It’s that time of the week again where we get to know one of our team a little bit better. This week, we’re introducing you to Louise Williamson, our Head of FMCG & Home. She’s another licensing veteran but we hope she isn’t cross with us calling her that – we thought it was better than old timer!
Louise joined the team in early 2019, after a few years off to raise her son and now is back bringing to the team her years of expertise and some excellent handstand skills (see picture later in the blog for evidence!)
Tell us a little bit about your early career and taking a break .
I had been in the licensing industry for 20 years when I worked at Marvel and was travelling a lot when the brand got bought out by Disney. They made most of the Marvel team redundant and at the time my son George was just two years old. I decided to take the opportunity to spend some time with him rather than have to go through the whole find a new job process with a young toddler!
At my age I was not likely to have another child, so I took it as a sign to stop travelling internationally, working all hours god sent and burning myself out, and spend a year or so with him and enjoy those precious young moments and years. One year turned into seven – whoops! The day I was made redundant was also the day we got the keys to our new house, so I started to do what I could to make our new house a home. I had always been pretty handy on a Singer Sewing machine, so I started to make curtains and cushions for our home. Word got round my friends and school mums and I soon got asked to help them out. Thanks to Facebook and word of mouth, I turned my hobby into a little business that kept me more than busy for the next seven years. I loved the creative process, but as 2019 approached and George was now almost 10, it felt like the right time to see if I could head back into the industry I had spent so much of my career in!
The time came to look for work again. How was the job hunt for you?
It made sense to look at my old network and industry, I had always loved it and been good at it so this was where I headed again. But I honestly did not think I was going to get anything that would work around our family life. There were very few jobs advertised for part time roles, I wasn’t looking for something top end, I wanted to still be present for my family and not get back to the 14 hour days and endless travelling of before. I got no positive replies, despite my skillset and London location. It was a lot of “ keeping me in mind” and “get back in touch if anything cropped up”. It was a rather bleak outlook. By chance a close friend and ex colleague at TLC was aware that I was on the lookout and she very kindly passed my CV to Will. He seemed to think it was of interest, met me for a coffee and the rest as they say is history.
What was refreshing about the attitude The Point.1888 has and the ability to enable you to step into a senior role on a part time basis?
It really was very refreshing, astounding really, that Will saw what I had to offer. Experience, knowledge, skills and the right personality to join a team full of likeminded individuals. To bring all my years of experience back to the fore and to do that in a way that fitted into my world as well. I am still in awe of his totally different view and approach to looking at the person and finding a role to fit the person and adapting accordingly. Very unique and ahead of the rest of the industry, and it is working. So many businesses talk the talk on flexibility but to actually put it in to practice is another thing. I agreed to do a three day week. Two days in the office and a day from home. Now in reality, that is not how it works very often if I am honest. I may not be in the office two days a week because I may be off in Hereford or Sheffield or Axminster meeting a client. Or at a trade show overseas. I may need a few more days holed up at home quietly with no interruptions with the laptop getting to grips with the sales tracker!!! But the work is done, and trust is a vital part of that whole process.
What have you noticed has changed in the Licensing world in the last 20+ years?
Well if I am honest, everyone has got very young! I am not used to being the oldest in the office! It’s very strange!! But a lot of the same faces are still there, doing the same thing, just maybe in a different place. Walking the aisles of BLE (Brand Licensing Europe) was very weird this year. The big boys are still there of course (a few I have worked for and all of which I know of), but now you have internet sensations, Influencers, Celebrities. The biggest difference is retail. So much more online and non traditional outlets now. And so many more brands getting on the licensing bandwagon and therefore so much more fighting for shelf space. It’s definitely harder to get there and more importantly, to stay there. Innovation is key. Your product has to stand out. Be different. Meaningful. Enhance and improve your life. It’s not just about putting your branding on an existing product and leaving it at that. There has to be a purpose to it. Either a functionality that makes your life better or it changes the way you live or experience your life.
How is The Point.1888 ensuring that as a business we are ready for these changes and challenges?
Well the brands that we work on certainly help if making this approach to licensing very easy. River Cottage with its sustainability and ethos in respecting everything we do, or Team GB with its focus on teamwork, being and giving the best you can, The Met Police where every penny we make goes back to the Police Force, or our charities like Battersea which helps to give an animal a whole new lease of life in a few Forever Home. Then there is our own charitable ethos where we give 11% of our profits to charity. Last year, the agency gave 14% away. We couldn’t make up our minds so all our recommended charities got a donation! And of course our ultra flexible life/work balance. I wouldn’t have a job without that! It all has purpose and that is at the core of everything we do at The Point.1888.
What didn’t work before but is different now and working better?
In my previous work life it was all about the deal! Getting them and getting them in high! Now it’s about the best partner with the best solution to build a long term sustainable partnership. It’s not about seven new meetings a week and hitting a sales target. It’s about long term partnerships, building trust, and longevity for both the brand owner and the licensee, as well as the retailer. We don’t bullshit either (one of our values is Trust and this runs through everything we do). We tell it like it is, and that might not always be what you want to hear, but it will be the truth. Trust is at our very core.
What have you taken from your previous roles and repurposed for now?
Nothing! I have totally changed my outlook and the way I do things thanks to The Point.1888. The brands I work on now are so totally different. Movie/Entertainment licensing is very different to lifestyle brands and charities. Disney? MGA? Marvel? Warner Bros? They can still just slap it on and the masses go wild, that’s what a multi million dollar marketing budget will do for you. We are far more cutting edge, innovative, with the brands we represent and the products we work on. And whilst we have recognised that purpose is so important, we are still pioneering the way, and even though it’s tough and changing attitudes is a slow process, its’ invigorating and so fulfilling. I couldn’t be anywhere better.