C Squared: Dublin mums drive affordable future of marketing

Two mothers from Dublin Ciara Battigan and Ciara Hurson blended their skills to establish C Squared Marketing to deliver project-based marketing solutions that allow businesses to tap into their combined 30 years of experience.

Why did you set up C Squared Marketing?

We spotted a gap in the market for SMEs to access marketing expertise. We thought it would be interesting to see how we’d approach filling it by blending our skills together. We also wanted a better work-life balance. We are both mothers and didn’t want to go back to the corporate world we’d come from.

We wanted work that fitted around our lives, to enjoy it and have a bit of fun along the way.

“We are both mothers and didn’t want to go back to the corporate world we’d come from. We wanted work that fitted around our lives, to enjoy it and have a bit of fun along the way”

How did you establish your brand?

Our USP (unique selling point) is that we’re flexible. We work on a freelance basis, which is a more efficient way for companies to work than having a permanent marketing team. With us, companies can outsource us when they need to. We get the job done efficiently, removing the headache from the business owner who may not have marketing experience or a marketing department. We’re also quite cost effective. We slot in like a marketing department. While we have clients on a retainer, we also work on a project basis, meaning we are very flexible.

For small-to-medium sized businesses looking for a marketing resource, it will often be quite a junior role.  A plus for our clients is that they can tap into the 30 years of experience we have between us. We have the level of experience they require, whether they know it or not. With us they get guidance and a bigger thinking strategic piece. And then we get stuck in and deliver it all too.

Two women looking at a laptop.

Ciara Battigan and Ciara Hurson, C Squared Marketing

“People are ready for new flexible ways of working because they understand it’s a more efficient way of doing things”

As an independent Irish business, what makes your company different and how do you stand out from the crowd?

We provide one point of contact for businesses, managing everything from start to finish. We are fully answerable to the business owner and have full autonomy. Rather than feeding into a marketing person or department, we go straight to the business owner. We get the job done and fast.

“With us they get guidance and a bigger thinking strategic piece. And then we get stuck in and deliver it all too”

What challenges have you met and how did you overcome them?

We set up just before Covid-19 hit. Initially, when schools closed we thought we should park the business for a while, but we didn’t, we were in too deep and wanted to give it a go. One of the negatives for us is that we haven’t met most of our clients. Normally in the service business, it’s about building relationships, building trust. That’s been a big challenge. Having meetings on Zoom was strange at first, but we got used to it quickly and it turned into a positive because we are more efficient with our time. We’re working mums and our time is very precious.

A challenge has been knowing how to pitch ourselves to the right market with the correct price tag and skills. We made a few mistakes at the beginning which provided really good learning and we’ve since found our sweet spot.  

One of the biggest challenges for us is time. Managing our time can be stressful. We’re full time mums and full time marketers, with very little childcare due to Covid-19. Trying to balance all of that is challenging. We realised after a year of juggling that we need to outsource some elements of the job that drain our time and energy. To address this, we have built a strong network of freelancers that add to our offering so that we can continue to add value for our clients.

“Having meetings on Zoom was strange at first, but we got used to it quickly and it turned into a positive because we are more efficient with our time. We’re working mums and our time is very precious”

What supports did you receive and how could the support for entrepreneurs be improved?

There are lots of business networks out there, such as Women in Business Network, but we haven’t utilised them much. We tapped into the Chamber of Commerce and the Local Enterprise Office is great. Bank of Ireland’s Business Banking was so helpful setting us up and are they are still on email if we need any advice.

What was the most important thing you learnt and what would you like to teach other businesses?

It sounds really clichéd, but building up confidence and believing that what you’re saying is of value is crucial. Having the opportunity to do work that we love, that fits around our lives is amazing but a challenge is setting boundaries. It’s really important to make sure you carve out time for yourself to help manage stress.

At times, we underestimated the time involved in a particular project, which sometimes drained us with regard to doing other things better. Because there aren’t many people around during Covid-19, we’ve learned to make time to have a laugh as well as work, because that’s part of the reason we got into this together – to enjoy it.

Don’t worry too much about making money.  Start your business and the rest will fall into place. We didn’t have formal mentors but networking and putting yourself out there leads to opportunity. Back when we could meet people, we set up coffee meetings morning, noon, and night. Not all of them led directly to business opportunities, but they led to something good. Doors opened for us in unexpected ways. Keep meeting people, they are always happy to share advice or their learning experience with you. Be brave and put yourself out there.

“It sounds really clichéd, but building up confidence and believing that what you’re saying is of value is crucial”

What are your plans for the future?

We’d like to make a difference. There’s a real opportunity to get mums who left their big brand jobs to have kids back working. After a certain amount of time, lots of women find they can’t get back to where they were so they don’t go back. There are lots of mums out there like that.  We have just recruited our first mum who is ex agency and has wanted to get back to work for a long time but didn’t know where to start. People are ready for new flexible ways of working because they understand it’s a more efficient way of doing things.

“There’s a real opportunity to get mums who left their big brand jobs to have kids back working”

We’ve had a really exciting year. We worked hard and got on with it during a very difficult phase. We’re doing really good groundwork now and when restrictions lift, the sky’s the limit.

Interview by Olivia McGill

Published: 29 March 2021