Features - Entrepreneurial Alumni

Jonny Hough & Claire Collins

Jonny Hough & Claire Collins

Posted 01 April 2016

New York Programme

January 99 Intake


Our second Entrepreneurial feature this month is an extremely rare partnership we think. Jonny Hough and Claire Collins, both of the New York, January 1999 intake, met whilst they were both students at Liverpool University, UK. They then decided to embark on the NY programme together. They have since enjoyed successful individual careers, married, had two children, and now (if that already isn’t enough!), a few months ago set up Effra Digital (http://www.effradigital.co.uk/), their own digital marketing agency specialising in design and build of responsive websites, digital project management, evaluation and training! Their aim is to "expand and build our business so we can competitively bid for work alongside established agencies. We'd love to take on a Mountbatten Intern of our own at some point".

Claire & Jonny explain how they’ve "taken an evolutionary approach to starting out which has helped us to minimise the risk and ensure we can continue to pay the mortgage and feed the kids. Before Claire quit her job we crunched all the numbers and set ourselves targets of what we'd need to deliver each month to be successful. I'd definitely recommend that approach".

Describe your business and your role within it.
Effra Digital is a digital marketing agency specialising in design and build of responsive websites, digital project management, evaluation and training. The two founders are Claire Collins and Jonny Hough who are both Mountbatten 1999 alumni.

How did you get into this line of business?
Both Jonny and Claire have worked in the digital marketing sector for years. They met at University and then both took part in the Mountbatten Programme in 1999. It was while out there that they first got a taste for coding and websites. Jonny took a course on web design at City College of New York (Harlem). Since Mountbatten they stayed working on digital projects. Jonny specialised in project management for top London based digital agencies, whilst Claire became a government digital specialist heading up projects for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and for the Prime Ministers Office.

How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
Jonny set up a limited company when he became a freelance project director in 2014 and Claire joined as a director at the start of 2016. They pooled together their network of connections with digital agencies and government and have already worked on a number of individual and collaborative projects. They have expanded the company from initially just being Jonny's freelance business, to a more traditional agency set up as Effra Digital.

What else is in the pipeline?
They are focusing on growing the business for the next couple of months - picking up larger projects and constantly evaluating the work they've done so far. Claire says, “our aim is to expand and build our business so we can competitively bid for work alongside established agencies. We'd love to take on a Mountbatten Intern of our own at some point”.

What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
Claire - becoming listed as a director of my own company is definitely up there. Very proud of making the leap from government to start-up.
Jonny - I remember doing my first bits of coding and seeing my first website back in 1999 - that was pretty special. I become very involved in each project I deliver so each site launched becomes a proud moment, its not saving the planet but it feels good to be building something even if it is in the digital space.

What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
Our biggest learning is not saying yes to every piece of work. If a project doesn't sound right at conception, if you can't see where you can really add value or if the vibe from the potential customer is not right then its best to say no and save your energy for more rewarding work.

Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
We've taken an evolutionary approach to starting out which has helped us to minimise the risk and ensure we can continue to pay the mortgage and feed the kids. Before Claire quit her job we crunched all the numbers and set ourselves targets of what we'd need to deliver each month to be successful. I'd definitely recommend that approach.