Consume Comms’ Hannah Natalie Hosanee on Business Success Stories Podcast

Consume Comms’ Hannah Natalie Hosanee on Business Success Stories Podcast
by Hannah Hosanee
on April, 4

Our very own Hannah-Natalie Hosanee had a chat with Chris Fordy of Action Coach Business Coaching on his Business Success Stories podcast, about her experiences as a Northern Power Woman! Catch the video on YouTube, or check out the interview below to get inspired!

Northern Power Women Interview with Chris Fordy and Hannah Hosanee

Chris Fordy
Welcome to Northern Powerhouses Business Success Stories, where we discuss with local business leaders their backgrounds, their successes, challenges and what drives them forward. Today I’m delighted to have with us – Hannah-Natalie Hosanee, the managing director at Consume Comms. So hello, Hannah-Natalie, thanks so much for coming on board and spending some time with us, and if you’d first like to introduce yourself to the audience, in terms of who you are, what your company does, and how you help your clients, that would be great!

Hannah Natalie Hosanee
Thanks for having me. So I am the MD of consume comms, we literally have just turned six years old this past week, which is quite interesting, you know, going into year three of a global pandemic. I’m proud that we’ve managed to keep going, and we operate across Leeds, I was based in Leeds for the last decade, recently moved to Manchester. So I’ve got presence in Manchester and also way up north in Northumberland. And as a business, we pride ourselves in creating columns that foster communities. So, my background: I ran the Yorkshire division of the creative community Glug, which was part of a global creative community with chapters in 35 countries. So most people kind of know my face from running and hosting that creative event around Leeds. And we also get involved in things like Empowering Women With Tech, and the International Festival, and BIMA. I’m Yorkshire’s chairperson for BIMA. And everything we kind of work around is around storytelling for brands, and just ensuring that they’re kind of being their most authentic selves with using their own voices really. So we kind of help businesses that are struggling with, you know, the blank page of how am I going to write this social media, we take it back a step and just say, you know, social should be social, it’s a conversation about yourself, and kind of encourage them to create communities over kind of customer bases, you know, think of those people what value offering so we’re very much kind of holistic marketing, through from website, technical, social media and events when we had them, they are slowly coming back now. So that’s us in a nutshell. And alongside that, I also run a couple communities I could mention, and I have a little side hustle of a food business; Little Yellow Rice Co, which is all about my Chinese Malaysian Peranakan heritage.

Chris Fordy
Wowsers! You must be very busy I would imagine! Yes. So much going on. That sounds fascinating. I’m a big fan of Southeast Asia. So it’d be good to talk more about that.

Hannah Natalie Hosanee
We could talk for hours then!

Chris Fordy
One hundred percent. It was a much better bit of time, many years ago, and I’m dying to get back back there fairly soon. Hopefully, when all this is over. So how did you – I mean, just a little bit to start, how did you get into this particular business? And why this one and what drives you forward with it?

Hannah Natalie Hosanee
I did a degree in design, and then realised I wasn’t very good at design. And sideways, it’s kind of into marketing. And I was kind of in marketing, in-house marketing. I didn’t work agency side actually, I was an in-house marketer for about 10 years. And predominantly in Yorkshire, actually, my whole career was in Yorkshire. I started at Simply Biz, which was at the galpharm, I think it’s John Smith’s now. That was my first move North, and then I went into the lift industry, which I absolutely loved, it was a great opportunity because they really just let me do what I want with the budget and kind of being a 26 year old marketer. It was just fantastic. They let me do events, let me host exhibitions, Excel. I had a great five years there in Bradford, and then I went into a telecoms business and then into med tech, and then I kind of reached a point where I was running quite a few community events across Leeds and having a full time job. I was trying to juggle the two – now I’m an employer I kind of realise it’s a bit annoying when your member of staff keeps disappearing every second or half a day because ‘I need to go and like set up this event’.

