Make it or break it: Fiona Blades @ MESH Experience talks top tips for startups

09 May 2019 | Interviews

Make it or break it: Fiona Blades @ MESH Experience talks top tips for startups

By Laura Giffard

Fiona Blades, President and Chief Experience Officer of MESH Experience, lives in New York with her husband, Alexa, photos of her relatives, books and posters from her mother’s Indy nightclub In Manchester. She describes her happy place as being with her husband.

What does your typical day look like?

On a good day I pop down to the gym for 30 minutes before showering and getting onto calls with our teams In London and Sao Paulo.

Then a wonderful walk through Lower East Side to our office In SoHo, through cobbled roads, past graffiti, window shopping along the way. Meetings with the MESH New York team and client meetings In Manhattan or with our LG client in New Jersey.

Lunch is always a pleasure - there are so many vegan options, from salads to noodles, tiny cafés to Dean and Deluca.

What do you do after work?

About twice a week I might have a social or business drink with friends or work colleagues. I love going to art galleries and attending events, whether dance, cinema, music or theatre.

Tell us about you and your business.

MESH Experience is a data, analytics and insight consultancy, working with Fortune 500 companies like LG Electronics and Delta Air Lines.

I set up MESH to disrupt the market and fill a gap. Coming from a marketing and advertising background with Mercedes Benz as a client at the time, I wanted to know how every brand encounter, from seeing a TV ad to hearing it reviewed on Top Gear or seeing it parked outside a neighbour’s house, impacted on people’s perceptions of that brand. If we understood people’s experiences with brands, we could help clients to make quicker and better decisions about their marketing investment.

Back in 2006, I thought we could ask people to tell us every time they had any experience with a set of brands using their mobile phone. This generated excitement and scepticism from clients! But by 2012 Harvard Business Review called our Real-time Experience Tracking approach “a new tool (that) radically improved marketing research.”

Since then we have created a manifesto for Experience Driven Marketing, an Experience Growth Model and other tools and techniques, including using AI, to help our clients. MESH now has offices in London, New York, Sao Paulo and Sydney. It has provided me with some wonderful opportunities personally, such as working with people in different countries and cultures.

Over the years MESH has won many awards, but one that I feel most proud of was winning the Delta Woman Owned Business of the Year Award In 2017.

They say year 3 is when you make it or break it as a start-up. Have you ever come close to breaking it? What’s your single piece of advice for making it?

Yes, I have often come close to breaking It! David Ogilvy once said that you are always three phone calls away from massive success and massive failure. It feels like that almost every day.

When the recession hit in 2009, three years after setting up MESH, we were nominated for four awards at the Market Research Society annual conference at the beginning of one . week in March and by the end of the week only a quarter of the team was left due to the cuts I needed to make. I sent out a newsletter - “A Week of Highs and Lows”. Actually, I think this honesty paid off and by April we had lots of business again.

My single piece of advice for making it is to be resilient - keep going with a cool head, maintaining your personal integrity. It is fine to ask for help and when the going gets tough, it’s inspiring to see who responds positively. In 2009, I needed to tell our MD in Singapore (a new office) that we couldn’t send any more money out. 24 hours later he responded to say that the team could halve their costs - they would move temporarily to Thailand. I would never have thought of this! And we still collaborate today.

Remember that in the toughest times you can enjoy the most uplifting moments.

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