Entrepreneur Claire Scantlebury negotiates business with small town values
For Claire Scantlebury, the possibilities are endless. Yet the entrepreneur has chosen to stay in Cardiff to prove that big things can happen in small cities.
“I get asked all the time about moving to London, and my answer is no because I want to stay here,” she says, with a genuine sincerity to her voice. “My passion is for Cardiff and Wales and Welsh people and the stuff that the city’s cultivating.”
Being in business is a full-time commitment, but for mum-of-one Claire, running three non-profit organisations isn’t even her day job. “Juggling things can be quite tricky,” she admits. “Some evenings and weekends I’ll be up to 2am updating websites, writing emails or having meetings with potential speakers or sponsors.”
Late nights aside, her days are spent working as a marketing manager at Sequence, the biggest independent digital agency in Wales. “It’s difficult,” she adds.
So, between managing two careers and her family, how does she do it all? “I have a very understanding husband,” she smiles.
Flying the flag
Born and bred in Cardiff, Claire recalls her parents’ work ethic having a profound effect on her. “My father’s a journalist and I grew up with him working very long hours, always stressing about constant deadlines and trying to juggle his hobbies,” she says. “Then my mum started her own company, so I grew up watching my parents working very hard. I started to associate working very hard with the pride that they both had in their careers.”
Keen to follow in their footsteps, Claire decided she wanted to play a part in promoting Cardiff as an up-and-coming city after she began to notice the talent it had to offer.
She soon learnt, however, that she faced a challenge to prove not only herself, but also her city. “In the industry I’m in now, you get used to everyone saying how cool London is, or how cool Birmingham is, or how cool Manchester is. No one ever said how cool Cardiff was.”
Determined to change this, she started Cardiff Web Scene in 2007, a network designed to connect local web professionals. It was here where Claire met business partner Neil Cocker. Eager to provide forward-thinkers with a platform for their passions, the pair joined forces to set up Ignite Cardiff and TedXCardiff. Originally both schemes established across the pond, the launch of both events in Cardiff marked a UK first.
As she wasn’t running charities or setting up youth centres, Claire recalls the tough time she had convincing others that her organisations had a place in benefitting the community. “About three years ago we wouldn’t have got the support from the Western Mail and Cardiff Council because it’s not this formal business breakfast thing.”
Even after making her mark on the local scene, she says people still get the wrong idea about her purpose. “There’s no ulterior motive. We do it because we’re both business people and we both want to go to these kind of events,” she explains.“I don’t get paid for it so there’s got to be a love of doing it otherwise there’s not much point.”
On top of being named a Wales Business Insider Rising Star earlier this year, her efforts in putting Wales on the map has garnered her yet another title as Cardiff Ambassador, an honour awarded to individuals who have contributed to raising the professional profile of the capital. “It means I get a badge!” she laughs.
“I think a lot of it stems from that I’m so determined to show that we’ve got great people here. You get so many people who come here for university then leave Wales because they don’t think it has the opportunities.”
It’s this fallacy that Claire is determined to debunk, even after receiving a haul of attractive offers for her to take her business interests elsewhere. “As nice as it would’ve been to pop off to London and get a job in a bigger agency and get paid more and all that sexy stuff, it’s not the lifestyle that I want.”
Instead, she prefers to split her time between the office in the city centre and her home on Barry Island, where she lives with her husband and son. “It’s a nice relaxed pace of life – it’s slightly rural but you’re never far from anything. I wouldn’t get that if I was in London, so I think for me, you’ve got to draw the line between lifestyle choice and money.”
She pauses for a moment of reflection. “I love it here,” she smiles. “I think it’s really important to show that you can be in Cardiff and you can still do incredible and amazing stuff.”
So what next for the woman who does it all? “World domination!” she laughs.