So I got made redundant which I think happened to a lot of people in that situation. I got made redundant, and said: it’s make or break. I’m gonna just go for it and see if I can build my own agency based on my passion for community stuff, and see where that goes. I’ve got enough contacts from community work, let’s see if I can actually use that narrative to create my own business. And, yeah, it kind of grew from there, and we kind of specialise in tech marketing. Most of our clients have either work on a tech platform or were tech recruiters/digital consultants. So I’ve kind of fallen into that side of working around tech, but I really enjoy it because a lot of people shy away from tech marketing because you have to understand the language, and but I think our team kind of like it, we kind of like the challenge of like – if we don’t understand something; it’s all part of the marketing, isn’t it kind of asking the right questions and unpacking it? So it’s kind of like a pure marketing thing to do instead of shying away from it. So yeah, I don’t think there’s many tech marketing agencies, I think they’re coming up. Now, we don’t we don’t do kind of sexy advertising branding. We do very gritty, tech marketing around digital transformation agencies and explaining to different sectors how that works for them. And I said, we’ve survived six years. And here we are still going!

Chris Fordy
Well done. Really well done. Yeah, I was made redundant from my first job, and it’s the best thing ever happened to me. It was absolutely breathtaking. And I look back with a lot of pleasure, because it was it was if I hadn’t, I think my whole career would have been totally different, so I’m really pleased. So fascinating; the tech side of things, but looking back over the six years, what would you say are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Hannah Natalie Hosanee
I think definitely, I would say the biggest challenge is the business side. Because when you set up any kind of consultancy, your expertise is in your skill set. Like for me, it’s marketing, but I wasn’t equipped to run a business: tax, HR, leadership, you know, running a team is very different when there’s no one above you to defer to. I think those are the biggest challenges, the business side of that. You know, you’re specialising in a particular area, the skills and expertise is rarely business management side. The biggest challenge is the actual day to day running of the business. And that’s something you kind of learn on the job and make a lot of mistakes. And I think, you know, first three years, you make all the mistakes, you’ve made them every day, but you get a little bit better at managing them.

Chris Fordy
Brilliant. Absolutely. We often find most businesses are started by people that are good at what they do, they’re not necessarily good at running a business as at what they do. And it’s understanding there’s quite a big gap between those two things. And so there’s obviously a lot of learning needs to happen. What would you say are some of the biggest learnings that you’ve had over these last six years in business?

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
I mean, I think it’s proven a lot of people say delegating, and especially when you set up as a consultant, and then and then things grow. You’re so used to managing everything. I think that’s one of the biggest things: learning to delegate. And definitely for me, now I am at that point, I know, it will never be the same as if I handle that particular task or projects. Because it’s my business, it’s my baby. But I think I’m proud of my team that that they put enough that they appreciate with a small team. So they kind of understanding that we’re all in it together. If the business does well, they do well. But delegating is really hard, to hand over stuff, especially because the work we do is of that nature, how we work is in people based communities’ stories, and you get really kind of embedded into someone else’s business when you’re telling their story. So it’s hard to want to pass that over. I think it’s also learning to kind of not have perfection. You know, efficiency over perfection is a hard one.

Chris Fordy
I love that one – efficiency over perfection. It’s understanding that it doesn’t have to be as good if somebody doesn’t have to do as good as me but good enough. Yeah. That’s one of the big challenges, I would say to be better, you know, they don’t have to do as well as you because, okay, if we’re the expert, that’s fine. But if we train them what to do well enough for the client satisfaction and delight, then that’s great.

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
Work in progress – everything is a work in progress.

Chris Fordy
Yes, yes, absolutely. I think that’ll be me for a very long time. Who or what might have been sort of some of the biggest influences in your career, if anyone?

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
I think it’s definitely the people around me, especially in my career in Yorkshire, I’ve been really really lucky to work with some really great women which is an unusual position because all the industries I’ve worked with have been very male orientated. You know, I went from financial services to engineering, into telecoms, and then tech, but actually in that I was really lucky to have some really, really great women work around me so you know, Natasha Zelem who runs Empowering Women, she’s a great cheerleader, even though she has a very high profile with a job at Amazon, she will always shout and cheerlead me. It’s people like that, that remind you, that it doesn’t matter where you go, you have to kind of make sure that you’re also offering the same opportunities and support for everyone behind you. So I think, having people like her and Amy De-Balsi, we’ve worked so many projects together, she always remembers me. It’s having those people as an example, when I was coming into consultancy and working on my own, to be around people like that, to see how are they doing it. And be personable, you don’t have to be, you know, too much ego. You can still be very personal and be successful and professional. And I learned that from having those kind of women around me.

