Layla Stacey’s tenacious competitive spirit has earned her sustained success across a dynamic career in marcoms (marketing and communications). She shone in exciting posts at PR and marketing agencies up and down the country before setting up two PR companies – most recently at Southampton Science Park. Layla is the Founder and Managing Director of React Comms, a hybrid marcoms agency providing communications solutions to the luxury and technology industries.
She describes her experiences setting up a new company as a “crazy journey”, having established her agencies in male-dominated industries with no business background. “I am one of the most competitive people you could ever meet,” she says. “I now want to support other entrepreneurs who are starting up so that they can have an easier journey than the one I’ve gone through.”
Layla was raised in Southampton and studied at Southampton Solent University. She had been itching to get straight into the world of work after college, but chose to learn new skills at university to prepare her for an ambitious career. “Everybody went off to celebrate the fact they had finished their degree on the final day of university,” she remembers. “But I went straight home, got out the Yellow Pages and started calling agencies to ask for interviews. I got a job straight away and worked at a local marketing agency.”
The high pressure job introduced Layla to the creative demands and deadlines of marcoms. She spent a year growing into the role before moving to a similar post in a small marketing agency in the Midlands. “I loved working there,” she says. “That was when the entrepreneurial side of me really started to come out. I was with someone who was extremely driven. Watching him be the best he could be in his sport made me push myself to be the best I could in my field. I soon realised that would mean starting out on my own.”
Layla was 23 when she started her first business. “I had to go through a lot of mistakes before I felt I’d achieved anything in my business,” she says. “When I first started I received some bad advice and ran with it. This lead to quite a few mistakes, but I learned from them very quickly!”
Five years were invested in her first venture before Layla decided to return to Southampton. She led a sales and marketing team in the city for a year and settled into another part-time marketing role before founding her second business, React Comms, in 2009. Supported by a better foundation in business this time round, she has built her company slowly and now React is a small, hybrid communications agency situated in a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Southampton’s Science Park in Chilworth. Working with, and alongside, many fledgling start-ups, entrepreneurs, social enterprises and established businesses in the luxury and technology sectors, React has carved out a reputation for being experts in their field. “I have a huge amount of respect for people who start businesses because it really is as difficult as it seems,” she says. “It’s a crazy journey – entrepreneurs need to be prepared to work extremely hard.”
Layla wants her role as a Future Worlds mentor to enable university spinouts to develop a greater business acumen. “I have been giving advice to startup companies since our own inception so I understand the complexities and challenges that businesses face at all stages of development” she says. “Working with inventors and entrepreneurs can be very exciting, but it can also give rise to very challenging situations. I can not only help people understand how to market their businesses effectively, but also share my advice and the lessons I’ve learnt along the way.”
“I’ve worked with companies from startups up to multinationals,” she adds. “I’ve helped them build their brands and gain as much exposure as they can in their market place.” You can get in touch with Layla using the contact form on this page.
Reflecting on her career to date, Layla says she has been driven by a constant determination to prove to herself that she can achieve all she puts her mind to. “The best way to achieve long term success is to have no fear,” she says. “You have to think it’s going to happen the way you want it to and go for it. That’s worked well for me so far!”