Between you and me, I spend the majority of my week with my hair scraped back, dressed head to toe in what I like to call my ‘writing slobs’. AKA baggy grey sweat pants that have remnants of my late night cupboard raids dotted all over them… By the time interview day comes around therefore, the excuse to slap some make up on, brush my hair and wear an actual outfit is oh so welcomed. Especially when said interview takes place on the rooftop of ‘The Ned’ in London with one of its incredibly glamorous private members…
It’s Friday 20th October and I’m off to meet Jessica Psaila, the 27 year old Founder of Glossy Consulting– a dedicated and specialised beauty PR agency that she launched four years ago in London.
At first glance, it would be so easy to assume that Jess is one of those girls born into the right crowd. That she’s been handed everything in life to get to where she is… She gets it a lot.
But don’t be fooled.
This woman has a brain that surpasses the obvious beauty and has worked damn hard for every contact (and penny) she’s earned. After a quick tour, ogling the rooftop pool and the panoramic views of our capital’s skyline, we sit down in two fancy seats – you know those ones where you don’t know whether to lean back and embrace it in all its glory or perch politely pretending you’re doing it for the good posture – and if ever there was a best way to start an interview, she nails it in one.
Jess Psaila. I think we need coffee!
She can. She did. Right, shall we start from the beginning then?!
JP. I feel like I’ve got so much to say!
SC.SD. That’s always a good sign! Let’s start with what Glossy Consulting is all about?
JP. Ok so we offer a completely results driven and really personal service to luxury beauty brands – from start-ups to more established brands and everything else in-between! I guess the service we deliver is best described as the new age of public relations… everything we do is current and fresh and makes our clients brands heard and remembered because it’s an incredibly saturated industry. I live and breathe beauty, I’ve always been obsessed!
SC.SD. Since you were little?
JP. Yeh! My Mum has always been into them so I’ve always trialled stuff! It’s how it all started really because I enjoyed sharing my experiences…
With that in mind, Jess went on to study Journalism at Portsmouth University with the hope of one day becoming a Beauty Editor at a magazine. At the end of her second year, she launched ‘The Beauty Room’- her own beauty blog (rebranded nowadays as ‘The Glossy Blog’) which to this day she credits for her rise to success.
JP. It all started from the blog and I’m so thankful I started it because none of this would have happened without it! I just started documenting my thoughts on different products. I’d buy them myself and then review them and it just confirmed that I wanted to be a beauty journalist; I always had too much to say!
Whilst she was still at university, Jess also interned for magazines including Grazia and Vogue.
SC.SD. Did the blog help you to get those internships because I can imagine that they’re fiercely competitive to get onto?
JP. Yes definitely! In my interviews I’d show them the blog and take printouts of posts that I’d written to show that I enjoyed writing and that my interest in beauty was genuine.
It was whilst Jess was at Vogue, that the now Beauty and Lifestyle Director, Jessica Diner, suggested she looked into PR.
JP. She was like, “Jess, I really think you have PR skills…you should go down that route.” I’d never ever thought about it before then and I was quite young so it was a good time to experiment. I ended up getting a year’s paid internship at the L’Oreal Head Office in Hammersmith after graduating and it was MAJOR. I didn’t realise at the time what I was getting myself into…
SC.SD. Are we talking good or bad?!
JP. It was literally like The Devil Wears Prada. It was so awful and amazing all at the same time but I learnt so much; I was really thrown in at the deep end…
SC.SD. I assume as an intern, that made you bottom of the ranks?!
JP. Literally! I’m not a bitchy girl. I don’t like that vibe at all, it was so intimidating. There were some lunch times where I used to go to the toilets and cry!
JP. Yeh, I could talk to you all day about L’Oreal.
Seeing that we’re mid interview and there are a few people talking nearby, our waiter comes over and suggests that we move to a private pod. As we sit down in our – now much quieter – new setting, Jess instantly relaxes… turns out one of said chatterboxes was an ex-fling from years gone by!
JP. Right, I’ll give you some good answers now! Basically, to summarise L’Oreal was the most stressful time but in hindsight, I’m so glad I did it because I had to learn everything from scratch. In PR no matter what is happening in your personal life, when you go to meet journalists and you’re pitching you have to be on top form because you’re representing other peoples companies and every time you connect with someone you never know who they’re connected to.
