Meet Clare Martin, Founder of Blue Cactus Digital, Digital marketing wizz, SEO expert and all around amazing lady!

Hi! I’m Clare, founder of Essex Marketing Services and passionate about helping small businesses in the Essex area.

Where it all began….

I actually started my career as a technology journalist, despite everyone thinking I would head straight into entrepreneurism. I’ve always been obsessed with finding new ways to make money.

At university, I had about five jobs at any one time, including promotions for various brands including Bacardi, Freeview and Panasonic, hosting parties for Ann Summers and even starting up my own online indie music magazine with my friend. The URL was – no wonder it never really took off!

So after finishing uni, I decided to go and get a ‘normal’ job, working as a staff writer at a magazine called What Mobile. I worked up to features editor in two years and then was headhunted to launch a website at a much bigger publishing company – Dennis. I knew nothing about websites or digital media then and was pretty much thrown in at the deep end. I loved it!

My crazy work ethic soon had the company execs noticing and we became one of the biggest websites in traffic terms for Dennis. I recruited three members of staff and the company made the decision to launch in India, the US, Mexico and Brazil with me at the helm as editorial director.

To me, in my early 20s, it was the best job ever. I travelled the world and had an amazing boss who supported me hugely, allowing me to make key decisions and teaching me how to become a leader. I worked 14-hour days to make sure every territory was serviced and motivated, helping them develop editorial strategies for growth.

But it also taught me good things don’t last forever. After two years, Dennis made the decision to close down the international side because it wasn’t generating any revenue (and they wouldn’t commit to investment).

Ready for a change

So off I toddled, ready to kickstart my own business as a consultant. But instead, I discovered Breaking Bad and took a “career break.” Ie., did nothing for three months. Ooops.

I then joined Good To Know – one of IPC’s (now TI Media) – flagship online-only titles, with the task of helping it recover after it had been hit badly by one of Google’s dreaded algorithms. I only lasted three months. Big business was not for me.

My unemployed path took me to a US-based branded content company called Longneck & Thunderfoot, or L&T for short. Now this was what I wanted to do! My role was to build digital marketing strategies for businesses, including developing content strategies, social media, email marketing campaigns and more. I was UK managing director, with part of my responsibilities finding and onboarding new clients. 

And how having a baby changed me (sort of)

After two years of trying to conceive, I fell pregnant and made the decision to resign, a month before my maternity leave was due to start. I had SPD and just couldn’t manage traipsing into London to meet new clients, knowing I probably wouldn’t be going back after the baby arrived. 

As you may know, US companies only allow you to take three months off maternity leave and I just couldn’t commit to going back full time after three months – I didn’t want to let the company and clients down. 

After having Ollie, I was itching to get back to work. In fact, my first job after having him was writing the copy for a medical website when he was just two weeks old. Luckily, my boyfriend. Al, was on paternity leave still and Ollie slept a lot. He’s always been a good sleeper once we actually manage to get him to sleep, but that’s a whole other story!

Ollie started nursery part time at three months old (one of my only life regrets) and I started working for various agencies around Leigh, as well as creating branded content for some big businesses like Oracle and CenturyLink in the US.

Small business shift

It was then I discovered how vibrant Essex is for small businesses. I started attending networking events and joined Facebook  communities for small business owners. I was listening to the key decision makers at agencies and how they wanted to focus on the bigger businesses. I overhead conversations with small business clients and how they don’t have £500-£1000 a month to pay for retainers. It made me feel awful they had nowhere to go for support.

I wanted to take action, so I decided to set up an agency of my own, helping small businesses around Essex. I wanted to share my knowledge with them, help them help themselves and only charge what they could afford. I didn’t have any overheads and although I now have team of four people working for me, I still keep my prices low. 

I don’t want to be a millionaire and would rather see small businesses make the changes they need to make to smash their marketing and grow their business than make money from them. Support is crucial when working with small businesses.

I started offering free consultancy sessions and the take-up was more than I could have imagined. By creating action plans for small businesses, it built up a rapport and trust. I’ve never been so busy with paid work. I’m making more money than when I was working with big companies and have so much more enjoyment meeting new people with amazing ideas and working with them to create their vision. 

Although some people view redundancy as a negative thing, it’s completely turned my life around and made me able to follow my dreams and feel like I’m making a massive difference!

What I’ve learnt from having my own business

  • Build relationships – it’s SO IMPORTANT
  • Your story is your brand. Have a story (mine’s above!) to engage clients/customers, tell them what makes you tick, why you’re doing what you’re doing
  • Give away something little for free – draw people in and show them what you can do
  • Don’t be scared of failure. Be scared of not trying out your new idea
  • NEVER give up if you truly believe in something
  • Value your time
  • Value yourself and your sanity
  • Say no if something doesn’t feel right
  • Self care, self care, self care!

If you’re interested in any of Claire’s services visit her at the below links – she seriously knows what she’s doing and is so passionate!  If you need any digital marketing, she’s your expert!





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