Marie Claire meets Charlotte Clark, co-founder of INCA Productions

by Chloe Mac Donnell

Charlotte Clark - INCA Productions

We caught up with Charlotte Clark, co-founder of INCA Productions, the creative event production agency behind a host of diverse projects including the recent British Fashion Awards and the launch of Victoria Beckham's special edition Range Rover in Shanghai to talk arrogance, babies and female talent.

How did INCA Productions come about?

My business partner Nina and I set it up over fourteen years ago. After I studied fashion design in the UK I moved to the USA and worked there for about two years in fashion show and event production. When I came back to London I met Nina randomly at an event we were both working on. The event was a huge success and from that someone approached us about running an event for them. The budget was sufficient enough to form a limited company so INCA productions was born!
 
Did you find the process of setting up your own business scary?
With hindsight and with knowledge, if I had to start a business again, I’d find it a lot more daunting, because I now know the pitfalls. We were very young but we were very sure of ourselves. We had that natural arrogance one has at a young age and that energy that youth brings so we were just absolutely convinced that of course it was going to work. But saying that we did everything that we could to make it a success by working every hour that we could.
 
Why do you think you stood out?
There were some really good established companies out there at the time and we were the fresh kids on the block. We weren’t held back by any preconceptions of what had gone before. We were just going with what our gut told us was right. We focused on the creative, on the little details and on things logistically running very smoothly. We wanted to, and still do, make sure that the client’s pre-event experience is as good as the actual event experience.
 
How is it working as a duo?
We have defined roles, which makes it easier. Nina focuses on the direction of the company. This year she oversaw the opening of our office in New York and next year she’ll be working on the opening of INCA in Hong Kong.  I focus on the creative direction and production of the work that we do for our clients. As we’re both Virgos we’re very detail conscious and we think very similarly but our day-to-day dealings within the business are very different.
 
It started out with just the two of you, but you now have over 35 employees. How did that happen?
It’s been a very organic process.  We’ve never had any external investment. Both Nina and I wanted to grow it like a family-run business. Our team members have strong ties to each other and to INCA. We’re all very supportive. There have been about 23 INCA babies in the last ten years!
 
From starting out to now, have you seen a change in the way women are treated in the workplace?
Yes and it’s so great. There are so many generalizations about women but what I’ve found from working with lots of different women is that we are very good communicators. We also have different approaches to management which really complement certain aspects of the workplace.  Finally we’re being appreciated. There are a lot more women in the senior positions of companies which is brilliant, like Sarah Manley at Burberry, Natalie Massenet at Net-a-Porter and Caroline Rush at the British Fashion Council.
 
What about family life, how do you manage both?
I have a five-year-old boy and a seven-month baby girl. Nina has a four-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy. Luckily we’ve both got brilliant husbands and we have created a relatively flexible working environment. Should one of them get sick there is an understudy so we can run off to the doctors and so forth. I haven’t distinguished between work and home life for years. It’s all part of life, it sort of merges. It’s not always the easiest, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
 
What about future female talent, is that important to you?
I think it's really, really important to inspire the new generation coming through. We collaborate with the charity Kids Company in relation to our intern programme.  Through them we take on young people for an active two-week intern programme. When they come here they don’t get asked to make cups of tea. They’re a fully-fledged member of the team with numerous responsibilities. That’s how my business partner and I both started off. We were thrown in at the deep-end and tried to swim as best we could and it’s the best way to learn.
 
Most recently you produced the British Fashion Awards. Tell us about that?
It was an amazing success. The British Fashion Council is a great client which really wants to push boundaries and break moulds. What Nina and I love most is pulling together our team to make that happen. Alongside our creative team we worked with Stuart Nunn, Nathan Prince and Phoebe Lewis. It’s amazing to work with a huge team and to create something truly phenomenal.
 
Finally, what are your top tips for those thinking of starting their own business in 2013?
You’ve got to believe in yourself. Then focus on your product and why it is better than those already existing. Next, work out how to communicate that product effectively and as cost-efficiently as possible. Finally, remember to love what you’re doing and those who you’re doing it with.

Check out: www.incaproductions.co.uk

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