Make It In America

Conquer the USA

Friday 24 April 2020 / 1.30pm to 5pm / British Library

Are you getting your fair share of American business? Join Make It In America and start your Stateside adventure…

Americans. They can’t make a cup of tea and for some reason they love James Corden, but God bless America – because they LOVE British agencies.

A lot of British agencies are doing really well in America right now. Agency owners report that America is a land of open doors. People in the USA love the idea of having a UK agency, and the local competition is often stuck in the Nineties.

There are so many UK agencies finding success in the big-ole-USA right now. This event is your chance to meet them, hear their stories and start planning your stateside adventure!

What’s the difference?

Here’s some of the people you will hear from. Line-up subject to change.

“Being British gets you through the door”

How to grow and staff an American office

Yorkshireman Nik Entwistle’s branding firm Agency AK is succeeding in America. He’ll tell you about his experience cracking America, and how finding clients might be easier than you’d think – but finding good staff stateside could be much harder.

In 2014, Nik Entwistle – founder of branding and design agency Agency TK – was introduced to a famous spaceflight company in California.

Nik signed them on as a client and leased an office in LA. Everything was set for Agency TK’s American expansion!

But back in Yorkshire a few weeks later, Nik got an email: one of the client’s spaceships had crashed, killing a pilot. The project was on hold and their contract was cancelled.

But that wasn’t the end of Agency TK’s US adventure…

Because touring LA, Nik had been struck how the town was full of people keen to work with a “London agency”. Pounding Wiltshire Boulevard, he was able to quickly sweep up major brands like Johnson&Johnson, Sketchers and Sony.

“Being British gets you through the door” says Nik. “There is a definite cachet of having a British agency.”

Nik will be talking about his journey at Make It In America. While finding clients was not as hard as you’d think – finding decent US staff is MUCH harder than you would think.

“In LA, a lot of the talent is more interested in having sound baths and taking CBD than doing what it takes to deliver for clients. So we made a decision to keep all creative out of our UK studio. We found that when people hire a London agency, they expect the work to be actually done there.”

Now when they do hire local staff, they send them to a “bootcamp” in Yorkshire!

Come and hear Nik and hear the unvarnished truth about opening, running and growing a Stateside business.


“America is 7x to 10x the size of the UK”

The successes and mistakes of growing a US business

Specialist Works CEO Martin Woolley will be sharing the lessons he’s learned about growing a business in America

Martin Woolley is CEO of The Specialist Works, a 17 year-old media agency. He’s coming to Make It In America to share his experiences with the USA.

Martin will be talking about what’s EASIER – and what’s HARDER when it comes to opening up Stateside.

“In the last 6 months, I’ve spent 50% of my time in America. We’ve made lots of mistakes over there, and for a long time we were struggling. But now we’re in a good place and we’re seeing positive results.”

Here’s some of what Martin has learned:

  • Hiring staff is very tough. You need to spend time bringing them up to your standards. “We started off employing people we didn’t know, and in the beginning we couldn’t devote enough time to support them. Ultimately, the brutal truth was that some of them weren’t good enough.”
  • You need to launch with an anchor client. “If you open an office with a client you have revenue coming in from the beginning. One big mistake we made was to open an office and then go looking for clients. It completely changes the dynamic.”
  • You need senior boots on the ground from day one. “At first we didn’t send anyone senior out there. We found it’s crucial to have somebody seasoned there who can embed that hard-coded knowledge of how you do business as an agency.”

We’re looking forward to quizzing Martin on what it takes to succeed in the States.

He says: “America is 7 to 10 times the size of the UK in terms of market size and opportunity. I’ve had a few penny drop moments over the last few months that I’m looking forward to sharing”.

“Wait until you have clients knocking on your door”

Do America – but wait until they come to you, say Jake

Made Media’s Jake Grimleymakes most of its revenue in the USA. He will be sharing his advice on how to start and grow an American business.

Jake Grimley’s Made Media opened a Brooklyn office 5 years ago, and now 60% of their revenue comes from the USA.

His advice? Take the government’s export advice with a pinch of salt.

“UK Trade & Investment are helpful, but they kind of have the narrative backwards. They tell you to identify a territory, establish your trademark and commission a report into the viability of the market. The problem is – you need a huge pile of cash to do it that way.”

Made Media builds web apps for arts venues like the Royal Albert Hall and NYC’s Lincoln Theatre. He says it’s may be wiser to wait for the phone to start ringing before you set up shop. “You need to have some clients first – you don’t want to head out there on a fishing expedition.”

Jake is coming to Make It In America to help answer your questions about succeeding in America.

1. There’s a big wage disparity between NY and London. You’ll pay more for staff there – especially digital people, who are being courted by all kinds of startups.

2. Clients work long hours – and often expect you to do the same. “You get emails from clients over Thanksgiving. It shows how committed they are to their jobs. When you combine the time difference with the fact they are working to 10pm, you really need to manage expectations around availability.”

3. You need the right person on the ground. Jake will talk about putting the right people in the right positions, so your USA office can succeed.

We’ll also be asking Jake to share his wisdom about:

  • How do you manage what your team are doing when they’re on the other side of Atlantic?
  • What are the little things you do that will annoy Americans?
  • All the boring technical details – from tax trade across borders to setting up a US bank account

American Dream or American Nightmare?

Waypoint Partners’ Miles Welch will give you an overview of the US opportunity – and show you the pitfalls to avoid

What are some things you need to think about when you are expanding to America?

Waypoint Partners’ Miles Welch has seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to succeeding Stateside. He is here to give us an overview of the agency landscape in America.

Miles will show you:

  • How to choose the right proposition and products.
  • Should you buy, merge, strike a partnership – or grow organically?
  • What are the potential pitfalls? From poor cultural fit to management distraction.

If you are thinking of making a go of America, this is an important talk. Take notes!

Where is it happening?

This event takes place at the British Library just by Kings Cross in London. We’re taking over its conference suite – it has a lovely theatre and five breakout rooms. You can hear from the speakers and then go and discuss what you’ve just heard with other agency leaders.

What’s the difference?