Although start-ups in the arts, culture and leisure sector will face early funding dilemmas, the introduction and expansion of government schemes will offer ways to maintain cash-flow, according to Kate Turnbull.


Kate Turnbull

Role and company:

Deputy managing director at AKA UK

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric):


Employee numbers:


Growth forecast for the next three years:

We are forecasting sustained growth at ten per cent for the next three years, particularly in our overseas operations. We also anticipate international expansion, specifically in our film marketing business, Creative Partnership.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

AKA is the only global agency serving the arts, culture, leisure and entertainment industries. We have provided integrated media, marketing and ticket selling solutions since 1995.

What's the big vision for your business?

To be widely recognised as the best live entertainment marketing and advertising agency in the world by 2015.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

Almost 30 per cent of our current turnover is generated in the United States, while 13 per cent is generated in Australia. We will be growing our group network, working towards sustained profitability for the New York agency and expanding our Creative Partnership brand into Europe and Australia.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

My greatest set back became my greatest opportunity. After training as an actor, I failed to secure an agent and the network into auditions that representation can provide. I began working as a marketing assistant with a start-up arts advertising agency, inspired by the drive and passion of its founder and in order to pay the bills. I opened my eyes to the wider industry and learned to channel my passion for the arts into a business career. Some 17 years later, I remain committed to the same agency and extraordinary business partner.

What makes you mad in business today?

The idea that gender equality in business has to be driven by quotas for women on boards, or the threat of them, is insane. We employ women on our Board and Executive team because they represent the best talent and experience – it’s a pretty good balance. In the future, if I’m faced with a boardroom full of women, I won’t be implementing a quota to bring back the men.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

The customer purchase path is changing and the opportunities to promote product online and through mobile marketing are rocketing. The arts sector needs to embrace multiscreen advertising experiences to target customers across all the platforms they are accessing, alongside traditional media.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

As a start-up business we employed every means available to raise cash, including credit cards and personal loans. We found a way to finance capital and cash flow at the speed we needed it and lived through some difficult times. After sound business planning and practice, we approached private investment and bank finance to help our growth. We’ve never extended beyond our own funding sources. I believe start-ups in our sector will face the same early funding dilemmas, but the introduction and expansion of schemes such as entrepreneur’s relief, NI rebate for small businesses and reduction in corporation tax, are beginning to offer ways to maintain cash-flow.

How would others describe your leadership style?

My goal is that my leadership style be considered straight-forward, rational and calm.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

The Uppababy universal travel system, which is probably the best buggy a child could wish for - likely to cost more than his first car!

You've got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK's independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

Continue the £250 annual investment allowance beyond 2014. This will make it easier for SME’s to invest in infrastructure and technology. Make it easier to invest in staff by extending reductions to employers National Insurance payments to all staff nationwide.

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