It was good for me to be in that environment where I had to think on my feet and be able to do a million things at the same time. Nowadays, I’m literally juggling a million things at once. It’s constant and I think without that experience at L’Oreal, I wouldn’t know how to do that.
SC.SD. What was your biggest take away from that experience?
JP. I always knew I wanted to start my own business one day so I think because I felt like I wasn’t treated very well by the PR Directors, I used to think, ‘If I ever have an intern or someone working with me, I’m never, ever, ever going to make them feel the way that they’ve made me feel.’
SC.SD. What did they do to you that made the experience so bad?
JP. It was mainly the way they spoke down to me… they just made me feel so stupid. I remember my first dress down Friday. I wore skinny jeans, loafers and a blazer. I thought it was perfect… casual but still smart, I can’t go wrong with that!
JP. I got in to work and one of the ladies stood there, fixed her eyes on me, physically looked me up and down and just went “what do you think you’re wearing? … Didn’t you get the memo? It’s dress down Friday.” I was so startled and just said “yeh, I know” and she was like “well why are you wearing that?” I honestly didn’t know what to say. I just felt so stupid.
SC.SD. Sounds like the classic case of someone on a power trip…
JP. I was so upset! It was long days, really stressful and it’s not that I’m afraid of hard work because I’m not at all but I just didn’t feel happy. Now if my business folded tomorrow…
SC.SD. Touch wood!
JP. Touch wood! I would never go and work in an environment like that! You don’t get the best out of someone when you treat them like that so I vowed never to be that person.
After working at a few other companies, Jess returned to work at the Evening Standard and was soon approached by The Metro to blog for them too.
JP. So I was blogging for The Metro, doing my own blog and working 9-5… I just felt like I was on the cusp of something! I just wasn’t really sure what so I just carried on doing my thing!
At that point the blog was growing and I was making some really strong connections with brands. I always wanted to put myself out there so I’d always introduce myself in person as much as possible which helped.
SC.SD. Does that come naturally to you?
JP. Yes, definitely. It was then that I had this feeling of ‘I need to do this now’ – I’m like that with everything – and I just started chatting with a few brands.
Not before long, Jess started doing freelance social media work for a number of clients alongside her 9-5 at the Evening Standard.
SC.SD. Do you remember which client came first?!
JP. It was the owner of a salon in Kensington called Mark Glen- he’s still one of my clients now! I just asked who did his social media and gave him a bit of constructive feedback… it was a really nice chat and then he just went “well do you want to do it for me?” and asked for a proposal! So… I went off, put together my first ever proposal, we had a meeting and he became my first free-lance client!
SC.SD. Did you know much about pricing at that stage?
JP. Not at all…
SC.SD. How did you go about putting that proposal together then? Because I can imagine you don’t want to go in too high in case you scare him off but you don’t want to undersell yourself either…
JP. It was really hard actually and even now it’s really difficult! Remembering that you should be paid what your worth is so important. But I speak to my Dad about 4 times a day and he’s always been a bit of a mentor to me so he helped me and Mark was happy with it! It did make me think ‘maybe I should have gone in higher!’ though but I was just happy to have something!
With her first client under her belt, Jess started approaching other small brands and much to her disbelief, her client base grew.
JP. It wasn’t massive money at all but I was really happy because I had them all on rolling contracts! I just kept thinking ‘how is this happening!?’ It just snowballed really but I really enjoyed this whole other side of my life on the side of my 9 to 5 job!
SC.SD. When did it hit you that you could do this full-time?
JP. I went on holiday with my friend Lucy and this sounds so cliché but we were sitting on a nudist beach – don’t worry, we weren’t naked, we were just topless! But we were just chatting and the whole holiday I felt like I just wanted to do something with all these freelance clients. I just felt so inspired; you know when you just think ‘this is my time’?! I just said to Lucy “when I get back I’m going to hand my notice in and start my agency”…
SC.SD. This is me in April! I went to Ibiza with my boyfriend and couldn’t stop thinking about this and just remember thinking ‘I’m going back into the office on Monday and I’m going to hand my notice in!’
JP. Ah we had the same thing! Isn’t it the best feeling?! It’s almost like a shift in your mind. I was so excited. I felt like my drink tasted nicer, my food tasted yummier!
