lady startup

Influencers and Instagram: How Natalie and Alex built Lacuna Agency from the ground up.

Together Natalie Kean and Alex Wright founded a media partnership and influencer marketing agency from the ground up, but it wasn’t without its struggles.

Tell us a bit about Lacuna Agency?

Collectively, we felt that there was a void in the Australian market when it came to passion and understanding of the partnership landscape.

We absolutely recognise that there are a lot of great alignments between brands and various properties, but where Lacuna comes in is elevating those partnerships to the next level. We are all about creative thinking and leveraging opportunities beyond what’s standard to ultimately deliver greater value back to our clients.

We define Lacuna Agency as a highly specialised partnership agency, offering brand partnerships, talent management, event management and content creation. Our bespoke solutions are always tailored to the clients’ requirements and anchored to objectives – we absolutely love our research!

We’re known for doing whatever it takes, which means not only embracing the big picture but also executing the finer details.

What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?

Natalie Kean: I had been at Carat (media agency) for 14 years with the last four of those heading up Carat Connect which was the partnership specialist division.

Alex Wright: I had a previous job at a well known Australian brand before joining Carat for a few short months.

What made you want to start your own business?

After establishing and working in a partnerships division at a media agency, it was very evident that there was a specialist gap in the market from not only a knowledge perspective but also passion.

We absolutely love what we do, our thinking is bold and a lot of the time unconventional which can sometimes be challenging and restricted at larger companies.

To put it simply, we wanted to be in charge of our own destiny and starting Lacuna allowed this.

How did you come up with the name?

We were sitting in a restaurant trying to come up with one word that summarised what we did. Impossible task to say the least. When we looked up from our table which was scattered with hundreds of post it notes, we realised we were the only people in the restaurant.

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It started a different train of thought realising that just as we were filling a gap/blank space in the partnerships market, at the restaurant (albeit small) we were also filling a gap. GAP was obviously taken by a fairly significant clothing store so we commenced the search for words that represented the meaning.

Lacuna is the Spanish word for ‘blank space’, and something we genuinely believe the agency will remedy in the Australian market for partnership specialism. We asked a few people for their thoughts and days later we were designing a logo.

 

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Describe the ownership at Lacuna Agency.

Lacuna Agency was founded in January 2018 and is co-owned by Natalie Kean and Alex Wright.

Given we are still in our first year, we continue to learn every single day which is something we both love. We joke that “everyday is a school day” as we are constantly trying to grow and evolve, which means ensuring we are staying on top of the landscape and trends, as well as now having to know how to fix printer issues. There’s no IT help desk in start ups!

We secured a big client early on which was amazing but also meant that we hit the ground running and working “on the business” was pushed to the side. This is something that has definitely changed in the last few months as we hired a Partnership Coordinator which has done amazing things for our productivity and allowed us to have more of a focus on long term business plans for Lacuna.

Did you require investment to start? Where did that come from?

We are lucky that we are in the service industry which meant that the initial investment was relatively low and mainly spent on office requirements such as computers and office set up.

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Whilst we had secured a client, the partnerships industry can be quite volatile so we decided to set up an office at Nat’s house which also allowed us to keep expenses low.

The main investments for us at the moment relate to gaining awareness of Lacuna in the market, namely launching our website, social media management and PR.

What kind of advice did you get before you started and from who?

Family and close friends absolutely played a crucial role. Interestingly, we are both in quite different life stages and the pressure and stress related to starting our own business was very unique to each of us.

Everyone was very supportive and the main piece of advice they all kept telling us that was consistent (despite our different scenarios) was to have as much faith in ourselves as others had in us and to just take the leap.

 

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What’s the single best piece of advice you got?

Get a bookkeeper! We had to do it ourselves for the first month until we found someone and whilst we both love numbers, it can be very tedious and that takes away from time you could be spending on the core business offering.

What’s the one bit of advice you would give yourself if you were starting again?

Celebrate the wins. We are both very competitive and when we launched, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make all elements of the business a success and were running ourselves into the ground. We were never content and always thinking 20 steps ahead without congratulating and celebrating ourselves on our achievements.

We realised how important this was about six months in as it provides inspiration to keep achieving and delivering success.

