Interview with Tara Tomes - Managing Director at EAST VILLAGE
Tara Tomes is the Managing Director at EAST VILLAGE - an award-winning PR agency from Birmingham, UK. Tara is passionate about branding and PR, and has more than 10 years of experience in creating, developing and advertising businesses around the world. In this year Tara and EAST VILLAGE team have their eight anniversary. In this interview we invite you to discover Tara both as a professional and as a person,
Hi Tara, thanks for accepting our invitation and welcome on TechBehemoths, please tell us a little about yourself. Your background and how did you come to this point?
I’m Tara Tomes and I run an award-winning PR agency based in Birmingham, UK called EAST VILLAGE. We specialise in PR, influencer marketing, social media and events for brands who put purpose and impact at the heart of what they do. Our team works across a variety of sectors including arts and culture, charity, creative, leisure and hospitality, and retail.
I always knew that I wanted to get into PR – my mum and dad are in the music and media industries, so I guess I was destined to follow their path in some way. I’ve always found the concept of ‘brand’ incredibly exciting; how you create a concept, form a lifestyle around it, and then build a loyal community is just incredible.
I went to uni and studied ‘Advertising & Marketing Communications’, which I got a First in, but it was my Placement Year that really cemented that this was the industry for me! As the rest of my classmates secured placements with really dull companies on graduate schemes, I went and found myself two opportunities that were the perfect fit for me. I actually ended up doing 18 months of industry work, with the final few months crossing over with my final year of uni. I worked in Stella McCartney’s press office in London and then came back up to Birmingham to help organise and promote a music festival. The best 18 months of my life!
I always knew that I was going to set up my own business; again, my mum and dad are self-employed and I grew up with the freedom that brings. I also saw the genuine blood, sweat and tears that goes into running a business… and I just love it! So, after a few years working within agencies and in-house teams, I set up EAST VILLAGE.
When and how did you start your business? Is there an interesting story here?
EAST VILLAGE. is coming up to its eight-year anniversary… I can’t quite believe it! I set the agency up back in 2013 and was determined to right all the wrongs I’d witnessed and experienced in previous roles. I wanted to create an agency ‘centred around team culture’ that put people, purpose and value at the heart of every single decision. The people within this team have always been the priority for me, which is something that I’m so happy to see more business leaders now take on board, in the wake of the pandemic.
People had said for years “you should really set up your own agency” and “you should be doing this for yourself, not other people”, and I’d always politely thanked them for the compliment but said that I wanted to learn as much as possible from other people. One day, I just felt like I’d had enough of other people’s visions and leadership so, over a glass of wine, said “yeah, I’m going to do it!” when someone repeated the comment.
It all happened pretty quickly: I didn’t put tonnes of time into branding or strategy… it felt right so I went for it. On the night that I had a few too many wines and decided to make the leap, I genuinely came up with the name whilst on the toilet… I kid you not. I was thinking about a name that would sound like a cool community, packed full of opportunities to collaborate, and I thought about my favourite place in my favourite city: East Village. The rest is history…
A friend of mine was a graphic designer and created the brand that I had in mind, I set up a Facebook page, used my Dad’s credit card to buy a premium Wordpress template, and asked another friend of mine to help me turn the template into a website. On that same night, I also emailed about 10 people that I’d worked with before, I guess for advice or maybe for them to tell me I was crazy and not to do it. Nine of the 10 replied that very same Friday evening and by 8am on the Monday morning, I had my first client! By the Wednesday – bearing in mind we didn’t even have a logo or website – I called a girl who worked with me in my previous role, offered her a job, and she started a week or two later.
It was wild… and has been that way ever since!
What do you think you’d be doing right now if your business didn’t exist?
If EAST VILLAGE. didn’t exist, it would be another iteration of an agency. I was always destined to ‘go it alone’ so I can’t imagine being 35 (how old I am now) and not taking the leap.
