Meet the Woman Whose Marketing Business Went from £0 to £850,000 in Just 2 Years


Joanna Stephenson started PHD with the aim of delivering quality marketing services to an industry she knows inside out. Two years later, she has many of the industry’s big hitters on her client list and is blazing ahead with her all female team. As the winner of our Start Up Business of the Year Award, we took the time to learn more about her journey so far.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

I noticed there were a lot of generic marketing agencies about but none that were speaking the language of my industry (print, plastics and packaging). I thought we could accelerate the speed to market for customers compared with other companies, and save our clients time by not having to be educated in their technical language.

What were some of the initial challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Negotiating legal contracts was a particular hurdle – trying to keep the business relationship positive while dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ’t’s certainly took some time. My strategy was to make sure the lawyer, bank manager and accountant all knew each other and came recommended.

How did you fund your business?

We began with an outsourcing contract paid quarterly up front to help us get going. We were so lucky to have this.

What is your top tip for growing your business?

Network, network, network…. you never know where the next business opportunity is going to come from and of course, cash is king!

Why would you recommend that people build their network and find the support they need to start and grow their business?

Talking to like minded individuals is great and the fact that you never know when someone is at the right part of the buying cycle means networking is extremely powerful. You can be chatting about an event or situation and the next thing you have a business card and a “come see me” conversation which is wonderful! Meeting places like Forward Ladies and Linkedin are incredibly powerful.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Ha! Not easily. I have two teenage children who need me more now than when they were young. I’m extremely blessed to have very understanding parents who do the school run and the house work for me so that I can travel and work full time. The children are used to this routine and don’t complain. As for me, normally a glass of wine and the occasional spa day keeps me going.

How has mentorship made a difference in your business?

Interestingly I’ve had very little mentorship to date but I’m starting to need it now. The pressure of the churn of clients, business and cash flow are starting to make me feel that mentoring around HR issues, growth strategies and undoubtedly an exit strategy would all be very beneficial. That said, I work as a mentor as part of my Women In Packaging UK role and completely understand the benefits for female business employees.

Networking is essential to your business success, especially in the early years. Forward Ladies helps connect women in business through informal networking events across the country. Not sure if it’s for you? Why not sign up for our free membership today and give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose!