jones. I used to go to all of the Enterprise Nation events.

“Also, while I was pregnant with my second child, literally just 18 months later, I went to a business course about how to set up your own business, and the tutor said you need to write a business plan.

“I said I’ve got two business ideas: one was called Promote Me, to help promote people’s businesses, the other was selling knitwear, and he said you need to choose one, so I thought I’ve got the products, I’m going to go for the knitwear.

“I then used to go to all the Enterprise Nation meetings, I met Emma Jones, and I saw all these amazing events thinking: oh my God, one day I want to be up on that stage. And it happened! Festival of Female Entrepreneurs, just the other day, so it’s kind of been a long journey to get there.

“When I was a kid at school, I used to get into trouble with the headmistress, firstly because I was a punk but I also made a craze selling beaded bracelets to my classmates. I got stopped by the French teacher one lunch break as she saw a long queue of customers lining up to make their 50p purchases!

“And then when I went to Oxford Poly, I used to ‘borrow’ my mum’s beads and I used to sell them to hairdressing salons. So I’ve always sold and I love it.”

What advice would you give your younger self when starting out?

“For my knitwear business, I was running it on a shoestring and had zero money, because my maternity leave payments had ended, and I needed to find models for a photoshoot for the luxury knitwear.

“And I literally found a model on the street and I said: ‘You’re really pretty, would you like to be a model?’ I think she served me a café beforehand. So, I had a free model for the shoot! I think you’ve just got to keep on being ballsy and brave!

“For me, networking has always been so, so important. For example, I went to see Lara Morgan, the woman who wrote the book called More Balls Than Most, and I sat at the front of the event. I also helped her hand out flyers on every single seat because she was talking at an Enterprise Nation event.

“Then, because I’ve been helpful, we chatted and had a lovely conversation, and then I pitched to her. I struck up a great relationship; I kind of got to know somebody, a real influencer, by being ballsy.

“So, the advice I would give myself is to just really keep the faith, and when you get knocked back, get up again, and don’t take it personally.”

When did Enterprise Nation first enter your radar and what made you become an adviser?

“I pivoted my business. I was running my network business, learning lots on Enterprise Nation about marketing and SEO and all these very complicated things.

“But I also did my own PR, and the reason why I pivoted into PR is because I love promoting businesses – so I went back to my first business idea when I was doing the evening classes.

“I remember my mum’s business getting so much press coverage; she got into the Daily Mail, for instance. So, she got massive press coverage, and I was there thinking: I need to replicate that.

“I then decided I much prefer selling and I was always envious of people selling a service, selling knowledge, as opposed to selling actual physical product. Because you see, I used to run my own business with two young children – I did 125 pop up shops. I was travelling the country and travelling across my region of East Anglia, and all these posh fairs and charity events were selling my knitwear.

“It was so exhausting and also complicated dealing with all the VAT. I couldn’t stand the VAT, all the importing, calling up the factory in Peru, which wouldn’t answer the phone. It was just really difficult.

“And I thought, you know what, I've had so much success getting myself into the press; I got into Vogue, You Magazine, all the major nationals. I got press coverage because I went for it like a banshee and then I just thought I actually want to go back to my first ever idea, which is to promote people's businesses.

“So, basically running my knitwear business was like doing an MBA. I learned how to do importing, the accounts, the whole works. But the area I really flourished in and loved was the networking and PR.

“I wanted to become an Enterprise Nation adviser so I could share my seven-step process. I’d go to Enterprise Nation press events to meet journalists. I would listen and hear all the advice and take lots of notes.

“So, I saw a niche and I thought I need to be able to help these people who are all desperate for press coverage, because the power of PR is so outstanding, and it can really change your business. Therefore, I wanted to become an advisor to share my steps that I developed while working for my own networking business.”

You’ve doubtless helped many, many people and businesses through your work with Enterprise Nation, but is there anything you’re particularly proud of?

“I’m proud of seeing my clients go from being meek and mild or highly introverted and not sure of how to pitch themselves to then roaring like a lion and getting so much press coverage alongside gaining real confidence.

“Because I don’t do people’s PR, I teach people how to do it, and I call it an essential business life skill. Once you finish working with me, you’ll have learnt how to do PR, and you can go off and do it forever onwards, as opposed to paying a PR agency a retainer. Because that’s what I did with my knitwear business. I actually went through three agencies and I didn’t really get the success with agencies that I did with myself doing PR.

“I remember going to an event where Emma Jones was chairing, and she asked: ‘Who do you prefer to hear from, an agency or an entrepreneur?’

“And the answer was of course: an entrepreneur. A PR agency is great, but an entrepreneur is so hungry, they’ll respond immediately with the information.”

How has becoming an Enterprise Nation adviser helped boost your personal brand?

“The amazing thing is that I was nominated in 2018 to become a PR Adviser of the Year, and then I won that competition! So that was number one, and it was brilliant for branding, for recognition, for credibility – everything that I teach my clients, I could finally walk the talk.

“I was invited to talk on LBC with Emma Jones – twice actually. On one occasion, I was literally an expert for five minutes for a call-in, and somebody was listening in Sweden who turned into a VIP client and it brought in £4,000 of work!

“I’ve had quite a lot of clients as a result of Enterprise Nation. Every year I’m invited to speak at the StartUp event, where I’ve hosted the PR Zone for quite a few years. So, for me, it’s been really great.

“I just love meeting the other advisers, and I love the diversity and talent of the Enterprise Nation people. It’s incredible.

“I’m about to start working with a client that I met as a result of a Lunch and Learn, and she has a business which she’s launched and it’s going to go big very soon actually. There are two of them. One is a care app; she will match culturally appropriate carers with the care receivers. So, really interesting!

“There are so many interesting people at Enterprise Nation. Knowing Emma Jones has opened so many doors, and she’s such a caring, brilliant woman. She’s fantastic. Not only has she opened doors, she’s brilliant at introducing you to people whenever you go to events, and she’s just so altruistic.”

Next steps

Access Amanda’s PR Mastery Membership for monthly PR support.

If you’d like to have a Power PR Hour to discuss your pitch ideas, headlines, press hooks or anything else PR-related, you can get involved here.

Be sure to also connect with Amanda on Enterprise Nation.

Ryan Elliott
Ryan ElliottOfficial
I'm Enterprise Nation's content manager! If you're an adviser who would like to write a blog post and feature on our website, please get in touch.

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