The fund, StaffSeed, is open to all employees who have been working for either agency for a minimum of four years. It is designed to help staff who want to launch their own agencies do so with the support and backing of the group.
Hype Collective, a youth marketing agency, has put aside a portion of its profits for this fund since it launched in 2017. This fund was used to launch Hard Numbers in 2020. Hard Numbers, now in its second year, has begun to contribute to the fund as well.
This approach forms a core part of the growth strategy of the two agencies’ parent company, The Family, which rebranded in June. The group wants to expand its portfolio by helping other agency founders launch and scale their businesses.
StaffSeed will be open to employees of both businesses at every level. The programme will allow staff to pitch for up to £100k of funding for their own agencies. Staff don’t have to pitch for the full amount. To put that figure into context, Hard Numbers secured £50,000 of funding for its launch, although only needed a fraction of that due to exceeding its sales targets in its first year of trading.
“I’ve greatly benefited from this approach with the launch of Hard Numbers,” Said Darryl Sparey, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Hard Numbers.
“By having initial investment, meaning I could pay the mortgage each month, and access to shared services like our CRM and finance systems, I’ve been able to focus on what really matters – driving the growth of Hard Numbers. We want to give other members of our team, both present and future, the opportunity to do the same themselves, and build other innovative agencies that can be even more successful than Hard Numbers”.
To pitch for funding, staff need to inform one of the directors of the two agencies – Simon Lucey, Paul Stollery or Darryl Sparey – that they are interested in pitching for the fund. Once they have, the directors will work with them to help develop a business plan.
While there is no fixed criteria for funding, anyone pitching for the fund will need to answer four core questions: 1) Does the proposition serve a clearly defined target addressable market? 2) How does the proposition differentiate itself from the competition? 3) How does the agency plan to drive leads? 4) What talent is required to deliver the proposition?
“64% of workers in the UK want to start their own business, and I’d bet that number is even higher in an industry as creative and entrepreneurial as ours. And yet, if you want to start your own agency, what’s the normal process? Plan in secret and hand in your notice? Agency founders need to accept that if they want to hire the best and the brightest in the industry, there’s a very good chance that one day they’ll want to leave and strike out on their own.” said Paul Stollery, Co-Founder and Creative Director at Hard Numbers and Hype Collective.
“We don’t plan to stand in their way. We’re going to help them. I knew I wanted to start my own agency for many years before I was able to. What stopped me? Nagging questions like can I pay my rent, how do I buy groceries, can I afford to live? Every start-up – no matter how successful – is cash strapped on day one. This programme – unlike any other in the industry – addresses that.”
In the coming years, professionals from across the wider industry will have the opportunity to apply to a similar fund, too. This approach enables would-be agency founders to utilise technology, office space and shared services (like finance, HR and marketing), enabling them to focus on growing their own businesses. This allows the group to extend its range of creative services across PR, advertising, paid media and content production and more besides.
The policy covers all permanent employees at Hard Numbers and sister Hype Collective.
“We’ve been building this fund since we launched,” said Simon Lucey, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Hype Collective. “The rapid growth of Hard Numbers shows what founders can build when you back them. Our goal with The Family is to offer founders all the support we wish we had when we launched Hype Collective in 2017. StaffSeed is our way of ensuring that our employees get those chances, too.”