Natasha Hatherall-Shawe, the Founder and CEO of TishTash, says she made the decision quite early on that she did not want any external funding for her business
Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?
I own TishTash Communications which is a beauty, health, and wellness communications agency that I opened in January 2012. In 11 years TishTash has become one of the most sought-after and respected independent agencies in the Middle East, which saw us win PRCA Middle East Best Agency in 2021 and highly commended in 2022.
My company purposefully remains ‘boutique’ in size, working selectively with the best and the brightest emerging and established brands in the industry. Our clients include ASICS, The Body Shop, Bath & Body Works, Kibsons, Mamas and Papas, Gap, and FACES Middle East to name just a few.
In 2022 we opened an office in KSA and our first international office in the UK. We are fiercely female as a company and female-focused in all we do – we currently employ 48 women across our 3 offices. I’m so proud of all we’ve achieved over the years and I still have big plans for the future too.
In terms of a typical day, there isn’t one! and this is the part I love most of the time – the days are super busy though. I’m a firm fan of the 5 am club and I use my mornings to catch up on work and write, before arriving at the office around 8 am to begin a day of meetings with my team, clients and media, attending events, writing, and more.
I do love the PR ‘day job’ so I still write, pitch to media, and do the elements of the job I enjoy, as I think it’s important to do things that make you happy when you own a business or it is all too easy to get bogged down in all the less fun stuff such as HR or finance.
Did you always know that working in the industry you represent was what you wanted to do? How did you decide on it?
No definitely not – my path to where I am today has been a little unusual and definitely non-linear. Growing up I wanted to be a lawyer. Then, after studying for an A Level in Law I realized how dry the subject was as I’d always been very creative.
On reflection, I’m glad I found out before I embarked on my degree. I studied for a degree in psychology, before undertaking a Masters in marketing and then I combined the two areas to study for a Ph.D. in consumer behaviour, specifically in addictive consumption. I’ve always been fascinated by people and what drives them, so this all made perfect sense to me.
After realising an academic career was not for me and wanting to work in the corporate world, I joined a graduate scheme in one of the big ad agency groups and from there I have worked a varied career across account management, media planning, and buying, public relations and marketing, including at leading global agencies McCann Erickson Worldwide, Euro RSCG and Havas Global, and global corporations L’Oreal and Diageo.
They say the average person has 5 careers today and I most certainly think this is true.
What first got you interested in the industry you work in?
During one university summer vacation, I got a job in a marketing agency and honestly loved it – it made me change my perspective on what I wanted to do career-wise. I wanted to work in the corporate world and I also wanted to be creative, so marketing and advertising appealed to me. Back then I thought it would be a lot more glamorous than it actually is too!
Do you have a role model?
However cheesy it may sound, my mother has been my greatest inspiration and role model. My parents divorced in the 1980s when it was less common than it is today, and I watched how my mother put herself through university whilst we were young to retrain and provide a good life for us.
She worked so hard juggling work, education, and parenting and I think I only really understand how hard it must have been now I am older myself. My mum always showed me that everything was possible and whatever came at her she took it in her stride and made the best of it. I learned a lot about resilience from her too which I also only see the importance of now.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
So many! The road to entrepreneurship is the hardest thing I have ever done. Confidence has always been a big challenge for me. I know lots of people are talking about “imposter syndrome” but it is very much a reality and it’s something I’ve struggled with – not feeling “enough” or good enough. I’ve done a lot of work in this area to help myself, but it has been a journey for me and I still work on it.
I made the decision quite early on that I did not want any external funding for my business. I wanted to keep it 100% in my ownership and control. Whilst this has been great for many reasons, it has meant our growth has been slower than other agencies who have received investment, as it has all relied on self-funding. Related to this is the topic of cash flow, which I think is a challenge for most companies, and getting myself more commercially savvy in order to run a business has been a massive learning area.
What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the industry you represent? What do you wish you had known?
Reflecting back, I do feel that starting your career in a global agency or with a global brand gives you a truly solid platform to grow from and I do recommend looking at the graduate and entry job schemes within the big companies. Whilst competitive, the experience, training, and ways of working that were instilled in me from the beginning have definitely given me solid foundations to take forward in my career.
Know that there are many different areas and career paths within the communications sector – agency side and client side for example. What suits one of us will be different from another and it’s important to work out which you enjoy and the path you want to follow. For example, I personally enjoy the variety and juggling of agency life, but others prefer working on one brand and having that in-depth brand experience in managing all areas of the communications spectrum. I’d suggest, if possible, trying as many areas as you can in your earlier career years to see where your heart lies.
Hone your writing skills – content creation and writing is a key parts of our role in marketing and communications, so you need to be very comfortable in this area and practice, practice, practice as it is something that can always be improved. If you can’t write or hate writing you will struggle in PR/comms.
It’s not as glamorous as it looks. Ok, so there are glam moments and I have had some truly amazing “pinch me” moments in my career, but everyone that I know in marketing and communications works really hard. It is busy, you need to be able to multitask and it can be stressful at times.
What do you do to unwind after work?
I don’t have as much free time as you would imagine. I am, by nature, a homebody and I love spending time at home with my husband watching movies, cooking nice food, and relaxing. I love reading and in my little spare time I am working on my first novel, which is about the Middle Eastern media world and, yes, the crazy world of influencers. It’s fair to say it is going much slower than I hoped as being on a laptop all day means that it’s the last thing I want to do at night.