The year 2020 will undoubtedly be poured over by GCSE and A-Level History students as the year when the world changed dramatically. Today, Northern Ireland entrepreneur Richie Reynolds is capturing the zeitgeist.
New words and phrases have entered the public lexicon.
We’re all now familiar with ‘self-isolation’, ‘social distancing’, ‘the R Number’, ‘lockdown’ and a wide variety of other odd terms.
Cast your mind back to that surreal press conference from Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 23 March 2020, when the Prime Minister announced unprecedented peace-time lockdown restrictions.
Watching that press conference from his living room with his wife Fiona and one-month-old baby girl Annie – 30-year-old Rostrevor-born but settled in Newry – Richie watched along with everyone in Northern Ireland. He knew our ‘old normal’ was under real threat.
His nine-year career background to date was predominately in marketing roles.
One of those roles was working as a Digital Marketing Executive for four years for local company Murdock Builders Merchants.
Then – having moved departments to another part of the business – his new role was made redundant a few months after the UK Government’s lockdown announcement.
Richie found himself in uncharted territory.
Explaining the set of circumstances he and his young family found themselves in, Richie explains, “It was a strange one, that’s for sure.
“Almost a month to the day before lockdown, our first child was born.
“Once lockdown hit at the end of March, it gave both myself and my wife a lot of time with Annie that we undoubtedly wouldn’t have had in normal circumstances,” he continues.
Richie’s wife Fiona is a self-employed musician.
And like most self-employed people, she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy an extended period of maternity as most mums would have under normal circumstances.
“As it turned out, we had 13 weeks in the house with our new baby girl, which was brilliant,” he explains.
“The flip side to that was that I didn’t have the best news on the work front.
“So the experiences personally and professionally couldn’t have been any further apart in that regard,” he adds.
But as the old saying goes, “Every crisis is an opportunity in disguise”, and Richie decided to start his own marketing business.
Initially, he says he looked at marketing roles to apply for.
“However, I quickly realised that I would prefer to provide a service myself to help businesses, especially given the current conditions businesses find themselves in.”
RR Marketing was founded and launched in June 2020 to help businesses improve their digital presence, both long-term and short-term.
Richie explains, “I decided I would refocus on marketing as I was still up to speed with the current digital marketing landscape.”
Explaining his new business, Richie continues, “RR Marketing is a freelance Marketing Agency mainly focused on providing Digital Marketing support for small businesses and organisations locally and further afield.
“It is a mixture of social media management and digital consulting.
“There is also a design and print element to the business, while we also provide website development,” he adds.
Since launching in June of last year, Richie says it has been a pretty positive start to his business career, especially given the challenging circumstances.
“I am very thankful to those who have supported me so far, both in a client capacity, and those behind the scenes encouraging me. Long may it continue.”
Being your own boss is notoriously a tough slog in normal circumstances.
But launching a new business in 2020 when you’re stuck at home is even more difficult.
And Richie says add into that mix having to wear many hats as an entrepreneur and the last twelve months have been unquestionably tough.
“There’s only one of me, but the various roles that come with any business need to be fulfilled,” he insists.
“Admin, finance, and your own marketing are all equally as valuable to the business as connecting with and delivering for clients,” he adds.
In the first few months of his new business life, Richie admits the most challenging thing was “knowing when to switch off and take time out”.
But, he laughs, his now ten-month-old baby daughter Annie, is quick to remind him when he needs to switch off.
Richie says he is enjoying being his own boss, pointing to the flexibility it has given him so far to look after his young daughter.
“We are fortunate to have great support from both families, and this helps immensely as well.
“It also gives me great pride to have my own business, more so than being my own boss,” he adds.
“There is no right time to do it,” he maintains.
“There is always going to be something or some time you are waiting on for it to be the right time.
“If it is something you want to do, and you feel there is longevity in it for you and your family, go for it.
“Don’t underestimate the hours you will put in and not see the output in terms of monetary value in the immediate short-term.
“If you are confident in your product/service and in your ability to deliver a product – be it physical or otherwise, then that is more than half of your mental battle,” he continues.
“There will always be uncertainties,” he notes.
“In a way, this situation was thrust upon me,” Richie contends.
“I had considered it about five years ago and decided against it, but the opportunity arose again, so perhaps it was meant to be.”
Richie works mainly with SMEs and local organisations and says he has thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of work he has done in the last eight months.
And what free advice would he offer to any business in Northern Ireland trying to navigate their business through 2021?
“Be consistent in your message online and offline, and have your customers market for you by creating an impression that encourages referrals.
“Ensure you have some form of digital presence, even if it is just for brand awareness as that is so important in the world we live in.”
He adds, “Don’t get hung up on vanity metrics, provide value!”
Find out more about RR Marketing here.
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