Each month in 2013 I will feature a female entrepreneur from Northern Ireland. I find these smart and creative women inspiring and I hope you do to. In January I featured Katrina Doran of Sugahfix, in February it was Jill O’Neill of Refound and this month we’ll find out more about PR guru Cathy Martin. Cathy and her team at Cathy Martin PR (CMPR) are the brains behind Belfast Fashion Week (BFW), which celebrates ten years this month.
Did you always know you wanted to be your own boss?
No I didn’t actually. I always thought I’d follow the path that I’d chosen at school/university which was to be a Euro marketer at a big FMCG company. I love languages and had several roles working across Europe (and the world) marketing consumer goods before I started CMPR. Starting my own business came after a period working around the world and then when I looked for a role back in NI, there wasn’t anything at the time that appealed to me so I just set up on my own by doing a Terry Bradley exhibition and, hey presto, things just kind of moved from there!
What would you say are the qualities required to succeed in the PR industry?
You must be a great communicator, a fantastic relationship builder and networker and definitely an ideas person.
It doesn’t suit those who like to be given tasks to do without thought or input, nor those who like to clock off at 5.30. It is one of the top five most stressful jobs according to many careers surveys – and I can vouch for that. Between the pressures of constant deadlines, media outlet vs. brand egos as well as, at times, conflicting needs, it can take a very diplomatic person. You must also be both patient and quick-thinking, creative but strategic, commercial but not too sales-y. Lastly I’d say you must have bags of enthusiasm and a can-do attitude, although I think that rings true of any industry, and not just ours.
You started up Belfast Fashion Week in 2004 and over the ten years it has got bigger and more popular.You must be immensely proud of this achievement?
Yes I am proud although I do worry that people will get bored of it as time goes on, so I try to make changes and be creative where I can, within budgets of course! And then I read the emails I get all the time from fashion fans who come to the shows, retailers whose sales went up because of the show or its surrounding PR/online buzz and those who have worked behind the scenes who are now in high places across the world – all this does make me so proud.
Belfast Fashion Week takes place in March and October each year. How long do you and your team spend getting ready for each event?
As soon as one is over we’re already preparing for the next. In fact SS14 isn’t even over yet but we’re looking at fashion and style awards for October as part of AW14. What do you love most about the work you do?
I love the shows at BFW coming together and I still get a buzz out of a front page pic!
Do you have a motto that you live by, and if so what is it?
Carpe diem – the older person’s ‘YOLO’ – and I also choose to have no regrets, it’s just pointless, and everything in life is a lesson, even if it was a bad decision at the time.
Who or what inspires you in your life?
My daughter inspires me in many ways – she is so innocent and full of life. My 84 year old mum inspires me to make sure I choose the right path in life.
What do you want to do more of this year, in either your professional or private life?
I want to see more family and stay healthy. In work I want to master the back end of the business as I’m in the process of archiving 10 years of CMPR and it is a struggle, but I should be there by summertime!
How difficult is it to juggle the demands of your business with family life?
I’ll not deny it is difficult. I work every night when my daughter goes to bed at around 8 and continue until 1am.
I’m a very precise person, and like everything in writing, so I often stay up to record meetings and phone calls if necessary.
How do you like to unwind?
I used to read books but really just don’t get time to read that many these days. I love a massage or a facial (or indeed any kind of pampering) and I write a beauty review page called Spa Sleuth, so I indulge when I can once a month for this. Other than this I love to travel and when I can combine all three – travel, spas and reading, it is my ultimate break.
Cathy getting ready before an event
Cathy with her daughter Valentina