SC.SD. … the sky was bluer!?
JP. Haha exactly! And I knew that because I’d made that decision, I’d follow through with it.
True to her word, Jess spent the rest of the trip planning and when she returned from holiday, after a three week notice period, Psaila Pr – now rebranded as Glossy Consulting – was born.
SC.SD. What did that first day feel like?
JP. Honestly, I didn’t even feel scared by it. Even though they weren’t paying me much at the time, I just felt that if I can go into a company and make them want to put their trust in me, then I can do this.
My parents are so hard working. They’ve always had their own businesses and nothing has been easy. I’ve never been given anything and I was bought up with that mind-set. My Dad used to say to me “if you think you can, you can”, I honestly think he told me every single day and so I grew up with this self-belief and ‘I can’ attitude! I always think people think I’ve been given money but I’ve worked for everything I’ve got and I’m actually really glad about that because it’s so grounding! It’s always made me strive to be successful.
Especially in the beginning, you can be hopeful that everything is going to be fine but you don’t actually know yet, you’ve got to just go for it! My last pay check from the Evening Standard went so quickly so I had to make it work. Plus I told my family and friends that it was happening so there was an added pressure there too.
SC.SD. Absolutely. It’s your pride at stake at the end of the day…. how did you finance it in those early days?
JP. Because I’m offering a service and not a product I didn’t have any initial outlays which helped! I just had to account for the fact I had to live off my earnings from the clients I had already gained freelancing but that just pushed me even harder to get more clients! Getting the ‘right’ clients was important to me though so that meant sacrifice in the beginning…I knew that I needed to start as I meant to go on! I wanted to be proud to shout about my brands and you can’t pretend you love a brand- journalists see straight through it! So there were a few times where I had to walk away from brands (even when they had big budgets!) As tempting as it was I had to keep the bigger picture and end goal in mind!
SC.SD. I bet! Any big breaks?
JP. About three months in, I wanted to try these new hair extensions for the blog so that my hair could be really long like Rapunzel (my lifelong dream!)… like your hair! Great Lengths Hair got back to me and sent me to a hair salon called Daniel Galvin, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him?
SC.SD. I’m so clueless with most of this stuff!
JP. Haha ok so it’s one of the biggest hair salons in London (3 salons, 1 in Selfridges), Daniel is famous worldwide in the industry for hair colour… anyway the Operations Director for the entire brand came over and introduced himself to me…
When Jess told him that she’d emailed the first part of the blog coverage to their PR lady, he quickly informed her that she no longer worked there.
JP. Bearing in mind I’d just started out (!), I was like “oh… are you looking?!” It literally just fell out of my mouth but he said yes and I explained that I’d started my PR agency. I literally don’t know what came over me. This is a major salon and such a prestigious name in the industry! I don’t know why I felt that confident because I definitely don’t always feel like that!
Though taken aback, the Operations Director agreed to have a meeting and when Jess emailed over her proposal, he emailed back straight away asking for her to come in the following day- Daniel and his son James wanted to meet her.
SC.SD. Were you nervous?
JP. I was so nervous but knew I had to do it! Daniel was like “Jess you’re ideal! You’re hungry, you want this, you’ve just started your business…” and I just felt like ‘how is this happening?!’ I felt on really good form in that meeting though, I was just being myself and I guess they thought why not! It was more money as well! I had such a spring in my step when I left the salon!
SC.SD. I bet, that’s huge! You mentioned that it snowballed quickly; were there days at the beginning when you felt like it was getting a bit out of control… Imposter Syndrome for instance?
JP. A number of times actually. I’ve actually been having hypnotherapy sessions lately because the moment I feel I’m too stressed and not being my best self, I feel like something needs to change so I take a step back and assess- I’m giving it a go anyway! My business has grown so much in the past year – much bigger than I ever thought it would – and whilst that’s so amazing, the hypnotherapy is trying to help me filter my thoughts and make me feel more relaxed… live in the present moment rather than running at a trillion miles an hour.
I’ve got such amazing relationships with my clients, and our meetings are all so creative and we get so much out of them… contracts never stop, we’re messaging all the time at such strange hours of the day! I want to give them everything because their business is their baby and my business is my baby but…
SC.SD. You don’t want to burn out?
