In our regular series, we interview our members and partners at Sussex Innovation about their business, how they've been affected by the lockdown and their plans for growth. Today our Catalyst Team member, Jago, chats with Kat Sonson from Sonson Media.
Tell me a bit about Sonson Media.
Sonson Media has been going for three and a half years. I set it up primarily as a social media consultancy in commercial real estate, so I help chartered surveyors use social media platforms more effectively. I help create strategies for buildings coming onto the market, for them as a property practice and I also do training sessions.
I realised that commercial real estate communications didn't really take on board social media, it was very much email and phone calls, it didn't evolve. So, after fourteen years in the industry I decided I was going to educate surveyors in how to use social media more effectively, and set up on my own.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I think when you're a business owner, when you become self-employed, the pressure is just permanently on. You don't have a salary, maybe you have a couple of retainer clients, but you always want more, because those clients can just leave. The money side of it can be quite a pressure, and when you have a family it's even more of a pressure.
Also, when you're on your own, like myself, you have to do everything. Yes, I'm in social media, but I need to do my own social media as well as my clients'. I also have to do my own admin. I'm not very good with numbers, I hold my hands up to that, so I have an accountant, but I still have to get my stuff together for the accountant. There's just a lot. You think that the marketing side should be easy, but if anything it's harder because you're doubling up on your work. The challenge is trying to keep on top of it all. You wear many hats, and some of the hats don't always fit, so you need to call on people for help. I think it's probably a struggle for most business owners; that it's always on.
What has been your biggest success to date?
If I'm honest, it's that I'm still standing. When you're a small business owner or a solopreneur (I hate that word!) there's all these statistics saying you could go under in X many years. Obviously COVID-19 and Brexit have caused dips, and that happens, that's life, that's business, but I'm still here after three and a half years. It's hard graft, but I think the success is that I have interest in my business; I still get asked to do training sessions and to help with strategies. I think that's success in itself.
How has Sonson Media been affected by COVID-19?
I would say, because I work for an industry that on the whole doesn't use social media effectively, the demand has been greater, which is fantastic for me. I kind of knew when we went into proper lockdown in March that social media would become "a thing" in real estate. I knew that I would get calls and questions, so in that respect it's been more of an upturn. However, I would say that while I've had more interest, turning that interest into clients has been a little bit harder, because people are still wondering: what's next with COVID-19? Are we going to come back to the office? So committing financially has been a bit of a sticky point, because people don't know whether they can commit to including me in their marketing budget. I haven't really had to change, the biggest change for me has been moving to Sussex Innovation, rather than working from home.
Why did you decide to join Sussex Innovation?
I first heard about Sussex Innovation from a work friend. Then I remembered you during lockdown because I needed somewhere to work. I couldn't do this working from home thing. Your Croydon office is quite close to my son's school, so it makes the school drop off easier, because I don't have to go into town, or back home. So at first it was more location, right next to Croydon station. Then when I came in to the office, the clinchers were the space itself and the Catalyst Team. I thought, that's amazing! I can help graduates use social media more effectively, and they can help me with client work. I like that there are other arms to Sussex Innovation, like your webinars. It's not just space.