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My Help to Grow experience

I am Claire MacDonald one of the co-founders of MacMartin. We are a design and marketing agency based in Derbyshire. We are full-service, which means we offer a wide range of services from website design, graphic design, social media marketing, paid advertising, Google Ads, and SEO services.

We also partner with other companies to expand our service offering, such as photographers, videographers, and also a PR agency.

Claire MacDonald with her sister, Anna, co-founders of MacMartin
Claire MacDonald with her sister, Anna, co-founders of MacMartin

The business was set up by myself and my sister back in 2017. We both had a lot of experience working in marketing; Anna’s experience was very much in paid advertising while mine was in website and graphic design. We both worked together while freelancing while we had very young children.

We realised that we had a really good and complementary skill set and joined forces to create MacMartin.

On top of the strong combination of skills, our combined requirement to juggle of childcare and work was part of the reason MacMartin was founded. We now employ 12 people.

Claire MacDonald with co-workers at MacMartin
Claire MacDonald with co-workers at MacMartin

Why were you interested in applying for the Help to Grow: Management Course?

When I enrolled in the Help to Grow: Management Course we’d seen considerable growth and had successfully grown our turnover by 80%. There were a lot of pain points that came with that growth and that was my reasoning for wanting to join the course.

The course really helped me with these challenges.

What did you learn in your course? How did it help you in your business?

We identified three main weaknesses quite early on in the programme. The first one, which was the biggest issue, was ensuring that our service level was maintained through a period of rapid growth, and this meant hiring and training people at a rapid pace.

Secondly, putting in processes was really hard for a creative business because we can’t just have standard operating procedures. It’s not a case of following steps and your job is done. We needed to leave room for creativity. This stopped us from putting those processes in place.

Having the support during the course to create a blueprint that has room for creativity, maintains a certain standard of work and helps to show people within the business how things are done, was a really important part of us managing our growth.

Finally, not being able to spend enough time working on the business because we were working in the business was an issue. My mentor really helped me with that mentality shift.

We also worked on our internal communications so that we worked more effectively and could flag issues across our teams easily.

In addition to the above learning points, there were specific modules that really helped. A session that really stood out for me was the branding module. It was one of the face-to-face sessions and I really enjoyed this format.

It was so engaging. There were some great ideas going around the room. I really enjoyed that. The financial module was useful to me as well because I don’t have any finance experience whatsoever.

The Help to Grow: Management Course has 12 modules, 8 are online and 4 are face-to-face. For me, the face-to-face modules were the most valuable because you’ve got the opportunity to network and bounce ideas around.

What support was offered during the Help to Grow: Management Course?

I was actually in the first cohort at the University of Derby. I came across an advert on social media. I got in touch and found support on the programme.

You’ve got your deliverers who are experts in their subject and can answer subject-specific questions. I also had a fantastic mentor who was invaluable to me. We’ve even had talks with since finishing the course about him becoming more of a permanent fixture of the business.

I asked for a mentor in a different industry for a new perspective, and his experience in operations was incredibly useful.

The peer group was also amazing, and we still meet up to this day. It was a real eclectic mixture of businesses and there was no competition there whatsoever. We all worked in completely different industries, and we all had different skill sets. I could bring to the table my marketing knowledge and a member of my peer group had a finance background, one had a HR background. We probably had a strong skill set, knowledge, and experience that we could share with each other.

Having that safe space that was non-competitive and private was so important to me. I could say what my genuine problems were without any worry about how they might be perceived.

Would you recommend this offer to other women running businesses?

I’d absolutely recommend the course to anyone because it’s helped us address the issues we were facing in our business and take steps forward. It’s really exciting at MacMartin at the moment because we’ve got processes in place, we’ve stabilised our foundations, and we have recently restructured our service offering.

On the back of our learnings and new practices, sustainability is now big on our agenda in terms of the services that we offer. A lot of people don’t realise the effect on the environment that digital and marketing have, so this is an area we’re expanding into.

The Help to Grow: Management Course gave me a safe space that was non-competitive and private. This was so important to me, I could say what my genuine problems were without any worry about how they might be perceived

Claire MacDonald