At Mamamia we have an expression “flearning” – failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started Lacuna?

As we had to hit the ground running given we secured a large founding partner, we took advice from a trusted acquaintance around the business structure without properly researching and this and it ended up costing us quite a lot of time and money when we had to rectify it at a later point.

This happened quite early on so we definitely didn’t make that mistake again – an absolute “flearning” for us!

What is the smartest thing you’ve done since starting your business?

Hiring a Partnership Coordinator. Given both our personalities, it was quite hard for us to admit we needed help particularly as it was going to affect our P&L. However, it was the smartest thing we have ever done. Tash is an incredible asset to the team and has allowed Alex and I to take more of a leadership role within the business.

Are there any pieces of technology or software, apps or systems that have made it easier to do what you do?

We use lots of apps to help with creating content and amplifying on our Instagram channel which have made our imagery a lot more professional. Quickshot and Camera + are two of our all time faves.

We also use and love the Preppr app which has saved us a lot of time with social media management as we can plan our social media a week in advance and the app posts for us.

 

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What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in a hole emotionally (or financially)? How do you handle those ‘deep-trough-of-pain’ startup moments?

One of the first things we do is go for a walk and get some fresh air. It costs nothing and always clears the mind.

Chatting to family and friends (particularly those in the industry or are in start ups) that can understand and provide advice specific to the challenges we are facing, has also helped. We have found that a lot of the time, they have been through something similar and can provide a unique perspective.

If that doesn’t work, we go to the local bar and order a vodka soda and a cheese board!

How many hours a week do you work on your business? Has this changed? 

We would easily clock over 70 hours each which is actually quite scary and confronting having to put that in writing!

We are still working on our work/life balance and if we are entirely honest, it is something that we will probably always struggle with as we are so passionate about what we do and want to make sure we are always giving it our all.

What are your non-negotiables?

Definitely exercise and sleep, it keeps us sane!

What’s the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?

Definitely the flexibility. Much to our disappointment it wasn’t all about pilates, lattes and long lunches! We absolutely make sure we try and do things that we may not be able to do if we didn’t own our own business but when you invest so much time into ensuring it is a success, it actually leaves very little time to be able to do those things that you thought you would be doing daily!

Tell us about your proudest moment.

Securing Holden as our founding partner and being recognised for this within key trade press was a really proud moment. It demonstrated to us that we had clients that believed in what we did and reinforced our decision to go out on our own.

What does your personal life look like? 

Honestly, being in the first year of the business, sometime we lack a little in the personal life department! Our friends and family have been incredibly supportive and understanding and when we do get time to spend with them, it really is invaluable.

 

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Lacuna Cofounders Alex & Nat enjoying a well deserved day at the Caulfield Guineas races ???????? Happy Saturday!

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How much sleep do you get every night?

We try to get between seven to eight hours as we both struggle with lack of sleep. We are constantly on the go and required to think creatively which can be challenging when we don’t get enough sleep so we definitely try to prioritise this.

The funny thing is that I (Nat) am a night owl and Alex is a morning person so when we look at the hours we collectively do, we are basically open for business 24 hours!

What can you recommend to women who might want to get their own hustle going?

Just start… It is really easy to make excuses and if you wait until you have everything perfect, you will never launch so take the leap, trust your gut instinct and just do it. We love the saying at Lacuna that you “only regret the chances you don’t take” and it is just one of the mantras we live by.

Do you have a mentor? Who do you go to for help and advice now?

It is absolutely something that we are keen to investigate in the future but currently we rely on each other to provide the mentorship and inspiration needed.

Since we’re in the #LadyStartUp spirit, which Lady Startups do you recommend? Who should we be looking out for?

It is too much of an over plug if we say our own client Cammino Shoes? In all seriousness Kat, who created Cammino, is an absolute powerhouse . She is designing handmade Italian shoes combining style and comfort for the ultimate ballet flat.

We are fortunate enough to be surrounded by Lady Startups, some bigger than others, but all have become an amazing support network and partners of Lacuna. Party with Lenzo founded by Elleni Pearce is an incredible styling brand that now offers online guides on how to style your own parties and events.

You can get in touch with Lacuna Agency via their website, Instagram and Facebook.

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