Real Business meets serial entrepreneur and self-made man Jonny “Fizz” Welch to talk about his unique marketing agency, life pre- and post-Covid and how he and his team are helping businesses grow through friendship, kindness and creative passion.
Listen to Jonny Fizz and you?ll know you’re dealing with a man who loves his work and genuinely cares about helping other businesses grow. His latest business venture – 360Fizz – is a “unique marketing agency creating amazing things for cool people”.
“Cool people Fizz has worked with during his varied career include big-name clients such as Bacardi, the Savoy, O2 and Vodafone. This is the story of how he makes good things happen.
After one too many run-ins with his academic father, Fizz finally snapped. “I’m going to earn more in a month than you can in a year.” His heat of the moment statement would change everything.
“My late father was an academic, and he was quite an imposing person in my life. You know, it was very much ‘study to succeed , and I wanted to be a rock star or race car driver.”
His father’s response to this teenage bravado was to tell him to leave home and get on with it.
Within a month of their final row Fizz found himself on the streets of Brixton with no job, and no real clue how to get one.
Streets paved with gold
Coming from a protective existence in Hampshire, London in the late 80s was a huge culture shock. “I saw people that owned beautiful houses, beautiful cars, beautiful things. Which, to be honest, I’d only associated with celebrities, but these were not people I recognised.” Seeing all this wealth lit the creative fire which has never gone out.
“It was really the motivation of possibly being able to own those items that fired me up and pushed me forward into ultimately what we do now.”
The first thing Fizz needed was a job. Testament to his creative and inventive spirit, he zeroed in on the cars he admired and “put little notes under people’s windscreen wipers saying, ?I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you do, but if this is your car, please give me a job?. To my surprise, somebody actually came back to me.”
That person was a sales manager for a computer company. “Tentatively, gingerly and panicking,” Fizz went for the interview. The office car park was full of Ferrari’s and other amazing cars, “I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe it.”
He landed the job and became a trainee salesman, selling photocopiers. “I was thrust out onto the street to sell these things and just learnt my craft.”
Fizz learned fast, going from his first sales role to owning his first business, which he later sold “for quite a lot of money”. He was 26 years old.
“And then I fell in love with a girl. We moved to the south of France, had two kids pretty quickly, and then I suddenly realised I’d run out of money and needed to work.”
The honeymoon’s over
Returning to England with his wife and two young children, Fizz started selling websites to businesses. Getting work and making deals with anyone who needed a website, in the very early days of the Internet.
If you’re young enough to remember dial-up connections, you’ll understand the challenge Fizz faced.
“Can you imagine going to a customer and showing them what was then the Internet with that horrible, screeching sound where you’re trying to log on” Often it didn’t log on or threw you off. And I’m trying to convince this poor person that this is the future. And they would say sorry; we like you, but you’re mad.”
It took a lot of banging on doors, but his trademark tenacity paid off when he began working with a large travel agency called Bridge the World in Camden Town. The work led to other big deals and more money. Soon, as more and more people started building and selling websites, competition was hotting up,
To stand out in the growing marketplace, Fizz turned to his team and said they needed to come up with a USP. Without a clue where to begin, and going nowhere fast, they went for a drink, “and that was the lightbulb moment”.
“We all knew about drinking because our culture was to work hard in the day. Then we d go to the pub and have a few beers.”
With enough cash to cover six months, Fizz and his team reinvented themselves as an alcohol marketing company. They pitched to as many drinks companies as they could, knowing that if they didn’t manage to sell anything they’d have to come up with a new strategy, and fast.
The dream brief
It still makes Fizz laugh that one of the first accounts the team landed was with Bacardi to create a campaign to promote Bacardi Breezer a drink which none of them drank.
Already the top-selling alcopop, the Bacardi Breezer brief was to make it cool.
“I was guilty for putting together the Dancing Tomcat campaign.”
As well as the Dancing Tomcat ad campaign, Fizz was also responsible for the creation of the Bacardi B Bar – still found at many of the major festivals today. An idea the team came up with as a way to get free tickets to all the best festivals.
The account grew and so did the fun they were having, but margins were soon being squeezed by the increased competition. It was time to seek another new direction.
Coming full circle
Before smartphones, mobile phone providers offered add-ons for their customers. Fizz and his team took these sales online and “ended up building online shops for mobile for O2 and Vodafone.”
An early entrant to licensing and selling ringtones, this led to licensing other content. Which also developed into creating short video clips. Fizz went to all his cool friends and to trade shows and licensed all the best cool content which they would then sell through their online shops.
With the arrival of smartphones, content was king. So becoming a total content agency was a natural progression. “We set up an agency which has morphed into what we are now, and we’ve kind of gone full circle. Back to the very beginning.
360Fizz will build a really relevant website “and that means it’s going to look great, it’s going to perform great, and it’s going to be good in search engines. If it needs an online shop then we build that too.
“Ultimately, I’m a salesman. I’ve got a team of really clever people around me that help me deliver ideas to companies. In plain English, we help people make money.”
As well as web design and content they also offer algorithmic marketing. Through social media adverts they’re helping companies sell a full spectrum of goods, from cosmetics through books and even gravel rakes.
One client Fizz is currently working with is a bespoke tailor. The predominantly brick and mortar business has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and needs a bigger online presence and to build a loyal audience for the brand and online shop.
360Fizz has fared better than some during the coronavirus pandemic. And Fizz, a naturally ‘sociable creature , has coped with the isolation better than he might have expected too.
Established in 2018, right from the start Fizz told the team they?d be working from home. Pre-Covid they would meet up once or twice a week for lunch or in a media club. With zero spend on office space, he could pay more in salaries.
Get your Fizz fix
At 51, Jonny Fizz is still young with just as much energy as he had in his twenties. He’s owned dozens of Ferrari’s and other beautiful cars but these days they hold little appeal.
He’s worked hard to get where he is and continues to do so because he truly enjoys creating positive results for the businesses he works with.
“I’ve owned quite a few Ferrari’s and they have not brought me happiness. They’re a pain in the neck. What I’ve learned in this journey, and during this journey is I personally value friendship. I love my garden, I love books, I love reading, I love music. I like food and drink and I love conviviality. I love people.
His love of people and his love of listening to their stories is what makes him successful. People want to do business with Fizz because they like him.
360Fizz doesn’t do contracts, instead he asks potential clients to come on board for three months?.
?Pay me what you can afford. Let’s just engage. And I guarantee in three months” time you’ll stay with us. And that ethos has worked.
If you want to grow your business and need help building a website, developing content or even if you’re not sure exactly what you want but you think Fizz and his team might be the guys to have on board, send them a message through their website and have a chat.
For businesses looking to grow, Fizz’s genuine creative passion coupled with his kind and friendly approach may be just the tonic.