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Yay!Starter's Own, Yana Lapitskaya: “During the first lockdown, we offered our services free of charge.”

Within its first five years while overcoming COVID-19, Yay!Starter Marketing has become a leading Digital Marketing Agency in the United Kingdom, according to Clutch. Founded in 2016  by Russian entrepreneur, Yana Lapitskaya, she shared with Angliya, Britain’s largest Russian newspaper, the advantages that her agency has as an international team collaborating under an unprecedented global pandemic.

To view Angliya’s original piece in Russian, please click here.

Q: How long have you lived in the UK for? Why did you decide to establish your business in London, where the digital marketing industry is extremely competitive?

A: In 2006, I came to the UK to study and fell in love with London. Then, when I began working for several international agencies in Brussel and Paris, I often visited the UK. Eventually, I moved back to London 3 years later in 2009.  Although I knew that the UK is highly competitive in the digital space, in my opinion it is better to regret things you have done than things you haven’t done. To establish a business here in this market, one has to be ready for both negative and positive outcomes. I was able to finally settle in the city I fell in love with years before with a good starting capital and professional experience. 

Q: Has the pandemic affected your business?

A: The pandemic brought chaos into the professional world and day-to-day life. We pretty much had to learn to adapt just like everyone else, in order to stay afloat.  The first lockdown became a test of strength, with businesses closing down and revenues falling, and by June 2020 our agency had neither a team nor any clients remaining. The pandemic forced our employees to back to their countries of citizenship while our clients could not pay for our services.  

At this point, I decided to offer our services at Yay!Starter free of charge to SMEs who found themselves in these difficult circumstances due to the pandemic. Although we offered this, I was pleasantly surprised that none of our clients took the offer and instead pay what they could afford. Due to this experience, our relationships with our clients has only strengthened. 

Thanks to Yay!Starter’s online activities – including webinars and consultations – by the end of the first lockdown in June – our agency was already spoken of so frequently, that new companies started approaching us for services. Later that year, I found a business partner – Jessy Conflon. Jessy specialises in Fintechs. Together in July, we refocused Yay!Starter, formed a new team and began working tirelessly. As a result by persevering throughout the pandemic, the agency has come a long way since its founding. Additionally, we have recently also launched a unique eCommerce Assessment Tool that helps business owners understand their readiness level.

Q: Is it easy to run a business as not only a woman, but as a Russian woman, due to cultural stereotypes?

A: Let’s go from broad to specific here. Firstly, establishing a business in the UK is more straightforward that it is than other countries, which is one reason why many choose to set up here. In terms of women in business, I think it is harder for us because there are many more men in management positions and people prefer to work with those alike. In my case, I can confidently say that I am lucky to work with very open-minded people. With regards to my Russian nationality, my global professional experiences have been very beneficial. Mentally, I got over the suspicion that there might be a different attitude to Russians and earned my trust within the industry long before I established Yay!Starter Marketing.

Q: What are the benefits of applying digital technologies? Why are so many businesses still afraid of them?

A: People are afraid of technological advancement, as resisting change is part of our psychology. However, without the use of technology, progress is impossible, therefore we are all forced to adapt to it. Our agency only offers digital marketing services to promote our clients the products and services through our exclusive tactics. With our digital know-how, we often provide suggestions for general business management. Our clients notably mention our extreme efficiency, which is down to our finely-tuned internal processes and technology. Any questions they may have, we aim to respond to them as soon as possible.

Q: Is our personal data really controlled by the Internet?

A: Personal data management is one of the Internet’s weakest points. At the moment, personal data is highly protected by government legislation worldwide. As an agency, we make it our top priority to ensure the tactics and instruments we use fall within the legal framework.

Q: Which industries rely on your services?

A: Most of our clients are from the eLearning, eCommerce and Fintech industries. A majority of our clients we represent are small and medium businesses including startups that are primarily based in the UK, the Baltics and Russia. I would ideally like to support more Russian business, and help my fellow countrymen grow in international markets since I have a good amount of global experience and an understanding of the UK market. From my perspective, those entering the UK market need to work with local agencies to understand and adopt the best tactics.

Q: What do employees mean to you? You have an international team- how did you manage to put it together? Is everyone working remotely?

A: As a leader, I believe that employees are everything. I think that putting a team together and making it work effectively is one of my main objectives. Regarding the team itself, I was always open to working with people from different nationalities and backgrounds. I think that in our industry, diversity is imperative. Besides, working in a multi-national team allows you to learn so much about other cultures and their values. It is a truly enriching experience that I would not change for the world. During the pandemic, the team worked remotely, but we are slowly starting to get staff back in the office while our freelancers continue to work from home.

Q: What does your typical day look like? What are your success mantras?

A: Typically, my mornings begins with creative tasks. Speaking with clients takes place at any point in the day. Taking care of agency tasks usually takes place in the second half of the day. Our team has a daily video call at 9:30 AM every morning. In addition, I frequently participate in online events. However, I cannot wait to attend in-person meetings once the pandemic is over. I miss face-to-face interactions with like-minded individuals. 

In terms of success mantras, I do not have a long list, however, I do have a few. First of all, do not postpone until tomorrow what you can do today. Of course – I only use this as a saying because realistically overloading yourself does no one any good. The second mantra is underpromise and overdeliver. The point is to not create any false expectations in your clients. It is always better to do more than was promised rather than the other way around. Finally, it is crucial to do what you truly love. This way, every working day will be a pleasure. That’s something I am grateful for every day at a successful agency in a city I love. 

Interviewed by Elena Nedelya 

To view Angliya’s original piece in Russian, please click here.