By Jayna Rana.
Jenny Quigley-Jones started her firm Digital Voices in April 2017 with just £500
She left her job as a partner manager for ‘creators’ at YouTube, owned by Google
Now she works with large brands including Rolls-Royce, RAF and Post Office
Landing your dream job in your 20s isn’t an easy feat, especially when it’s working for one of the world’s biggest and most successful billion-dollar companies.
But that’s exactly what Jenny Quigley-Jones did at just 24. And then she quit.
As she honed her skills and created a name for herself as a partner manager for YouTube, owned by Google, working with video creators and ‘influencers’ to build their brands, Jenny noticed a huge gap in the influencer marketing industry.
Digital Voices, which she officially launched in April 2017, is an agency that specialises in YouTube content campaigns, pairing influencers together with companies (which in turn, helps build the profiles of both parties) and creating videos.
‘I worked for YouTube for two years before setting up Digital Voices,’ she says. ‘My job was to help creators grow organically without spending money.
‘I worked with 500 UK YouTube channels and taught them how to grow their presence. 95 per cent of those channels were individuals rather than brands, with thousands, even millions of loyal subscribers.
‘Meanwhile big brands are being told by their sales teams to spend money on adverts rather than growing their YouTube channels with actual content – that is wrong.
‘So I saw this huge gap in the market where companies could create their own unique content with the help of influencers – a win-win for both sides.’
Jenny says this moment of realisation also happened to occur when she felt she had stopped learning anything new in her position at YouTube.
She adds: ‘A lot of people leave their job because they stop learning, rather than not being paid or not liking their colleagues. If you are not experimenting, you are stagnating.
‘Everyone said I was mad for leaving a company as huge as Google but my experience there was amazing and also gave me validation and the confidence to start my company – it gave me a foot in the door.’
And it was a chance encounter with someone she met on a train in early 2017 who happened to be looking for training on the influencer market that got Jenny through the door – and on another train to Brussels.
Beginning with a bang
Jenny kicked off Digital Voices in a consultancy capacity, teaching big brands about the importance of user engagement, and with just £500 in her new business bank account, she spent most of it on travelling to Brussels to give a training course and the rest on a website.
But over time she realised she could play a more pivotal roll in creating that user engagement and so decided to specialise in YouTube creator campaigns.
She said: ‘Big agencies are doing good job at selling brands on Instagram which is great but it is quite a saturated market and that is a short-term way of creating engagement.
‘It can make for good margins, and you don’t need sophisticated software tools so it is often the easy option – our job is getting them to understand how YouTube can be more beneficial.
‘Most companies just don’t understand it. The big media agencies that they will usually outsource to are amazing and talented at making adverts and being creative but even they don’t really know YouTube and so end up not giving the best advice.’
By December 2017, Jenny secured her first partnership with Rolls-Royce Engines as part of the RAF 100 celebrations. They wanted to inspire a younger online audience to think about the wide variety of careers in the service.
In response, Jenny paired the RAF with YouTube science creator Tom Scott to show the rigour of pilot and astronaut training by putting him in a centrifuge for a video on his YouTube channel.
After going live on YouTube in April 2018, the video has had 4,449,131 views, almost 3,000 comments and 61,000 likes (see video below).
Since then, Digital Voices has worked with household names such as the Post Office and Island Records.
‘The main thing is that you don’t want these videos to feel like they are adverts,’ she says. ‘Some of these influencers have thousands, millions of subscribers who are loyal and want to watch that content – so it has to be engaging.
‘As a result, by teaming with a well-known influencer, that business suddenly gets the same amount of views and awareness for the brand sky rockets.’
Building her own brand
As she helped build up other brands, Jenny built up Digital Voices, which has now become a team of seven, created several new client relationships and Jenny herself has spoken on panels and on TV.
But the journey hasn’t been easy and Jenny soon learned she had to put everything into her dream to get the most out of it.
‘I didn’t take enough risk at all at the start,’ she recalls. ‘I was saying yes to anything that linked to social media which was ridiculous. That’s why the business took off only when I put myself in a place that made me uncomfortable and took risks – such as deciding to specialise and when I started hiring people.
‘You need to take risks and stop seeing it as your money and rather the company’s money. Likewise, having a team means I can justify charging higher prices because I think, ‘If this goes wrong, it’s not just me who suffers but also them. Digital Voices needs to pay their rent.’
But of course, having a team means other people to bounce ideas from and stronger, better campaigns as a result of diversity of thought. Jenny says she is also looking to raise investment this year, and possibly build a board for the company.
‘A lot of start-ups get nervous about investment because they haven’t proven their model enough. But now I can show what we have done so hope to meet some angel investors.
‘We have had a few introductions and I’ve even had offers before but I want the right people because I also want my investors to potentially be board members. It’s easy to see money and immediately say yes but I need people who have been in this game much longer than I have that I talk to about the big things.’
A woman in a man’s world
Other challenges Jenny has faced so far have come with being a young female solo founder in a male-dominated industry.
She claims there are only a handful of companies that have female founders but even then, there is usually more than one.
‘It can be hard being on my own but it means my approach is to be more aggressive. There are some people that I look to as “anti-idols” in that they are who I don’t want to be,’ she adds.
‘I look at what they do and I don’t agree with the way they work because it may not be the most ethical or transparent or honest. And if I don’t pitch harder, they will win my business. If I don’t say I will speak at this event or don’t go to that conference, they will and they will be the ones to shape the industry.’
Meanwhile, despite the vast experience she already has, Jenny is also aware that at 28 she still has a lot to learn.
‘Young people in particular are not fully equipped for this. Not only do they not have the entrepreneurial experience but they can also lack a lot of life experience. No-one at school taught you about running a start-up and how you’d have to pivot every two months and try something new.
‘For example, knowing about investment structures such as SEIS would have been really useful. Also, knowing how lonely it can be sometimes.’
But despite the challenges, Jenny says her job couldn’t be more rewarding, especially after seeing a campaign come together.
She adds: ‘Sometimes I look at photos of events we’ve held or videos we’ve helped create and think, “Wow, did we really do that?” When you realise you are producing something that actually impacts people for the better; that’s really cool.’