In another life, though, I think I’d have gone down a totally different route. I’m obsessed with British crime dramas like Line of Duty, Marcella and The Bay, and I’m the worst for guessing the ending because I love piecing the clues together. So, I guess I would have trained to be a detective. Either that or a criminal lawyer (clearly I have a crime obsession) because I love the idea of being a well-dressed, badass lawyer in the courtroom!
What’s your technique for staying productive throughout the day?
This is such an important thing for people to understand. Productivity means different things to different people, so it’s important not to get sucked into the comparison culture that social media can breed.
I’m a self-confessed workaholic so I love spreading my work out a bit more during the day. I’m so used to spending my days having meetings and then evenings catching up on ‘proper’ work, but lockdown changed this rhythm and I sometimes struggled to be as productive during the day. I quickly realised that as an extrovert I get my energy from people, so not having all of those meetings and the office environment was affecting my ability to power through work.
It wasn’t a bad thing, though… instead, I looked at how I manage my day and leaned more into my most productive times. I’m a big supporter of flexible working – we very much champion it at EAST VILLAGE. – so finding a more intentional integration of work and life definitely suits me.
I have a ‘master’ to-do list, which has everything under headings, eg. admin, finance, brand, consultancy, etc. Then, every day, I create a ‘priorities’ list, which is a realistic note of what I want and need to achieve by the end of the day. I have a daily planner for this, which allows me to include meetings and account for that time. I find it so useful, but the most crucial thing is to be realistic and understand the difference between urgent and important.
Moving locations also really works for me, so if I have meetings, I’ll allow time in between to just sit, in a coffee shop, and do some work whilst in the buzz of a different environment.
How do you define “being successful”?
Ooh, this is a tricky one because again ‘success’ should mean different things to different people. I guess for me, overall, it’s about being able to live the life that I want, having the things I want, and making an impact every day. That’s success to me. The freedom to control my destiny and inspire others along the way.
Most people talk about what gets them up in the morning but I’m pretty motivated so mine’s the other way round; it’s knowing that I’m going to bed, having achieved what I want that day and making the right decisions. That’s what success is… head on the pillow and simply content.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Is that a thing? Just kidding! A great thing about PR is that it’s a very lifestyle-driven industry, so in my 20s when I loved going out all of the time (those young, free and single days), I could fill every evening with a great networking or launch event. It’s an amazing industry for that. Nowadays though, I feel like I’ve done my time (although there’s still a party girl in there!) so I’m all about going home, having some great food, and chilling out with my fiancé and dog.
I’m big on experiences and generally living the lifestyle that I love, so city breaks, amazing food, and lots of time with family and friends pretty much sets my soul on fire. Oh, and retail therapy… lots and lots of impulse buying!
What are your recommendations for a business or developer novice?
There are different reasons to go into business. I set up EAST VILLAGE. because I absolutely love PR, so that’s always a big piece of advice from me; set up a business in what you know and love. There are, however, some people who get a thrill from the setting up and scaling of a business, rather than the industry itself, but I still think it stems from the same thing.
Whilst I loved school and really enjoying learning, there’s nothing that quite beats on-the-job learning for me. I’ll always take people’s advice on board but I prefer to learn things for myself, including the tough stuff. There is a lot to be said for instinct in business, so get advice, have a great support network, but trust your own intuition.
That brings me on to networks and the importance of them. So many people talk about having a mentor but, actually, I think it’s about having a circle of people who mentor/coach/listen/advise on specific things. There’s nothing like knowing that you’re not alone so build that network and use them.
Finally, don’t give up. Even on the worst days, even when it all goes wrong, even when you think it’s all over… keep the faith!
Thanks, for the interview, wise words and warm advice Tara, it is one of the most exciting interviews on TechBehemoths so far. And also congratulations to you and EAST VILLAGE on your eight anniversary, we wish all of you best of luck in what you do!
EAST VILLAGE is a leading PR agency on TechBehemoths and in Birmingham. If you like this interview and think that Tara and her team could help your business with PR, influencer marketing or social media advertising, then go ahead and contact them at @taratomes /@eastvillagepr on all social networks