Chris Fordy
Yes, I’ve seen over time that many of the most successful people I’ve ever met have been incredibly humble, and really willing to help anybody else. And it’s a really strange thing that really they’re willing to help. And yet, often we don’t approach them because we think they’re too busy, or they wouldn’t want to or those sorts of things. I was lucky enough many years to meet Sir Terry Matthews, he was the first Welsh billionaire. He was so humble. And I just told him about my small, little business. And he said it’s absolutely brilliant. He said, I only tell people about what I do, just because I want to help them develop and grow. But there’s no, I don’t know, no hierarchical way, he just really wanted to help. He was a really great guy. I’ve seen that time and time again, with successful people. So I totally get what you’re saying. Have you picked up anything, I love, I’m gonna remember that one, efficiency over perfection, but any other favourite quotes or sayings that you live or work by?

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
I don’t really have any kind of saying – I have my own little saying. So we’re mainly a female business, so we have a little funny sayings, like, we have big hoop attitude. You know, when you put your big hoops in, you have to approach it with that kind of big hoop attitude and energy. And so we have things like that that aren’t so applicable for our male members of staff. It’s very, it’s very much a Consume kind of Consume Comms saying. Me being from Kent – I am very much the kind of person who has big gold hoops and has a mockney accent and enjoys that.

Chris Fordy
I love that. I’m gonna remember that one, I think yeah, I’m sure we can make that possible. Thank you. Obviously, we’re talking about the last six years. And it’s been obviously a bit of a roller coaster for many people. What would you say you’ve learned about yourself over that period?

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
I think it’s definitely there. I always thought we were quite resilient, but I think the level of resilience that we had to have over the last two years or two coming into three. And the ability like just to, really, I wasn’t ever sure about my leadership skills. And over the last couple of years I really had to dig deep on that because you are supporting the team in a way that you never had to before, you know, we had to look at things like supporting their mental health and flexibility for work and everything. I think a lot of the job became more managing how work facilitated their mental health, and, you know, some of them needed more time off, whereas others wanted to be busy all the time. And I had to really look at people skills, I’m used to kind of hosting events and being able to chat to people, but actually looking at things like where they feel you’ve got stuff a bit more vulnerable, it was a skill I didn’t think I would have had to do before, and so I think that was probably one of them. I went on a course. I did all the online courses and stuff because I was a bit lost as I don’t know how to help them. And, you know, you can see people are struggling. And again, it’s not something you think you’d have to deal with when you’re running an agency and work in marketing. But I think a lot of small businesses were in that position where you had to start looking at the wider spectrum of HR, that you didn’t have to do before. But yeah, definitely trying to find ways to have those conversations with a team without prying, and find the right balance of being able to work out ‘are they okay’, and ‘how can you help’, was a challenge.

Chris Fordy
Yeah, I can, I can totally jive with that. I think just about everybody’s mental robustness has probably dropped over time. So that, you know, sort of above going into real health issues, but just the ability to deal with challenges has reduced, I think in myself, as well as other people that I have seen around. It’s being, as a leader as you rightly say, being understanding of that we’re working towards helping people. And I think we’ve still got plenty of things to work on, you know, although we might be out of lockdown, I don’t think we’re out of the implications. And the ramifications of this are around a very long time.

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
I mean, absolutely not. But I think what we’ve we’ve gone into this year in a completely different attitude was so much more positive and settled, because we just feel like we’ve seen how bad it can get. And we put things in place to get through that. So now, we kind of know like, well, if it gets bad, we know what we’re going to do, we know what we can do, which is good, because the last like going into the last New Year, I think we were really struggling, because we just thought what we thought would only be two weeks will be six weeks, that’s six months, and it just kept going. But I think this year, it’s very much a different attitude, it’s the most positive attitude to go into a new year for a while now.

Chris Fordy
Yeah, I think the whole thing around resilience is really key and getting through. I’ve been through a couple of recessions over time and you know, getting through something yet is a massive wind it you know, even if we just survive at a base level, it’s still a massive win because unfortunately, a lot of people don’t and haven’t. So getting through that. But one of my favourite quotes is, I think it’s a Japanese proverb, which is ‘Fall down seven times, but get up eight.’ And I think that’s how we’re good stead for a long time. It’s not how often I fall down, but it’s how often I get up, that’s the most important. Yeah, so I would just be really keen to hear you say, what you feel about the future, what the future looks like for you and Consume Comms, and what challenges you may face as you move forward.

