Matchstick are a truly purpose-led agency. We caught up with CEO Ruth Hartnoll to hear all about their business, their work on Growth for Good, and how the Beyond programme helped them to navigate a rollercoaster 2022.
Who are Matchstick? What are you all about?
We’re a B Corp marketing agency who work with other purpose driven businesses and organisations. Our mission is to create a more equal world through telling great stories and creating great experiences. We do that for health, third-sector, government, and purpose-led private sector clients.
I set the business up with Greg (Macoy) about 5 years ago and we’ve worked on projects with Liverpool City Council, the NHS, the city universities, Everyman and Playhouse, Farm Urban, and lots more. Always with a focus on achieving better outcomes for people or the planet.
And it’s this commitment to purpose that drives your Firestarter events too?
It is, we wanted to set up a different type of networking. Focused on facilitating meaningful connections between purpose-driven people.
When we first set Firestarters up we'd been attending networking events and it just felt like they weren't our people – and weren't the type of people we were doing business with. I think that's because people didn't feel massively welcome at traditional networking events and they were a bit dull. So we wanted to switch up the format a bit and create events that were inclusive. Where different people didn’t just feel welcome to attend but could speak and be the voices at the events.
How did you get involved with the Growth for Good events?
It stems from our Firestarter programme really and it’s a collaboration with the Growth Platform. They wanted to support businesses to get insight, practical takeaways and to connect with more people in the region.
I think our approach, the way we facilitate conversations in a different way, has helped the events reach new people.
We've covered things like diversity and inclusion, net zero and the next event in February will look at what it means to run a purpose-driven business in 2023. Places are still available if people want to come along.
You’ve recently been on Gather’s Shift and Beyond programmes – how have they helped you and Matchstick?
We're pretty good from a leadership perspective at working on the business, rather than just in it. We always touch base with what we're doing and why – but I think programmes Beyond and Shift have given us the tools to do that.
Beyond encouraged us to think big and the Gather programmes like Shift are like little biscuits that nourish you along the way. To keep focus, like breadcrumbs to get to the bigger thing.
Like for so many businesses, 2022 was a bit of a rollercoaster for us and having the outside counsel of Ben on Beyond really helped. It was the first time we'd had that type of intensive outside support from someone who had achieved what we're trying to do, who could listen and give advice based on his experience as a creative leader.
We're still executing some of it, but the advice and insight was really transformative for how the business is going to look this year.
What challenges are you facing as a business?
In the current climate long-term commitment from clients is a difficult one. I was having this discussion with another agency leader the other day and the concept of winning a six figure NHS contract that will sustain you for 3 years just doesn't exist anymore.
Finding the right opportunities that sustain the business and match our skillset and capacity is a challenge. And alongside that is the talent pipeline, getting the right people with the right skills who share our purpose.
I sit on the Digital and Creative Board for the Liverpool City Region and we have regular conversations around talent. I think the sector has come along way but we’re still behind other places when it comes to talent attraction and retention.
What does the future look like for Matchstick?
Future growth for us is less about adding numbers and more about shifting the skillset. We’ve been landing some great projects and it’s about managing the work with the team we have.
There will be more to come from Firestarters this year and we’re looking forward to collaborating with more businesses in the city. I think we’ve seen a shift from people going to big agencies for everything and that’s where Liverpool comes into its own. We’ve got a great network of boutique agencies who bring specialist insights and better value.
Find out more about Growth for Good and sign up for the latest event.