Spotlight on - Imogen Aaronson
At Spotlight, we got the opportunity to talk to Imogen Aaronson, director & consultant of IMO-GINE. We chatted about overcoming challenges and setbacks, what gives her the determination to succeed and her top tips to anyone starting out.
I took the plunge and launched IMO-GINE before, during and after COVID-19. It was something that I had wanted to do for a long time but kept finding reasons not to. I think if you really care about something and want to get it right, it comes with an element of nerves and fear. Combating these emotions has allowed me to use my experience and years of knowledge in the tech and start-up world to help and guide others to build out their dreams in a strategic and meaningful way. I started in this industry in 2016, being an eager young girl looking to do something that would make an impact. Since then I have never looked back. The fast pace, uncertainty, not to mention daily challenges with no real “rule book” are just a few of the things that excite me about what I do. IMO-GINE is a place that I want people, brands and business owners to look to as the destination to get their story heard, connecting to their customers with emotional intelligence.
I truly believe from my experiences, that the power in business, but also in life, is making the right connections that form those long-term, organic, “feel-good” relationships. It doesn’t matter if you already have a brand, there is always work to be done and connections to be made.
IMO-GINE was created to not only build good “relationships”, but to find and form an essential bond. To activate the “divine-soul perspective” and make your brand stand out.
I absolutely love working on brands and businesses, new or old and creating something desirable but most importantly memorable.
It’s hard to put into words how this industry makes me feel or summarise why I chose it. I happen to think that the industry chooses you. As we develop as adults and become more aware of ourselves you learn what works for you and what doesn’t, and then the hard part is to act on it. I think those that act on it end up having the career that they can say they chose. For me, it was that I always wanted a challenge. From a young age I would ask a million and one questions, challenge the “normal” way of doing things, want to be out and about learning about who everyone was in a room, what they did and why they did it. The start-up world is full of incredible people and businesses, so as an inquisitive person, it was a no brainer to enter this space. Whilst some could say it’s an industry “where anything is possible”, it’s not that simple. The raw truth is that 99.9% of start-ups fail. So it’s an industry where you are surrounded with determined and hard-working entrepreneurs that are willing to risk it all.
Overcoming challenges and setbacks
I moved to New York last year “by mistake”. I took myself away to Long Island to stay with my sister’s family ( 4 young and extremely active boys) to celebrate my birthday and well, I just never left. I had joined a fashion start-up in London as an early-stage investor which materialised into joining as part of their “Founding Team”. Whilst things were going well, the pace that we were moving was something that I wanted to address. During the week I was at my sister’s I decided to reach out to anyone and everyone I knew in the City and arranged to meet up and get their thoughts on the business. Having done my own research, it seemed a no-brainer to see what I could do in the city that never sleeps! 3 months down, commuting to the city every day it was time to return to London. Whilst my days were long, hard and most lonely, I would not change it for the world. Some days my office was gym floors or any coffee shop that would take me and not charge $12 for a coffee. Over the 3 months I was fortunate to be in direct communication with a truly exceptional MD, Guy Dietrich, at Rockefeller Capital Management, undertaking 50+ meetings with talent, business owners and investors, oh and sourcing a great new hire! What I will say is that I definitely learnt that in business, you can’t do it alone, and when you are struggling, to not remain silent. It is crucial to have excellent communication and trust in a team, especially in a start-up ( oh and when you’re working across different time zones!)
I don’t look back on this time as a set-back, but more of a huge takeaway and a lesson to choosing business partners. My time living in New York showed me that there are people out there who are willing to give you their time, expertise and advise if you approach them in the right way. There doesn’t need to be fakeness or over promises, just determination, drive and limitless resilience. Always be open-minded, never judgmental and never stop yourself from asking questions.
Overcoming setbacks is hard. I would suggest speaking to people. When you have a challenge, don’t try and tackle it alone. I’m not saying go and ask anyone and everyone for their opinion or advice, but to be strategic with the people you seek for business advice. They are a lot closer to you than you think. All it takes is a call, text or email.
Drive and determination
I have grown up watching my parents run a successful company called Heathcote & Ivory, so I think branding and business has always been in my blood. With my dad being as meticulous, hard-working and organised as he is, and my mum being a phenomenal branding director, I would like to say that I was given some pretty good DNA!
Both of my parents have always given me confidence but also a voice of reason when it comes to business. I will forever be grateful to them for keeping me grounded but also showing me that it takes 20+years to build something successful. There really is no such thing as an overnight success and if you want something, you have to buckle up and get ready for the journey.
Top tips to anyone starting their career
Speak to other people in the industry that you are going into and don’t be afraid to approach people on platforms that you have never met before. You will be surprised as to how responsive and helpful people can be. I’m a firm believer of the saying “don’t ask, don’t get”.
Get comfortable with being told no and recognise that it isn’t always a negative. You can turn a no into a yes, and sometimes the no will be exactly what you needed.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Mistakes are going to come. Welcome them. It’s how you handle them that counts.
Make sure you are doing it for all the right reasons. Once you know that, don’t rush it. Nothing good ever happens from rushing. Make sure you are organised, have a plan, and have some strong advisors around you.
The best advice I’ve been given is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, it is a piece of advice that I am so thankful a few amazing advisors in my life have given me. Another one is; that if you are unhappy 4 consecutive Mondays in a row in your job, sit down and figure out why. Do something about it.
Highs and lows
I honestly love what I do. My job allows me to meet and engage with all sorts of people around the world. Every day is different, with the possibility of a new challenge, project or introduction around the corner.
If you picture a Rubix cube, well that’s how I look at consulting and working in the start-up world. It’s not for everyone, but for those that can complete it, they do it with a huge smile on their face and a great feeling of satisfaction. Once you start, you’re hooked.
The worst part is that you are working in a space where the odds are against you with the statistic 99.9% of start-ups fail. Sometimes no matter how strong the founders are, or how great the business is, you really do need to ensure that you are aware of the strength and sacrifices that starting from scratch takes.
The formula for success
I’m not one to be comfortable with the word “success” because I think the definition of success is different for everyone, and quite rightly so. We all have our own goals, and it’s so important to celebrate the baby steps and small wins because any progress or step forwards is an achievement. In terms of is there a pattern or formula… I can’t give a straight yes or no either, because I think you need your own secret sauce along the way… but the one thing that is crucial is discipline. That is the key.
Dealing with COVID
It was a bit of a strange one for me because I simply just turned my flat into my office and just tried to carry on as “normal”. I would say that I had to adapt by slowing down and sitting still. I waved goodbye to running around London from meetings to meetings and used the time to look at where, what and who I wanted to focus on. I ended up doing a lot of free work and consulting for people, due to the fact that there was a lot of financial uncertainty, but I took that risk, pushed myself, and thought about the benefits and learnings that would later come from it. If anything, trying to run a business, build on my own career, whilst working with and helping others with theirs; it really showed me the different types of people that you will come across in the working world. Some that are good for their word, will honour hard work, and others that you politely wish on their way. I look back on lockdown and manage to have a positive perspective on it all. I believe that whilst it has been challenging and uncertain, it gave us all time to stop, reflect and slow down.