JP. Yeh. I think looking after your mental health and wellbeing is incredibly vital to everything else in your life. If you’re not feeling your best you can’t give your best and you can get into a really negative headspace sometimes and put yourself down but it’s not helpful at all.
SC.SD. How did you deal with that at the beginning?
JP. Hmmm… I’m a very organised person. I have an app for everything now because if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t have the clients that I have and be able to do everything I do in one day! Back then though, I’d write lists for what I want to achieve by the end of the day, by the end of the week, who I need to speak to etc… just try and break it down. Sometimes it feels like you have so much to do and even now, when I take a client on, I sometimes think, ‘oh my god can I do this?’ You get that fear but then I’m like ‘no Jess, you’ve done this so many times, you can do it.’
SC.SD. It’s just giving yourself that pep talk isn’t it? Let’s talk about the dodgy bits! Any days where you’ve felt like this just isn’t what you signed up for?
JP. So many times! There’s definitely been times where I’ve undersold myself, I’m giving too much and I haven’t charged enough for what I’m doing. I launched one of my clients in Selfridges and I was having sleepless nights, it was so, so stressful…I just felt burnt out, overworked, overwhelmed and I couldn’t afford to pay my assistant more even though I needed her to do more. Obviously I’m a small business so I can only take on a certain number of clients but there are only so many hours in the day. I can’t produce good work because…
SC.SD. You don’t have room to be inspired?
JP. Yes and I’m not energised. So there were times coming up to that launch where I felt like I was having a bit of a breakdown.
SC.SD. It’s such a shame because it sounds like such a great break but I get it, when you’re that busy there’s no room to appreciate it and you can’t see what you’re actually achieving.
JP. Exactly, I felt like no money in the world would be enough. My client was ringing me at 11oclock at night, leaving me 20 minute long voice mails, emailing me in the night… I’d wake up, read my emails and get such a rush of anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. I’d just feel like I needed to get to my computer and start my to-do list.
SC.SD. What did you do to gain control of that situation?
JP. I ended up paying my then-assistant, more so I could delegate more because that was my only answer. And I’d speak to James, my fiancé. He’s been absolutely amazing throughout this whole journey. We got together the same month I started this so he’s seen the highs, lows and everything in between.
JP.There’s been times when I’ve thought ‘do I even want to do this anymore?’ but when you’re working on your own, you find that inner strength because you have to. Giving up wasn’t an option. You have a life to pay for and above all of that, I started this business because I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to have my own little empire! So I couldn’t just walk away from that!
SC.SD. Absolutely! What makes you know that it’s all worth it?
JP. There are so many things! When you get amazing coverage in an amazing magazine and you send it to your client and they’re over the moon! I’m like “Yes!” I’ve done it! That’s a really good feeling.
But what really makes it worth it are my clients and how I can see the work I’m doing is genuinely helping to grow and evolve their business; not just in regards to gaining press coverage and followers but the knock on effect of that in helping to make them money and be known in the industry. One of my clients and now lifelong friend, Bridget O’Keeffe, Founder of Blush + Blow is always giving me the most incredible, uplifting feedback. She’s the ultimate girl boss and we’re always telling each other how lucky we are to find each other and I genuinely believe that it all happened for a reason! Having feedback like that and feeling inspired from the people I’m surrounded with in my work life is literally the best feeling and I’m so lucky to have a relationship like that with one of my clients.
They’re the highs. It makes it all so worth it, it’s making a difference to people’s lives and it gives you so much faith to carry on and to know that what you’re doing is legit!
SC.SD. It’s a huge responsibility when you put it like that. There must be perks too!? For someone that likes beauty you must get a lot of freebies right!?
JP. Yes, so many treatments and beauty samples which is a definite perk! This year, one of my clients who I’m now really good friends with, took me on a work trip to Barcelona which was a lot of fun and last year I went to Grenada in the Caribbean because I do freelance writing for some magazines too!
On the side of her business and blog, Jess also finds the time to write for big titles including Huffington Post!
JP. It was so surreal. Experiences like that make me feel so lucky to be in this position. To be able to still have my PR company and still be able to write from time to time; writing is still such a passion of mine and always will be!
