Soup of the Day

Soup of the Day is basically us chatting to boundary-pushing creative women who have made their mark in life / business. Their stories inspire us, so we hope they inspire you, too.

The conversations will always have a marketing slant, because that's what we do, and will cover off all the highs, lows and just general insights about how they make work, work, and defining success on their own terms.

So big thanks to Lauren York, MD of UK Locations, for being our latest Soup of the Day. We talk about how she took on the business during a really sad and turbulent time, how she's built it to be the largest locations agency in the North, her honest advice on being a working mum, and how mentoring has been a huge factor in her personal success.

Describe UK Locations to my mum
We’re a locations agency, so we find, hire and manage locations for film and photo shoots. Our clients might ask for a serene beach, a period house, an aspirational mansion or a gritty warehouse. Whatever, we find it!

We have an online library of over 500 locations and a team who are out and about constantly scouting new locations so our clients don’t have to.

We mainly work with filmmakers, photographers, digital and advertising agencies and production companies, but also hundreds of brands directly too, like Adidas, John Lewis, OK! Magazine, Matalan and Unilad. It’s never a dull day!

What’s been your biggest successes so far as a business, and as a boss?
I took over the family business five years ago after we tragically lost my brother-in-law, Nick Jones, who started UK Locations in 2006. I’d never run a business before and it was the start of the recession, so things were pretty tough! I've made loads of mistakes and learned a lot in the process, but every year, I’ve managed to grow UK Locations and I’ve built up the most amazing and inspiring team. I’m really proud of myself for that.

Give us an example of something you’ve failed at in biz, but turned into a positive

For the first year I was trying to do everything myself - sales, marketing, managing accounts and operations. I soon realised I was spreading myself too thin and it was counterproductive, so I made the decision to outsource work to expert freelancers. That gave me chance to concentrate on my strengths - building client relationships and growing the business.

Why do people choose to work with you over other locations agencies?
It's the personal touch and added value we give to all our clients. We get out there and visit them to understand their location and production needs, so we can deliver over and above what they asked for. Our strapline is ‘the perfect shoot starts with us’ and that’s because we want the client and location owner to walk away from our shoots genuinely delighted.

What’s been the biggest changes to your industry that have affected how you work in the past few years?
This year with the economic and political climate being what it is, there’s a theme of tighter budgets and timescales. And the growth of online video means we’ve seen a need for different types of locations.

It’s been challenging, but we’re lucky to have a small and agile team that can respond quickly and deliver relevant locations to match clients’ briefs and budgets.

What’s the most glam thing you’ve worked on?
One of my first jobs in TV was as Bruce Forsyth's PA on Play Your Cards Right. I couldn't believe my luck and I loved every second. Bruce was a dream boss.

And the least glam?!
After University, I worked as a Location Assistant on lots of different dramas such as Fat Friends, and though I loved the work it did include me having to clean the crew toilets, which definitely wasn’t glam!

What kind of locations are you getting asked for the most at the moment? And what kind of shoots are you doing?
We’ve always concentrated on residential locations, but recently there’s been more of an interest in commercial properties - opulent bars, raw warehouses, retro diners and outdoor spaces like jetties and beaches in the Lake District. So we’ve just signed a deal with Living Ventures to exclusively manage all of their restaurants and bars for shoots across the UK. It’s great because all their sites are beautifully designed and are perfect for fashion, drama and film shoots.

We’ve also just launched a large number of Lake District locations, like lakes, landscapes, cabins and even roads!

We’ve always admired your energy and positivity in biz/life. How do you do it?!
If you enjoy what you're doing and you're doing it with great people, it's easy to feel happy and positive. I'm a true believer that like attracts like, and I’m lucky enough to surround myself with high-vibe people.

You’re a working mum, how do you juggle it? What’s your advice for other working mums?
I learnt to say no! You don’t need to go to every meeting and networking event, or check emails before your baby wakes up / goes to sleep. That obsessive checking just made me stressed and unhappy. I now only work on projects that I know I can give one hundred per cent to, and I let my brilliant team manage the rest.

How does social media help your business?
Social media gives us a chance to show off our locations and services to our audience day-to-day. Instagram is the big one for us – we post gorgeous pictures of our Pinterest-worthy locations and ‘ta-da!’ moments of a finished film or photo shoot. They always get good engagement, as do fun ones of our team. People buy people, after all, and clients like working with us because we’re amazing at what we do, but also a good laugh.

And we use Stories to show all the behind-the-scenes bits and walk-throughs of our locations and shoots. It gives people a much better idea of what we do and the locations we offer.

Out of all the social media channels, Instagram has converted the most business for us.

What inspires you?

I’m an avid reader of business books and I also love listening to podcasts. I’m into Tony Robbins’s at the moment. I take a lot of inspiration from other leaders, too - Nicky Unworth, CEO of BJL agency, Julian Leighton, CEO of Orange Bus agency, Ben Hepworth, CEO of Prime Studios and Lindsay Bennister CEO of the charity, MQ have all been really generous to me with their time and advice, I’ve learnt loads from them.

How do you get new clients?
We’ve been in the industry for 11 years now and built up an excellent reputation, so word of mouth is very powerful for us.

Having a simple, effective marketing and sales plan has transformed our conversion rates across all channels. There is also no better approach than spending time meeting clients face-to-face and forging long-term partnerships.

What three things make the most positive impact on your business?
1. Our team - we have the most hardworking, dedicated and utterly brilliant team at UK Locations. Everyone understands the end goal and we're having fun getting there.
2. Spending time with clients – properly understanding them and providing them with solutions on their shoot.
3. Our location partners - we work hard to only have flexible and friendly location partners. They respond quickly to short deadlines and go out of their way to support the crew on a shoot.

Most bizarre request for a location you’ve ever had
A cruise ship! It’s definitely not our usual request, but we did manage to pull it off.

What’s next for UK Locations?
We’ll continue to improve and deliver locations and services to make our clients shine. That means growing our commercial and outdoor location portfolio, as well as using a drone and 360 photography to give clients a more thorough idea of the location they’re hiring.

I’m also working on launching my second business in 2018, which will be a sister company to UK Locations. I’m really excited about it.