Introducing Alison Weir…
Meet Alison. Founder of Wonderland Communications (a three-year-old global consumer comms agency) and co-founder of The Kindly Collective, a charity that offers help to grassroots projects that support vulnerable women, kids and creatures.
Based in Bristol and London, Alison has worked in consumer communications for nearly 20 years. She’s led UK, European and global campaigns for airlines, tech companies, entertainment and FMCG brands. With a degree in conservation, she has a big passion for ethical & environmental issues and campaigns, from social justice to sustainability.
How did you come up with your business / charity?
Literally through necessity – I’d been learning my craft and running other people’s agencies for nearly two decades. Making people good money whilst developing a better product and developing teams. I was always delivering someone else’s vision and was always being criticised relentlessly for not following the rules. The bureaucracy and process-for-process-sake wore me down, along with the constant negativity. In the end, I had a good cry, closed my laptop, and never opened it again. A few months later I was at the pub with my husband. We took some drawing pads and sharpies and started writing out what I loved and loathed about my industry, agencies I’d worked at, clients, the work, the team… and that list (essentially what became a list of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s) led to Wonderland. I registered the company name within the week, sorted out the email address, and got on with it.
Who has been your stand out business / charity mentor?
I’ve never had a mentor! True life fact. I had considered it at various points in my career but struggled to find someone who wasn’t massively patronising and / or who I genuinely felt I could learn something from.
What advice would you give a promising business/ charity founder?
Oh gosh. So much to share but so much of it is out there already so it won’t sound like new news! Mmmm. Let’s try with this little lot…
- Set your values, vision and mission at the beginning. Work super hard to understand how they translate into every part of your business, and then live and die by them. These are the things that set you apart from others, that define how you behave and what you stand for. They are your DNA!
- Sleep as much and as well as you can! The working 5am-midnight mentality is very 1980s and won’t serve you well. Your brain needs a rest if it’s going to be able to do its thing.
- I was told that when you start a business you shouldn’t expect to have a holiday for 3-5 years. Like ‘you won’t sleep’ this is also total nonsense and a matter of choice. Within 3 months of starting Wonderland, I was on a beach in my swimming costume, beer in hand, working through a load of complicated data. The brilliant thing about setting up on your own, is that you can genuinely work from anywhere. So, go anywhere and do it!
- “Don’t be a dick”. The most important four words ever. In life and in business.
How would you define your leadership style?
‘Highly organised chaos’! I like things to be very well planned, however I also don’t like predictability and strongly believe in the creative magic that can come from chaos! These are generally at odds with each other, but we’ve found a way that enables us to plan to within an inch of our lives and leave room for the madness to creep in when we need it to, so it never gets boring.
How can businesswomen support other businesswomen?
See the point above about ‘Don’t be a dick’! I think it’s as simple as being conscientious, respectful, caring, nurturing and trying to do some good for others along the way. At Wonderland, we’ve always wanted there to be a higher purpose to what we do, which is the reason I founded our charity Kindly a little while ago. It enables us to support vulnerable women, kids and creatures through fundraising initiatives like the Anthony Burrill ‘Kindness Is Strength’ print last Christmas. That statement is something we believe in very much, professionally and personally.
” Failure is part of becoming successful ” – What has been your most memorable failure and what did you learn from it?
My most memorable failure was actually failing myself. Not realising, before it was too late, how tired I was. Not looking after myself. Not taking time out or off. Taking too much on. It was a never-ending cycle of exhaustion, emotional, mental and physical. It wasn’t pretty then and it’s not pretty thinking about it now. What have I learnt from that failure? Well I’m writing this from bed because I’m ill with a lurgy. My husband would tell you this is because I’ve worked too much and too hard this year. So maybe I haven’t learnt anything?! Except I have. I’ve learnt that I’m pretty good at what I do. I’ve learnt that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, and in fact I never did. I’ve learnt to trust myself. I’ve learnt to believe that I am worthy of good things and good times and great people. And then, when a time comes that I need to spend a few days in bed, I do it with absolute relish, ten thousand cups of tea, my favourite dirty snacks and my dog. And I love it.
What three things do you absolutely need to help you through your toughest work days?
- My husband
- Someone asking, “would you like a cup of tea?”
- Noise! A strong and eclectic soundtrack + lots of chatter + interruptions + the dog + laughter = happiness + productivity
Keep updated with the work of Wonderland Communications & Kindly Collective