Below is an insightful interview from South East Business magazine, with Laura Bevan, the studio director of Oak Creative. Discover how branding helps businesses stand out, connect with their audience, and spread their message. Laura dives into Oak Creative’s ambitious plans for expansion, their groundbreaking partnership model, and their revolutionary e-commerce platform, FoodE.
Uncover Laura’s leadership style, her drive for personal growth, and the invaluable lessons she’s learned from networking. Read about the importance of collaboration, growth strategies, and the transformative power of partnerships!
“In the world of business, we all want to make an impression. Branding is fundamental to this. It helps you develop an identity so that you can distinguish yourself from competitors, spread your message and build relationships with your audience.
Based in Hythe, Oak Creative supports SMEs all across Kent with their branding. Working on a partnership basis, the agency offers branding services, web development, digital design, advertising, marketing and everything in between. Its mission is to drive business growth for clients. “Our team of creative professionals believe that at the heart of every business is a brand,” explains Laura Bevan, studio director of Oak Creative. “It is our role to help our clients’ brands perform at their very best.”
Laura joined Oak Creative in 2016 and was appointed studio director in 2020 to drive the agency forward as part of the new business ownership under the Holiday Extras Group. She trained as a graphic designer at the University of Creative Arts and her first job after graduating was for Kentish hamper company ‘Spicers of Hythe’. It was during this time that Laura developed an interest in the Kent food and drink industry.
Oak Creative has ambitious plans to grow the business in the next three to five years. This means increasing its team and client base and offering a personal and professional creative partnership model. “Scaling up is a reality now that we’re part of the Holiday Extras family as we can share their resources and infrastructure,” says Laura. “We also share their company values and culture, which is paramount to building a successful business which people want to work for.”
Customers in both B2B and B2C markets want to buy from companies they align themselves with. As such, Oak Creative is finding that more SMEs are needing help communicating their values and brand purpose. “These things are intrinsically linked to the core brand itself and building a company culture,” explains Laura.
“Incorporating these messages into marketing outputs is essential because it sets you apart from others. The brand needs to be communicated clearly across every touch point – whether that be a social media post, a company brochure, your website shopfront or a conversation. It’s the part of your business that makes you stand out. You will have a business plan and goals for the year ahead and building a brand should sit in the centre of that.” A long-term partnership of 6, 12 or 18 months means Oak Creative can truly help impact the trajectory of business growth. “That way we can give our clients a much better service, helping them develop their strategies and providing them with the tools to make it happen. Putting these elements into the heart of the business means they’re not just ‘add-ons’ but rather an essential part of the planning and development process.’’
I ask Laura about what the company has been up to over the last few years, and she explains that during the pandemic, Oak Creative’s workflow was extremely reduced so the team used the time to work on something new. Having supported many food and drink brands over the years, the agency understood the struggles faced by producers and decided to launch a new e-commerce platform called FoodE. Laura is passionate about supporting small businesses, and FoodE enables them to get online, stand out from the crowd and benefit from a host of marketing opportunities.
The platform has the ability to integrate with other softwares such as accountancy, couriers and marketing so it can adapt to suit each individual business and help them make the best possible decisions. There are three tiered packages to choose from, which are payable monthly for 12 months. “FoodE made its debut in November 2021, and we have now successfully launched 3 websites for Kent-based food and drink producers,” says Laura. “We hope this will start to build momentum, and become one of our main revenue income streams in the next couple of years.”
Alongside this, Oak Creative has been delivering integral projects for its parent company Holiday Extras during the Covid recovery phase. This includes communicating sustainability goals and creating a new long service recognition scheme, and at the beginning of the year, the agency was awarded the contract for branding and web design for the Maison Dieu, a significant landmark in Dover. The building is being restored, funded by Lottery Heritage Fund, and will become a new icon for Dover’s historical town centre.
When it comes to leading Oak Creative, Laura’s number one strength is her authenticity. This real human quality allows her to lead the team as herself, with no pretences or hierarchy. In turn, her team respects this and finds her approachable. “I lead my team to deliver outstanding work for business owners that recognise us as their partner in profit, growth and innovation,” she states. “I’m also passionate about personal development.
Having had some great mentors and role models myself, I enjoy helping my team evolve in their roles and enjoy their jobs.” Since becoming studio director, Laura has found that peer networking has been invaluable. She explains: “Competition is outdated; collaboration and connection with real people is key. It is so important to feel inspired daily. This thirst to be inspired and to learn from others is something which all leaders can relish in. Whether it’s attending thought-provoking webinars and industry round tables or even seeking feedback from your peers, it’s all a great opportunity to keep learning.”
Laura is committed to managing the business as if it were her own. She has her eyes on the growth of Oak Creative, but also to be the best she can be, all whilst sharing a smile along the way. She points out that there are lots of brilliant initiatives to help businesses grow. “We took part in the Scale Up programme in 2019/20 and have joined Locate in Kent’s Future Forward campaign this year. We’ve also become an Industry Partner to Locate in Kent, offering our services to businesses new to the county. We believe partnerships are key and the collaborative community really helps elevate your brand.”
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