ENTREPRENEUR Gary Jenkins reveals how Warrington-based PR, social media and content marketing agency No Brainer went from dream, to spare room start up, to acclaimed business success

When my business partner Lee Cullen and I set up No Brainer just over two years ago we never thought we’d be running our home town’s best young business, the PR industry’s best new agency in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and one of the UK’s hottest 100 startup companies.

Although we’d talked about starting our own PR, social media and content marketing business for a year or so beforehand, Lee and I were flying high in our jobs.

Like many, setting up our business was just a dream. And it was one that was fraught with risk.

But sometimes the opportunities outweigh the risks and – despite having two young families – we managed to convince our wives and parents that we were doing the right thing by re-setting our careers and chasing our dream. And we set out a plan to pursue it.

Looking back, it felt like that pivotal moment was the toughest decision of our professional lives. Now, it feels like the best decision we’ve ever made.

So in April 2015, we set up No Brainer with no investment funding, no clients and no staff.

Usually entrepreneurs have something to financially fall back on – a redundancy pot, an investor or a cash windfall. But we didn’t. And we quickly discovered that fear can be a wonderful motivator!

Operating out of a spare room in my home in Great Sankey we went about networking like crazy, sourcing great support and advice, meeting potential clients, building our story and marketing channels, and hoping to earn the trust of people prepared to take a risk.

We had hope and belief and just enough money to get by for three months. But we’d made a joint commitment to give every last ounce of effort to achieve success.

As anyone who has set up their own company knows, all this means absolutely nothing unless you have a product or service that appeals.

‘We managed to convince our wives and parents that we were doing the right thing by re-setting our careers and chasing our dream’ Putting it simply, we set out to build a business around the dreams of potential clients. Not our own.

We decided to focus on story-telling that helps companies big and small achieve results – real outcomes linked to their objectives.

From there, we secured our first clients – both national, household names and hugely successful businesses – HomeServe and MBNA. And we’ll be forever grateful to those who took a chance on us in those early days.

Then we added our third and fourth clients, Sale Sharks and Active Leisure Events. From there, we’d secured a small base to build up our fledgling business.

Having lived in Warrington since 2000, I have seen first-hand the progress the town has made.

I also knew there was a public and private sector supported, business-friendly infrastructure to help us grow and achieve our dreams.

Early on, we secured some fantastic help with our business and growth from Warrington & Co. I was amazed that MD Steve Park would open his door for me, but I think that shows how people are open to helping companies like ours to progress.

It felt like Warrington wanted us to win.

And the support we’ve received from the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub as part of our growth journey has also been incredible.

If you don’t know, the hub and organisations like Reaseheath College are doing amazing ERDF-funded work to support SMEs and start ups with advice. And they are both continuing to support us, even today.

We knew Warrington was the right place to set up No Brainer.

The transport infrastructure meant we could source talent from Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside and we always knew we’d want to compete for the best people. As that would determine our success.

Two years on and we’ve got five staff – all fantastic people – and we’re supporting 20 clients, and counting, from our offices in Victoria Park.

We’re winning business by flying in the face of traditional PR agencies, and securing almost all of our new business through recommendations and referrals. It’s the cheapest and best way to grow.

Although we’re known for our PR backgrounds, Lee and I are achieving success because we’re telling business owners who think they need PR that they actually don’t.

Instead we talk about how stories can be integrated and shared across channels – i.e. media, online, influencers, social media and customer facing channels.

During the past year, we’ve been named new business of the year at the Warrington Business Awards, new agency of the year at the coveted PRmoment Awards, and one of the UK’s 100 hottest startups in the annual Startups 100 2017 Index.

We’ve worked incredibly hard as a self-funded start up.

Now our aim is to become Cheshire’s number one PR and communications agency.

Just two years ago, that seemed almost impossible. Not now.