Gemma Mackman is a founding director of Sudbury-based business, Mackman. Mackman is a full-service branding and marketing agency with clients such as Twinings, the University of Essex, Humphries Weaving, The Sticker Factory, Somerville Holdings and KSL.
Gemma and her team have a strong community ethos, and have supported organisations such as Sudbury Common Lands, The Bridge Project, St Peter’s and Smile of Arran. Mackman was also the recipient of the ‘Outstanding business contribution to the wellbeing of the community’ award, at the Babergh District Community Awards.
We spoke to Gemma about her top business tips, being a female business owner, and what makes Sudbury the perfect location to conduct business.
Photo: Andy Howes
Tell us a bit about your business background
After completing my A-Levels, I trained to be a Veterinary Nurse. The training and guidance I received during this time has had the biggest influence on my business ethic. Veterinary Nursing required not just patience and empathy, but as a fast-paced industry the role demanded that I make informed, accurate and often snap decisions. After Veterinary Nursing, I dipped in and out of education. I completed my degree whilst working in advertising and magazine production, as a Support Worker in the homeless sector, and as a researcher and private tutor.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start up their own business?
Think beyond a potential income. So consider your ethics and ethos early on and stick by them. No matter how tempted you may be by potentially lucrative contracts. Running your own business primarily enables you to put all of the things that you liked about working for other organisations into practice; so carefully piece these all together.
What was your biggest motivation in starting and running your own business?
Primarily I was motivated to create a positive work/life balance for our family. At the time of starting the business, our first child was just a few months old and we wanted to both have the ability to be around for milestones.
Secondly, I wanted to be in control of my own working environment and ethical code. This was important because I did not want to ever feel personally compromised by what I felt was right or wrong. Or by what I was told I just had to do.
What attracted you to having your business located in Sudbury?
We moved both the business and our home from Colchester to Sudbury at the same time. We love the welcoming vibe, strong, close-knit community and atmosphere of Sudbury. Plus, its location is great for our business too. As it is within easy reach of Colchester, Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Chelmsford and London.
Any advice for women looking to achieve a more prominent role within their organisations?
Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions, but to always do so in a calm yet confident manner. As women we continue to come across situations where we are considered unequal. My advice is, don’t let that knock your confidence or get to you, just keep forging ahead. Remain focused and keep everything in perspective. Prioritise and compartmentalise your many roles as a woman. That way you can switch from one to another easily, whilst making sure that you are always grounded and have perspective.
Who is your biggest influence in business/who do you admire in business?
I admire the manner in which Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop) conducted herself; never afraid to speak out, yet compassionate and dignified at all times. She grew a hugely successful business that was steered by ethics.
Another influence would be my mother, who was also a successful businesswoman. My mother has always been genuinely brilliant. She is fair and honest, and, whilst now retired, is someone I continue to seek advice from.
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