At the age of 15 Natalie Campbell already had her mind set on becoming a CEO. Before co-founding A Very Good Company (AVGC) in 2010, she had whet her business savvy with a Morgan De Toi retail franchise she set up in Lancaster, aged 21.
A Very Good Company is a consultancy based firm which designs and delivers campaigns that enable clients to achieve social impact. It focuses on shared value, sustainability and social innovation.
The agency has served Channel 4, and worked with Marks and Spencer to create health and financial awareness among 20,000 of its employees.
Symptomatic of social entrepreneurship, the enterprise echoes her own mission in life, which is to create a world where people can feel good, do good and live better.
“I pinch myself a lot at the moment because I am working on things that are completely aligned to what I feel makes peoples lives better,” Campbell says.
“People are always very confused as to what I do and how we make money but it is very simple. We have clients like Virgin Media and Marks and Spencer, we deliver the hell out of a brief and they pay us for the privilege. I can admit that I am obsessed with [my clients].
In addition to running AVGC, Campbell sits on multiple boards including the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and Wayra UnLtd’s ‘tech for good’ accelerator programme. In 2014, she published her first book Seven Steps to Running a Successful Business.
Outside of her packed schedule Campbell is involved with various networks, including Flock Global. The hub advocates a collaborative approach to doing business as opposed to the traditional competitive mind set.
She says: “In the year or so I have been a part of it I can truly say they (the founders Emma Sexton and Megan Thomas) have changed my life.”
Building on the collaboration tactic, Campbell partnered with Flock co-founder, Sexton and Harriet Minter, the creator of the Guardian Women in Leadership Network, to launch – the aptly named – ‘The Badass Women’s Hour’.
She explains: “I’m more focused on the women let’s be badass’ agenda which for me isn’t just about leadership. It’s about owning who we are and really getting a sense of our power and agency. If we all focused on that I think we’d be in leadership positions as a result.
“I bored of this whiny; ‘please sir, can I have some more / seat at the table’ please stuff. We are 50 per cent of the population. I believe I have power – economic and social – but I didn’t start out that way, I grafted for it.”
Through the grafting, Campbell does not recall any instances of discrimination on the basis of gender or ethnicity, but she admits, like many women, to making herself smaller in past, as a result of being a male-dominated environment.
“Today my style is more ‘fool if you don’t want me around the table then I’ll create my own table with better people’ or I encourage women to sit down with a ‘move me if you dare glare’,” she says. “It’s metaphorical but true.
“I’ve always seen being different, for example, being the only woman and, or the only person of colour in the room as an advantage. First off, people remember me. They are also curious, especially if I’m in a room of ‘suits’. Their curiosity is my competitive advantage.”
Honesty in diversity
When it comes to diversity, Campbell believes people are too encumbered with being politically correct. Back in June, she sat on a panel at the Diversity Tech Summit, where she discussed the importance of honesty.
She said: “We need to start being honest about the challenges in order to combat out-dated thinking and move to solutions that really work. I’d rather someone said what they were thinking and we discussed why, as opposed to them being scared about offending me.
“I still laugh when people struggle to say ‘black’ when they are talking about race or when they are pointing me out in a room. They say ‘lady with the jazzy hair’ or something.”
Having part ways with her co-founder, Campbell has reorganised the business to be more flexible, purpose and positive impact driven and less focused on ‘face-time early-start, late finish’ cultures.
She concludes: “Now my biggest challenge is choosing the right opportunities as I get offered so many great gigs. I say no to a lot, then wonder what would have happened if I said yes. Ultimately I am sure I am doing what it is I should be doing.”