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New gen bosses: Helena Whittingham on how she founded Lover Management, a bespoke management company that works with London’s coolest talents

New gen bosses is a new series created to guide and inspire more people to go out there on their own, either as new business founders or freelancers. And what better way to do that than to ask the ones that already succeed at it? We want to know about big fuck-ups and even bigger successes, and the risky decisions they had to make along the way. We want to be the last little push you needed.

Job title: Founder and CEO
Industry: Entertainment & online activations
Company founder or freelancer: Founder
Company name: Lover Management
How long have you been doing it: 10 months
Age: 25
Location: London

What pushed you to start on your own?

It was actually out of necessity, really. My background is in art, I was working in galleries as an assistant curator until about a year and a half ago when I changed career path and started managing celebrities, DJs and artists in general.

The company I was working for liquidated in April 2019 and I loved the job so much that I thought: “I can do this myself” only with people that I really admire like Nadine Artois, Poundland Bandit, Beam Me Up Softboi, The White Pube, and the rest. 

What was the very first thing you needed to do to set everything up?

I knew how to work in that industry and what to do in regard to day-to-day matters but choosing a name was hard. It feels very permanent but I absolutely love Lover Management now—it just makes sense to me.

I’ve worked freelance my whole life so always being motivated and working alone has never really been an issue, however, I’m pretty much still just learning on the job as everything is so bespoke. You have to be flexible, proactive and reactive. I like to think there’s no creative problem I can’t solve.

What was the riskiest decision you had to take?

The riskiest decision was perhaps taking out a small business loan? Not a lot of my work seems that risky though! Perhaps that’s just my big Leo ego haha.

What was a skill you didn’t foresee needing that you had to learn?

Maintaining personal organisation in regards to accounting for sure. In every other job, I was using other people’s systems so when I started on my own, I had to create a system that worked best for me.

Keeping the books up-to-date—I’m not very good at it, I don’t enjoy it, but you must do it.

Helena Whittingham on how she founded Lover Management, a bespoke management company that works with London’s coolest talents

At what moment did you realise that this was going to work out?

At the end of 2019 and early 2020, Lover started to gain so much more traction. I thought January was going to be a quiet month to do admin, take a holiday, well I was so wrong. I was literally making deals while on a mountain peak.

We have a large turnover and we haven’t reached our first birthday yet, which I’m really, really proud of.

What did you spend your money on?

My overheads are quite low actually. I have a free membership at the Curtain, which I work out of as well as at home. I spend money on all the regular stuff; FreeAgent, my website, social media promotion, and a little bit of merch.

Right now, I’m getting to a stage where I need to hire someone, which is both exciting and scary.

What was your biggest fuck up?

I don’t really have any funny anecdotes for this one, unfortunately. Cash flow can be tricky for sure and I wish more people would talk about that. I’ve definitely learned to follow my natural instinct for leadership, and how important triple checking can be.

What was your biggest success?

All of it. No, more seriously I think single-handedly bringing amazing brands to collaborate with my roster is my biggest success. Lover Management has worked with Polydor Records, RCA Records, Domino Records, Island Records, Relentless Records, Feeld, Chakrubs, Unbound, Goodhood, Nike, JD Sports, Bricks, Nandos, Somerset House Studios, The Curtain hotel, Ace, Laylow – to name a few.

Seeing them all together is pretty crazy, as well as getting regular work from them (a tip from the fabulous Kirsti Hadley from GRLPWR Gang). I really enjoy helping out my clients’ career path, being their biggest cheerleader.

Working with Wolf & Badger was a big personal win as it was part of the official LFW 2020 programme. I definitely danced around the house when we pulled in that one. We are also branching out into styling (shout out Konstantina at Sinister Sisters) and production. Brands are trusting us to deal with the creative direction in-house, which I love—more big wins coming!

Helena Whittingham on how she founded Lover Management, a bespoke management company that works with London’s coolest talents

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

When necessary, ask for more money, and say no when you need to.

What are three tips you would give someone who wants to start on their own?

One: I hate glamorising side hustles, like the muti-hyphen method is seen as ‘cool’ but it’s definitely necessary in London. I’m a model, writer and cat sitter on the side and that absolutely helps when you have a hard month.

Two: Try not to get in beef with people. Just stop replying to them.

Three: If you’re working alone, have a network you can rely on to help keep you in check—mine is my best friend and creative consultant, Nic Brannan.

Bonus: Hire womxn when you can.

Want to discuss taking the leap with other new gens? You’re in luck! We’ve created New Gen Bosses, a Facebook group to continue and expand the conversation started through this new series.