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
I think well, one of the biggest things that I’ve personally kind of looked at over the last couple years was looking at representation. So we’ve always been involved in terms of representation for women in tech, and just general role models to ensure you know, that there are those figures that we can look up to across the board, especially being a female agency owner, and a person of colour, you know, there’s not a lot of them, there’s not. So that’s always been key for me. I was really fortunate to use my time over the pandemic to engage with loads of groups, so I’ve got some really good friends at BESEA.N and so the British East and Southeast Asian network, a leadership collective. So for us, we made the decision that this year, we are going to kind of change direction with the business a little bit. So we’re going to focus on supporting brands that are looking to communicate about authenticity, and find their voice in those lesser represented areas. So we’re going to be looking at EC businesses to look at supporting them more, based on the journey I’ve been on for the last two years, really. So I think there’s a lot of challenges involved with that, you know, especially as our team is very mixed. And so it’s for them, navigating some of those things that they don’t feel they have synergy with, making sure they’re equipped to confidently deal with those, the new kind of clients are going to come through. So I think that’s going to be the challenge for the next year, we’re just gonna reshape the business a little bit, still have our tech focus, but we’re also looking to bring in a new arm that’s focused on branding and communications for the EC market.

Chris Fordy
Well, sounds very exciting. It’s a very exciting future. And well, it’s been great talking to you, Hannah. And I’ve got a couple of last questions for you – really interested to see your thoughts on these. And the first one is, what would you say to anyone that was thinking of going into business right now?

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
I think it’s around authenticity, it’s one of my favourite words. You know, you have to trust you, if you’re going to go into business, the business brand is going to be you. I think a lot of people really struggle with that, they always think when you go into business, you have to represent a certain way, you have to be very professional, or you have to be like this person that looks like a business person. But the biggest value of your business is who you are and the things that set you apart – your values and what you’re passionate about. That will take you through the hard times.

Chris Fordy
Definitely. Brilliant. I’ve heard stats for that. I mean, it’s a lesson to learn, isn’t it? But you know, we are unique and that’s what makes us different and being ourselves makes things far more easy than trying to be somebody else. I don’t know why, why people were doing that and why I did, over time. They all probably have done it.

Hannah-Natalie Hosanee
We all did it. We all did it.

Chris Fordy
Absolutely, and then you realise, being me is okay, and it’s good. And lastly, I’m really keen to know your thoughts on what advice would you give to an 18 year old you if you could go back in time and give that advice?

HannahNatalie Hosanee
I think I have always taken every opportunity that came my way and my mum says I’m a nightmare for it. She says you’re always up to something. And she has said that to me since I was 18. But I think the only difference would be in taking all these opportunities is not to wait so long. Because I think there have been periods maybe earlier in my career when I stayed in that job. And like, say, a lot, obviously, we wouldn’t have taken the leap in self-employment without redundancy. And I think if I’d have had a little bit more confidence to take that leap. But the biggest difference here was to find the network earlier, find that network of people because I was a little bit shy to find that professional business network and go out and find people and ask the questions, even though I’m quite confident, but I think that was a big turn for me is when I started finding groups and finding other people that were in the same boat or had a business. So I think my advice to 18 year old person would be you know, you’ve got your social groups, but also go and find mentors, go and find, you know, people that are doing the job that you think you want to do, and then you’ll know that stuff you want to do and you know, like if you fail fast, don’t you and then you move on to the next thing.

Chris Fordy
Brilliant. Wonderful, great advice, wise words. Hannah Natalie that’s been really wonderful. Thank you so much for your thoughts and views, and we really wish you well for the future and great to maybe catch up in another 6 to 12 months and see what you’ve achieved, but also what’s next because I’m pretty sure from speaking to you there’ll be something new on the horizon as well!

Hannah Natalie Hosanee
Hopefully not another business, I’m alright with two at the moment!

Chris Fordy
Well, thank you so much!