We love getting down to the nitty gritty here at Cracked, so grilling our owner Claire for our new ‘10 Questions With…’ series seemed like the perfect place to start. We’re not holding back either — from her 21 years in foodservice and what makes her proud every day, to what’s on her agency playlist — read on to find out what makes Cracked’s captain tick.

  1. Let’s start with an easy one. What led you to starting Cracked four years ago?

Lots of things. My dad was a big part of it. He has worked for himself since he was 18 and I guess I would say that I’ve grown up with his work ethic and always knew that I would end up doing my own thing at some point. Immediately before I started Cracked I had over seven brilliant years at Compass Group. We worked with some fantastic agencies, but the one common thing I experienced was that whilst we were constantly inundated with amazingly creative ideas, often they would be a challenge to operationalise and land in what can be a pretty complex environment. And that kind of operationally focused approach when responding to a brief I think can only come as a result of first-hand experience in our world. That’s where I saw the opportunity to create something different with Cracked, and so I took the step to go it alone.

2. Why are you nuts about foodservice?

I have worked in foodservice since I was old enough to earn money. Serving at the garden centre café of a weekend, collecting glasses in the village pub on a Friday night and waitressing at Pizza Express to see me through college. My career then took me from brand marketing at Whitbread, to customer marketing at Heineken, to marketing across all areas of Compass. It’s such a unique and special industry to work in. It’s such a huge part of our culture and society, and it’s one that plays a massive part in my life personally as well as professionally. My mantra has always been that the day you wake up and dread going into work is the day you should look for another job. In 21 years, I have been lucky enough to wake up every single morning loving who I have worked for and what I do, and to me that is thanks to our wonderful foodservice and hospitality industry (and some great bosses), and why I have such a deep-rooted love for it.

3. What’s your favourite part of being Cracked’s captain?

There is no favourite part — it’s more like a sum of all parts. The wonderful team of people that I am lucky to have around me and that make Team Cracked so special. The brilliant clients we get to work with day in and day out, and the brands we support. The highs and lows, the trials and tribulations, the laughs, the hard work, the quality of what we produce when a brief comes together as it should, the pride everyone takes in what they and we as a team do, the stress, the pressure, the blood, sweat and tears, the team spirit we have and the sheer joy in delivering a project, however big or small. Don’t get me wrong — being Cracked’s captain isn’t always easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

4. What makes you proud?

Well, lots of thing relating to Cracked for sure, but on a personal level my daughter Nia. She has grown up with me working morning, noon and night, speaking to clients and colleagues on the school run, and always taking my laptop and work phone on holiday. I have always struggled with the pressures of being a single-parent household and juggling life as a mum and a business owner, especially as I love what I do. I often feel extremely guilty, I know I don’t always get it right and I’m not sure I will ever master the art. But, I am so, so proud of the young lady that Nia has become (as I am sure most parents will say). She is funny, kind, articulate, conscientious, caring and sassy! Best of all, at the tender age of 9 (going on 19 mind you) she understands with a great level of maturity why Mummy works as she does, doesn’t hold it against me, and instead shows an interest and pride in what I do. We have talked about her taking over the business one day. She says she has her own dreams! 

5. You’re running your dream activation with an unlimited budget. What does that look like?

It would probably involve working with someone seriously dreamy like David Beckham and it would be on location somewhere exotic. Oh, and from a marketing perspective (bump back to reality) it would naturally be a truly integrated campaign with brand above-the-line and customer below-the-line activations. Of course.

6. What’s the one thing in foodservice that you’d like to change?

Right now I would change the current situation so that all businesses — however big or small — survive 2020 and come out the other side. A big ask I know, but that’s what I’d change.

7. Where do you get your energy? Seriously, we need to know!

Ah, it’s nice to know that you guys refer to it as energy as I know how relentless I can be in getting the job done. I am driven and I also believe in leading from the front. My dad always told me that he would never ask one of his team to do something that he hasn’t done himself and hopefully those that know and work with me will agree that I am pretty hands-on, and that’s how I like it. But that approach does require a lot of energy. I have no idea where I get it from! I’d love to say R&R, but that would be a lie.

8. Where do you see Cracked in 10 years?

The long term isn’t as much of a focus right now as, like most business owners, my immediate focus is to get through what this year has already thrown at us all — fingers crossed we’ll all come out of it stronger for it. Ten years down the line I’d love to think that we’ll still be working with amazing clients, that I’ll still have members of the current Team Cracked surrounding me, and for Nia’s sake I’d like to think I will have taken her on a holiday without the laptop!

9. It’s your last meal on Earth. What are you eating?

Oh damn, what a hard one. Can it be three courses? (An hour later)… still can’t answer this question. (Two hours later)… my mum’s lasagne. (Three hours later)… soft shell crab sushi and miso cod. (Four hours later)… a bloody good sirloin steak with skinny fries, roasted tomatoes and stilton sauce finished off with an M&S individual profiterole pot. (Five hours later)… the chicken kebab from Sheesh in Chigwell. (End of the day)… sorry, that’s an impossible question to answer, Lucy!

10. And finally, the question on everyone’s lips: what’s on your agency playlist?

Is this my secret playlist before everyone else arrives at Cracked HQ in the morning or my public playlist that I am happy for you all to hear?! I guess it depends on my mood. As I write this, we’re listening to Spotify’s Easy 90’s which is throwing out some absolute tunes, but if I was pushed for an answer it’d have to be a bit of 90’s R&B, but with a bit of Mariah, Whitney and Celine thrown in for good measure.