For National Careers Week, we wanted to catch up with some of our accomplished alumni to see how their time at Harper Adams has shaped their careers. Speaking to Kaylie Bloxham, founder of Bloxham PR, we asked about her Harper experience and what doors a degree that matters has opened for her.
The BSc (Hons) Business Management with Marketing student graduated in 2010, and remembers her studies fondly. She commented: "I grew up on a farm and adore being in the countryside, so Harper Adams represented a home away from home, whilst also providing the opportunity for a new challenge.
"Everything about the University was inclusive, which I feel is so important and a point of difference to other universities. Because of this, my best experience whilst being at Harper Adams was undoubtedly the community and making life-long friends."
On her reason for choosing to come to Harper Adams, Kaylie said: "The most significant reasons for choosing Harper Adams over any other agricultural university was the strength of the courses and the placement year.
"Knowing how vital real life experience is upon graduating, I saw this as a real benefit and it rightly turned out to be pivotal in my career."
While at university, Kaylie undertook a placement year with West London Shooting School. Working in the gun room and shop, Kaylie supported much of the day-to-day activity while getting involved in elements of the shooting school's wider marketing portfolio.
Kaylie explained the benefits of her placement year, saying: "My year in industry allowed me to build foundations upon which I built my career. Those I worked with during my placement year – many of whom remain friends and still work in the shooting industry – have been amazing advocates and have made invaluable introductions over the years."
Following graduation, Kaylie returned to the West London Shooting School. As her placement was her first introduction to the shooting industry, Kaylie continued to build her network and work with some of the most powerful brands in the sectors. From this opportunity, she embarked onto a variety of other job roles, acquiring new skills and carving out a space in the industry to make her own mark.
"The decision to start my own business was very organic, though I always knew I wanted to build something of my own," she said. "Having worked for a boutique PR agency in London for a number of years, then for a short time in-house at menswear outfitters Oliver Brown, I felt my time in the city was up and decided to move back home to Gloucestershire.
"Oliver Brown’s proprietor said that should I go freelance, I could take over their account, and I’m pleased to say we are still representing the brand six years later.
"Though one brand wasn’t enough to go freelance full-time, I worked in a marketing role within a local healthcare company. Over a six-month period I built-up my freelance accounts to a level where I could no longer juggle my in-house role, so left to go freelance full time.
"At this point I was also being asked to pitch by more brands than I could look after myself, so made the decision to move out of my living room into an office space, to allow me to appoint my first employee. That was in September 2014, and today the business employs ten talented PR and marketing professionals and represents 20 clients within the fashion, field sports and luxury lifestyle sectors."
After this success, Kaylie returned to Harper Adams to speak about her business and success at the Harper Forum. As a source of career inspiration, the Forum runs weekly to share an insight with the student body about careers across many industries.
Reflecting on the Forum, Kaylie said: "It was such an honour to be invited to speak. I was very nervous given my public speaking credentials peak at reading at a friend’s wedding, but I actually really enjoyed it and was delighted to receive so many questions!
"I’d not been back to Harper Adams since graduating nearly ten years ago so it was a very nostalgic visit, bringing back special memories of a very happy time in my life."
The student body were inspired by Kaylie's success, especially as a start-up business woman. On creating your own start-up business, Kaylie offered this advice: "If you’d like to start your own business, it’s never too soon to build your own brand.
"In PR and marketing there are so many small businesses who need help on a small scale that don’t have the budget available to appoint an agency. It might be teaching the absolute basics of social media, or it may be designing a flyer on PowerPoint. You know more than you think you do and your value to a small businesses can be huge!
"Small ad hoc projects in the holidays will be invaluable in helping to build your portfolio, credentials and reputation, improving your employability either from an employer point of view or a brand looking to invest in you and your business further down the line."
Looking to the future, Kaylie talked about her ambitions for Bloxham PR. She said: "We remain ambitious as we advance our services for the benefit of our clients. We are acutely aware, particularly in the current climate, of the requirement to evaluate PR activity to ensure a consistent level of performance, in-line with overall business objectives, and we do this diligently to realise Bloxham PR as a valuable investment.
"We are privileged to look after all of the brands within our portfolio - some which I’m sure will be very familiar to Harper Adams students such as Schöffel, Fairfax & Favor, Whale of a Time and Hicks & Brown. Our immediate focus is to continue to improve on increased quality to generate growth for our existing clients and, in turn, the agency. Improving our delivery will also enable us to continue to win new business.
"People are the absolute core of the business and as such, mentoring and developing talent within the team remains a constant focus."
To keep up to date with Kaylie and Bloxham PR, you can follow their Instagram here. For more Harper Adams updates, you can follow our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for news, stories and student successes!