LAURA PEARMAN, FOUNDER LAURAPEARMAN.COM AND HOST OF MWAH TV
Laura Pearman describes herself as a Creative Swiss Army Knife. Based in the North East UK and serving the world, this creative branding agency owner and international brand photographer has big ambitions to be the creative amplification conduit for Female Businesses that are changing the world in our time.
Her story of resilience, overcoming the odds, and 39 jobs (yes, really!) before she was 30 are just a tiny part of this fascinating, colourful and stunningly beautiful creatives ten-year journey. Pour yourself a cocktail in a fancy glass and buckle up because this straight-talking angry feminist is bringing truth bombs a-plenty. Over to you Laura...
SO, LAURA, WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
Mine is a tale of resilience, to be perfectly honest with you, Tricia!
I am not one of those women where everything has clicked straight away and gone smoothly. But then again, who really is that woman? Does she exist?
I am most comfortable describing myself as a Creative Swiss Army Knife Entrepreneur. I set up my first business as an Avon lady aged 13, convincing my Mam that if she would sign as her, I'd take care of the rest. From then on, I have never stopped working. By the time I was 30, I had worked in 39 different jobs for a whole list of different types of employers worldwide. All of them were, in one way or another, disappointing to me. So that was the catalyst behind me striking out on my own.
Over the last ten years of running a business, it's been about hitting many brick walls, professionally and personally. I've been burned out seriously three times and developed a couple of life-long medical conditions during this time (that I put down to working too much).
From a business point of view, I set out as a high street brick and mortar Portrait Photographer, then niched the business into a high-end International Brand Photography business. When lockdown happened, I decided it was time to develop that into a more strategic business and step slowly into the wiser consulting years of my career. I'm still trying to navigate the elusive work-life balance, but I am a damn sight healthier than in the early days.
The high-level themes that run through every single thing I have done in my story so far are: The endless pursuit of Wild Creativity, Being an Angry Feminist and having a direct, no-BS approach to all aspects of living life in this current time.
YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A CREATIVE SWISS ARMY KNIFE, CAN YOU TELL US WHAT THAT MEANS?
Yes, so picture a swiss army knife. You would pull out the scissors to cut paper or the corkscrew to open the wine. I'm like that in terms of creative skills; I can use one or many when working with a client. My foundation is in marketing and public relations. Then I pursued a more creative application by going back to train in commercial photography. All of these skills we honed further in the 39 jobs, but they really came together in my entrepreneurial years. I find every client I work with needs a different mix of these arms of my creative Swiss army knife. I love the variety and the challenge to keep everything sharp and well-oiled.
WHY DO YOU THINK PERSONAL BRANDING IS IMPORTANT IN TODAY'S MARKETPLACE?
Good question. I think personal branding has too much emphasis on it. It's an interesting and effective strategy for entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, so don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it, but branding is a broader subject.
You may choose a personal branding strategy because you think it will serve your business for the next ten years of building one or many brands. In that case, it's possible that what you are looking to create is a brand ecosystem. That being the case, personal branding is just a subtext and doesn't have the dominant role.
An excellent example would be Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin brand. Think of all the businesses Virgin contains, and Richard is the guy who holds it all together. Unless you're a superfan, you won't likely know the ins and outs of him as a person. On the other hand, we have someone like the Kardashians, where we know the ins and outs of their lives, and they also have businesses. It's just framing it in different ways.
To be successful, we need to be really good at picking out the correct brand strategy, and we will see this coming into the narrative of the zeitgeist now of how we will get strategic about how we will grow or build our brand.
We’ve had the initial fascination of celebrity personal brands trickle into what feels like every single job self-employed or employed. Now I think it’s high time the base level of understanding about the nuances of branding is going to start permeating that. Employees will be expected to be better brand ambassadors, and that going to come with additional contractual terms and much better training.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE CRITICISM?
I'm fully S&M about this. Maybe that's the recovering Catholic in me? I actively seek out as much criticism as I possibly can. Always have. Anything that is not 10/10 or a Guilded A* genuinely stings my heart as much as lemon juice in a paper cut. But I have developed my ability to take the sting to improve and go after a better version.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN ONE WORD.
YOU HAVE A YOUTUBE CHANNEL CALLED MWAH! TV. HOW DID IT FEEL TO GET IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA?
It hasn't changed if I'm brutally honest, Tricia. My day for filming is Tuesday, and there are times I look at my diary on a Monday evening and think ugh! A day of filming tomorrow!! It's still a challenge, just like getting up and working out.
I get a kick out of it though, similar to a workout when the endorphins kick in. Usually partway through something will happen, and I'll make myself laugh and start to enjoy myself. Even after all this time it's still an alien concept, sitting at home with the cat and being over-the-top enthusiastic and talking to the camera. I often wonder what the neighbours will think if they can hear me!
My tip would be to batch-record content. Getting ready to record a show takes hours of prep, and I'm not about to waste it on one recording. I find it easier to change my accessories, lip colour, hair, etc., and keep going. By the end of the day, I'm in a soup of make-up, with a pile of laundry and ready to dive into a hot bath! But I have 4-5 episodes recorded and backed up as a result of it all.
This is a subject I find thoroughly underserved when it comes to female content creators. We need to talk about the glam struggle more!
WHAT'S THE MOST COMMON ISSUE YOU FIND WITH FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS TRYING TO GET VISIBLE IN A CROWDED MARKET?
This is a really interesting topic for me. I identify as an angry feminist, and I think the first significant barrier is that most women believe there's someone better out there already doing it or there's a man out there whos done it for longer, so why try?
