In the second of our team spotlight series, we caught up with Layla Smith, Founder and Managing Director at Aspire PR.
Find out more about Layla and how she founded Aspire PR in 2010…
Career background & highlights…
After leaving university, I worked at Laura Ashley’s Head Office in Fulham. Whilst this was very much a pre-traveling stop gap for me, it still holds some of my fondest work memories. I met one of my best friends there and really enjoyed the creative environment. The office building was an old bus garage near Chelsea Harbour, although I hold a somewhat romantic vision of it. We were always too hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, often typing with gloves on!
I have always been passionate about movement and sharing the benefits of an active lifestyle. After doing some travelling, I had the opportunity to join a sports management agency in Twickenham called Nuff Respect. Linford Christie and Sue Barratt started the agency after Linford won his 100m gold in Barcelona. It was like a dream come true for me.
The agency represented many of the track and field stars that I loved to watch compete and we got to travel to all the major track & field championships. Being a relatively small company, I got a huge range of sports PR, sponsorship and marketing work experience and built a strong contact list within the industry. Sue taught me so much, including my motto to never, ever give up!
After Nuff Respect, I headed up marketing at motive8. The company still holds a very dear place in my heart and is a client of Aspire today. They are a team of fantastic people, true experts in their fields. The company has transformed from a duo of personal trainers operating out of a bedroom to one of the UK’s leading leisure consultancies, with a head office and warehouse just outside of London, a flagship gym & spa facility in York and a Leeds office.
I have always believed in working with organisations who share values and celebrate the positive impact that movement can have on fitness, mental wellbeing and creativity. My highlight at Aspire has been working with the Swiss sportswear brand, On. We have been on a journey together from start-up to recently being valued at $11 billion following their IPO. That’s pretty mega.
Role at Aspire…
I launched Aspire in 2010 following the desire to start my own business. I was encouraged by a group of people with me on a ski trip and registered the company when I got home. motive8 supported me with this decision and they became Aspire’s first client. At the same time, I met On, who were just about to launch in the UK, and they are still a client today too.
I am the founder and managing director at Aspire. I oversee all company activity, with a particular focus on growing the team, developing our services and taking the agency to the next level. I am passionate about building a values-based agency and growing a community of like-minded brands, organisations and individuals.
I believe we can spread a message that movement can play a positive role in shaping people’s lives, bring about change and engender equality. We are open to collaborating with people and organisations with a similar outlook. By working together we have more chance to address big topics facing us today such as climate change.
How far removed is your childhood dream for what you are doing today?
I can’t say that I had a childhood dream, I never really knew exactly what I wanted to do. I was always equally passionate about sport and art. Throughout my teenage years, sport played a big part in supporting my mental wellbeing and growing my confidence.
So, I guess the way that Aspire is developing with an ethos of ‘movement works’ at its heart reflects my younger experiences.
Climbing Mont Blanc in 2010. The feeling I got when we summited after a challenging trip was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before and probably since. It put into perspective our place within this magnificent world.
I loved the slog of carrying everything we needed on our backs. I loved the adventure of not knowing exactly what lay ahead. I loved the camaraderie of my group. And I loved the feeling of being on top of the world at the summit (and dashing back down as fast we could to catch our flight home!).
Adventure you most desire?
I’d like to do an epic cycling trip with my partner, unlike the many that we’ve done in the past. Ideally, a trip where we carry all our gear and stop often to enjoy local food & wine!
It’s impossible for me to stick to one ambition when it comes to adventures. I’d also love to go on a mini-adventure with my daughter and partner, snowshoeing in the Alps for a simple picnic in the woods. It will be a big adventure for her.
Someone you really admire?
I hold a huge amount of respect for anyone that is campaigning fearlessly for environmental issues right now. But if I had to choose, I’d go for a body of people, which is key workers. I admire the way they can look after us and care for human beings more selfish than them every day. Key workers follow a vocation out of care, compassion and duty, not money, in a world that can be so full of greed.
What kept you going during lockdown?
Exercise and nature. I experienced some extreme highs and lows during lockdown, and I had to make a conscious effort to exercise every day to balance my mood and stay positive. I also took time to just sit and appreciate my garden and the nature on my doorstep. Having more time with my young daughter and partner was a real bonus.
Something the team doesn’t know about me but they do now?
I have a natural talent for ten pin bowling. I’m not sure if it qualifies for a Moving Meet but be sure to see me try and sneak it in at some point!
What’s recently grabbed your attention?
Emma Raducanu’s rise to fame. The way she demonstrated such resilience following her unfortunate Wimbledon exit to come back and fight her way through the rounds of the US Open. The final gave us a display of spectacular women’s sport. Two young female athletes showcasing power, mental strength and skill to a huge global audience. It very much had the wow factor on every level.
What do you love about this industry?
The people that I get to meet and spend time with. I’ve had so many memorable times with people that I’ve met through work related events, activities and projects. I’ve learned pretty much everything I know from the people around me and I love the fact that people always come along at the right time to guide you on the right path.
Our first ‘Team Spotlight’ featured Tania Lewis, Aspire’s Creative Content & Community Manager…