Jackie Fast is the founder of Slingshot Sponsorship, a sponsorship agency which helps clients that don’t turn over millions; clients who are often overlooked by big agencies develop assets that will grow their business through developing the right partnerships.
Hi Jackie, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
Very well Joseph, thanks!
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I’m a 29 year old Canadian who accidentally moved to London en route to backpack Europe. Although I never quite did the whole Europe backpacking thing, I have been fortunate to see much of Europe through my own agency Slingshot Sponsorship – which specialises in finding the right sponsors for organisations. I’ve been here for 7 years and recently received my indefinite leave to remain – after what was a near impossible Life in the UK Test (my good friend who majored in English and Politics couldn’t even pass the App!).
When did you get the entrepreneurial bug?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial. My earliest memory was when I was about 7 years old and decided to design bookmarks for my street (I wasn’t allowed to venture farther) with crayons and copy paper. A couple of our neighbours purchased them and then my mother made me give the money back to everyone!
Since then, I owned lemonade stands, sold soup and grocery shopped for my mom’s friends when I was growing up. When I left University, I started working as an artist and sold a number of paintings – so I guess it’s just always been part of me!
How did the idea for Slingshot Sponsorship come about?
When working at the Direct Marketing Association in the UK, I noticed a gap in the market for organisations, trade bodies, charities and other non-sporting platforms who didn’t have the expertise nor the financial backing to fully realise their value for companies to get involved with their business through sponsorship. I worked and developed a number of commercial platforms – from events, Awards, digital, advertising and more and was amazed at how beneficial the sponsorship was for the brand sponsor’s business if worked correctly.
When I felt it was time to move on, there wasn’t another sponsorship agency who really worked with those types of properties as many were just based on sport sponsorship – which sparked the idea for Slingshot Sponsorship. We are now proud to work with many innovative properties where sponsorship is vital – such as Spring Online, The Big Positive Weekend, What Car?, Outlook Festival, Windsor Festival, Caterham Cars, Marie Curie and more.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
I think having the idea is probably the hardest part. I toyed with the idea of starting a business for years, but was always so worried that it wouldn’t work out. Especially during the recession, there were so many stats and visible signs of businesses going under and I always assumed you needed a very brilliant idea to make it work. However, I wish someone had just told me to ‘do it’. Having a successful business is about hard work and doing the best job you can possibly do. It does help when you have a unique proposition, but if you can do something that’s been done better than the next guy you are already ahead of the game.
What is Slingshot Sponsorship? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Slingshot Sponsorship is a sponsorship agency which helps clients that don’t turn over millions develop assets that will grow their business through developing the right partnerships. Partnerships are not just about securing additional money, but also partnerships that can help increase brand awareness, save resources, and drive innovation.
We work with clients that are often overlooked by big agencies and try and invest our time with them to hopefully build the property into something that is attractive for brand sponsorship so they can take advantage of the benefits of working collaboratively.
How have you been able to fund the company so far?
We are fortunate to have been profitable straight away and so have been funding the company with the profits from each year. The first year I spent working in my bedroom just saving money so we could afford staff in the second year!
Although it was quite difficult, and probably the long way around, I have been able to fund the development of the agency purely by myself and have retained 100% ownership because of this.
What advices can you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise investments for their start-ups especially in the UK?
Network, network and network.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
The first few months were slightly surreal and although I was excited, there was far too much to do to actually ‘be’ excited. The first year was more of a blur if I am honest.
How did you initially get traction?
We were fortunate to win some great clients who have stuck by us because we have done exactly what we’ve set out to do (and more).
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow it?
Getting an actual office was probably a big step. As it was funded completely through my bank account, I felt that any unnecessary expenditure was not worth it. However, getting an office where the staff felt it was more of a business made everyone feel more credible.
We also were initially working in a very small shoe storage office from a shoe designer – so I think the boys in the office were keen not to be around high heels!
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I think when clients come back and have secured sponsorship either through our training or through us is always a highlight. This effectively proves our method works and inspires everyone to continue doing more.
What should we be expecting from Slingshot Sponsorship in the coming months?
We have a number of big events coming up – including the Digital Unite Best Event Awards, D&AD Awards, the What Car Used Awards, Outlook Festival and Dimensions Festival. We’ll be manic ensuring all the sponsorship and sponsors maximise their rights!
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Speak to everyone you know and get their advice – especially those people who work in the same industry and have started a business that you are in ‘awe’ of.
Get help – don’t be ashamed to take advantage of anyone and everyone who offers to help you. And in some cases, ask people for help when you need it.
Don’t get discouraged – owning a business has a lot of ups and downs. When it is your own ‘baby’ everything seems much bigger than it is. When it is successful, it’s great, but when you get knocked it can feel like the worst thing in the world. If you stay positive and remind yourself of this, you’ll be able to pick yourself back up and keep going.