The first step is to realise that what they've got to say and their life experience is what makes them unique and compelling. Once they embrace that and start to manufacture it with some branding and PR is the minute they have a hook and a memorable story. Even if someone else has the same youtube topic as you do, you can be immediately memorable if you show up with a personal background, style and unique angle or narrative.
IT'S EASY TO CONFUSE TERMINOLOGY WHEN IT COMES TO BRANDING, PR, AND MARKETING. SOMETIMES, THIS BECOMES A ROADBLOCK TO SUCCESS. CAN YOU HELP US TO BREAK IT DOWN?
Yes, a lot of my content is about cutting the BS around this stuff, so if in doubt, check me out online but the way I like to describe it is to think of a house.
A house has many layers before it becomes a home. You have the initial blueprints before the build. This is your brand strategy. Then you have the build. This is the operational practice and procedure. Next, you have the outside kerb appeal, your garden, porch and welcome mat, for example. These are all things that make the home appealing. That is your PR. Then when people walk up the path and into your home, your metaphorical business, the way it is decorated, is also an application of your brand.
So marketing and public relations draw people into your house, and when you've got them inside, and they feel like it's their home too, you know you've built a great brand!
WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND DIFFICULT ON YOUR JOURNEY, AND WHAT WOULD YOU AVOID IF YOU COULD DO IT ALL AGAIN?
Definitely the health side of things. There is nothing more precious than having your health, is there? We are all so cavalier about it, but when it catches you, that tsunami of appreciation throws you back on the beach of reality.
ON THE SUBJECT OF HEALTH, AT THE FEMALE CEO WE BELIEVE THE FIRST WEALTH IS HEALTH, CAN YOU GIVE US SOME FURTHER INSIGHT?
It absolutely is, and I learned that lesson the hard way. What makes it even more sickening (pun intended) is I have learned this multiple times in different ways.
The first experience of burnout I had was a couple of severe laryngitis cases. I am convinced I have a messed up throat chakra, which is where my kryptonite is. In my first year of business, I had three months in different intervals of being really poorly, but I just powered through and kept working. Then, in year 3 of my business, I was working a second job part-time and started to feel unwell. I visited an optician because I was experiencing dizziness and put it down to my eyes, but the optician noticed a mass at the back of my eye.
She sent me immediately to the hospital, where I underwent a barrage of tests and scans. I was eventually diagnosed with a rare condition called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH), which is where the brain produces too much spinal fluid creating pressure and pushing on the back of the eyes. Left untreated, it can make you go blind.
A blind photographer was not an option, so I underwent years of treatment, including neurology check-ups, drugs, and spinal taps to relieve the pressure. The condition affects approx 1 in 10,000 women but usually, only those classed as morbidly obese. There was no explanation as to why I was affected; the only thing it could be put down to was stress, pressure and working too hard.
Just as I was coming out of the woods with IIH, I got what I thought was a cold/flu and was quite poorly. It turned out to be adult-onset asthma, and I was hospitalised for two weeks to bring it under control.
I'm happy to say both conditions are under control, the IIH is in remission, and asthma has become a manageable part of daily life, but these are what I class as battle scars caused by overworking. I'm getting better, but I still have times when I overdo it.
Regarding mental health, I have depression and anxiety, and there is a history of depression in my family. Still, it wasn't until I got into the nitty gritty of entrepreneurship that I realised how much of a serious issue it was.
Years ago, depression was typically classed as 'moody', but thankfully the times are changing, and I, for one, am a massive champion of therapy and being open about mental health. I also think it's a significant part of my creative ability, so I would never change it.
We only realise how vital our health is once we don't have it.
WHAT’S YOUR TOP TIP FOR OTHER ENTREPRENEURS AND BUSINESS OWNERS READING THIS ARTICLE?
I always encourage every new entrepreneur, especially women, to trust their gut. Especially when they begin. I look back on every time I ignored my hunches about something that usually ended up costing a lot of money, and I regret not taking a beat to pause and think it through a little more.
"No" is a complete and concise answer. Embrace it. The more you can say a firm and polite "No", the more you can focus on your "yes" priorities. That's the trick to success. Laser Focus.
WHICH MOTIVATIONAL SONG WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO ADD TO THE FEMALE CEO'S #GIRLBOSS PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY FOR YOU?
Rat Race - The Specials. I have played it full blast many times when on a Rat Race commute.
HOW WOULD YOUR BEST FRIEND DESCRIBE YOU?
I asked 3 of my closest friends about this.
Friend one said, “Funny, Kind, beautiful, intelligent and a bit Ummm crazy.”
Friend two said, “A cross between a 50’s pinup and Barbara from the Good Life.”
Friend three said, “Laura is the human equivalent of popping candy. Fun, exciting, makes you laugh and quite often surprising. I am always delighted when either turns up unexpectedly.”
WHAT DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE?
That there is no such thing as a completely original idea left to come up with. As soon as you recognise that the art of true creativity is about re-manufacturing all of the ideas that have happened, that's the minute you have graduated into true creativity.
WHAT'S YOUR SUPERPOWER?
Articulation. My job/purpose in this life is to be the sauce/conduit that brings clients and creativity into the whole final sandwich. I'm that go-between—the melder.
Or hang on... maybe that makes me the bread.
IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON AN ISLAND, WHAT THREE ITEMS COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?
I'd need an endless supply of 85%+ Dark Chocolate. An endless fountain of ice-cold coconut water, and if I could have my toolbox, I'd probably be all set, to be honest!
WHAT MAKES YOU TRULY HAPPY?
I love nature. Whether that's nurturing my houseplants all cosied up or taking a couple of deep breaths on a lovely hike, that feeling of wonderment is always my happy place.