SC.SD. You’ve obviously mentioned that James and your parents are a huge source of support. Have friends been equally supportive?
SC.SD. Have you noticed any changes for instance?
JP. I guess it’s just really hard when you think friends will be there and always support you because you give that to them… when you don’t get that back from them you just think why? I’ve had some really weird situations in the past four years where people say they’re happy for me when actually they’re not and they make snide remarks.
SC.SD. Such as?
JP. They’ll say stuff like “I can’t believe you’ve got another designer handbag Jess” and I just feel like I’ve saved so damn hard for that and worked so hard for that, don’t make a judgement on my life. I’m not trying to pretend that I’m this amazing hotshot. I’ve worked for every penny myself.
My best friends are so supportive though and they’re there for me every step of the way. My friend Lucy is my daily mentor, we’re always on the end of the phone or meeting up for coffees! My friend Beth owns a digital marketing company so we’re always helping each other with work stuff. It’s so amazing to be able to bounce ideas off of each other and have that level of support from someone who’s going through the same thing. Then my best friend Hannah has the biggest heart of anyone I know and makes me a better version of myself! I love that even though she’s not in the same industry as me she totally gets me and everything I’m about!
SC.SD. You need girls around you like that though, ones who genuinely want the best for you…
JP. You so need them! When you go through the lows and even when you go through the highs, you want to share that. You don’t want to have to downplay it all to make someone else feel better about their lives. It’s a two way thing.
It’s the same with competition. I know that PR is competitive but I feel like it’s so important to be kind and support each other. You never know when your paths will cross and when you need someone. I think this sector is big enough for everyone who deserves to do well and is good at what they do to be successful – a lot of my friends are in PR and in the industry and I love that we can all help each other. I find it inspiring!
SC.SD. It’s so healthy to have that outlook. What motivates you through all of this?
JP. Relationships I think and job satisfaction and success. I’m not money driven. Of course I like nice things (especially handbags!) but I’m not one of these people that say: “I need to get X number from this client because then I’m turning over 200 grand a year let’s say…” My mind just doesn’t work like that.
When I decided to do this business, I had a vision and I’ve stuck to my morals. I’ve always looked after my staff and Rosie – my Account Manager – is amazing! We have an amazing relationship, I don’t know what I’d do without her and I feel like we get so much out of our workship! All of that motivates me. Having something that I’ve created and it being successful motivates me.
SC.SD. Can you see yourself at the helm of this business forever?
JP. Yes but I don’t know if my role will stay like this. Even though I’m not having children anytime soon, I do think about how I will do things when I do? I can’t physically be running around London like I am now because I don’t think that’s sustainable and I want to give my whole self to my children!
I feel like I’ve got the trust from my clients now though and built up a good reputation (hopefully!) so I’m hoping that’s not going to disappear overnight. I want to give my children all of my attention so I think I’d take a step back and plan the vision with my clients, but then ideally have a team to actually put that into practice.
SC.SD. Sounds like a good plan! Could you see yourself starting any other businesses on the side?
JP. See I’m always saying to James, we should do this, we should do that! I’d love a beauty salon one day though. I feel like I’ve had such an insight into how they’re run so I’d love to have my own… Plus I love interiors so designing it would be so fun!
SC.SD. I feel like this is a good time to ask what your favourite quote is!
JP. Ooo, let me make sure I say this right..! It’s Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
SC.SD. Like that woman at L’Oreal…
JP. Exactly, I’ll never forget that! I think the way someone makes you feel is everything.
SC.SD. How do you want people to remember you then?
JP. Hmmm, happy, humble and heartfelt!
SC.SD. Something tells me that won’t be a problem!
You can probably tell by the length of our chat, but I could talk to Jess for hours on end.
Despite being at the forefront of a hugely competitive industry, where women on power trips (sadly) are still part of the parcel; Jess has built a company that prides itself on integrity and passion and refuses to succumb to the stereotype so often associated with her role.
With a self-belief instilled in her from a young age, she’s never been afraid to aim high; and having stayed consistent from day one – working solely with brands that she actually believes in – her CV at 27 is something to be praised.
She’s one of the most genuine women I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
So what if she’s got a weakness for handbags?!
She deserves each and every one, if you ask me.
For more information on Glossy Consulting, visit their website here.