Libby Witherden and Colette Farrugia are the founders of Solid Ground, a creative property marketing agency.
“Manchester is growing. You can’t look up without seeing cranes towering over you from every angle and it’s growing outwards too – with new areas and neighbourhoods popping on the fringes of the city centre all the time.”
In 2016, Libby and Colette realised there was a gap in the market, especially in Manchester, with no dedicated agency to building and curating communities. Knowing that they worked well as a team, and with their complementary skillset, they decided to set up the business and Solid Ground was born. Solid Ground’s expertise is in mixed-use estates and big buildings. Combining traditional marketing, with interesting events and pop-up activations, Solid Ground makes a place thrive. Looking at each project individually and working closely with landlords and developers, Solid Ground turn new or unloved locations, into must-visit destinations and vibrant communities.
What makes Manchester a great place to start a business?
Firstly, the amount of business that is here. Manchester is growing. You can’t look up without seeing cranes towering over you from every angle and it’s growing outwards too – with new areas and neighbourhoods popping on the fringes of the city centre all the time.
Secondly, it has to be the people. For us to deliver an excellent service to our clients we need excellent people. Not only does Manchester and the surrounding cities (Salford, Chester, Liverpool) have first-rate universities producing quality candidates, the city itself attracts people from all over the UK and the world which means you can recruit a truly exceptional team and we have been really lucky with the people who work with us.
What makes a great start-up in 2018?
I think being flexible and having the ability to adapt for a changing market, it could be the evolution of the co-working space in big buildings or the emerging trends in technology for the social media channels we manage. Whatever it may be, it’s important to have the edge and to always be thinking of the next big thing so you can stay ahead of the game.
What inspired you to start the business?
” We started our business because we could see that there was an opportunity and we knew we could make a difference and build something.
What makes your business stand out from the crowd?
One of Solid Ground’s USP’s is that we actually deliver the services in-house. So our clients know that they have a one-stop shop for all of their placemaking needs whereas many other agencies outsource a lot of the work. Being in the property industry, it’s also unusual to have two female co-founders.
What surprised you the most when setting up your business?
The amount of support and encouragement that we’ve received. Not just from friends and family, but everyone – it is hard work, and it’s nice to know people have your back.
What keeps you motivated?
No single day is the same at Solid Ground. Working in a small team, we have to be in tune with everything that’s going on in the business, so one minute we could be Instagram-ing a giant polar bear and the next we’re pitching to international developers in London. Also, the satisfaction of seeing one of our ideas succeed is a huge buzz and it’s great to celebrate with the team at the end of a long event day.
How does your business help give back to Manchester?
The Manchester Duck Race is the largest event we deliver in Manchester and we work with local children’s charity Brainwave. For the past two years (since Solid Ground has been involved) the event has raised £20,000 for the charity and this year Libby was made an ambassador for the charity.
In addition to our work with Brainwave, Colette is a brand ambassador for Forever Manchester and we have delivered multiple events to raise money for this fantastic charity.
What are your business goals for the next 3 years?
We support and build on the natural evolution of a space, so part of our three-year plan will be growing with the developments we currently work on. As they get larger, our team will have to grow to ensure they continue to be a success.
Our first annual ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’ feature is our pick of the most inspiring startups and stepups in our city. If you’d like to be featured in 2019’s ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.