Behind the brand: Our Managing Director’s path to Project Neon

Laura Lewis
mar 20
6 min read

It’s a funny thing having to write down your story. Where to start, what to feature, how detailed to go? I’m sure, like many of you, my story isn’t totally linear and there are some good secondary stories behind this high-level one! However, to give you a flavour of me, let’s go back…

I’ve always been an organiser… Head Girl at school, Editor of the school yearbook, President of the student organisation at sixth form college and again at university… I’d have been a walking Hollywood movie cliché (although not with the mean streak!) had I been in the USA rather than the UK!

But 20+ years on, I can see that being at the heart of organisations, engaging with people, and communicating is something I’ve always loved to do.

Professionally, my career started at an Aberdeen company called Nautronix. I was hired, fresh from university, to be their Marketing Coordinator. Like many of Project Neon’s clients now, Nautronix had no existing marketing function, so I had the remit to jump in and make it happen. Fortunately, the CEO of the company was a big believer in marketing and a masterful networker. So, I spent many happy years building a marketing function, travelling to energy conferences around the world, learning all about the sector, and meeting a large network of fantastic people.

After six years, I decided to take a new opportunity at Seawell. Little did I know on accepting the role that Seawell was going to acquire a US company (and others to follow) and, upon acquisition, a new company would be born. My boss and I were tasked with creating a brand for the new entity, so together, with a fantastic third-party collaboration team, we created the Archer brand.

The Archer project was an amazing (and challenging) experience. There were huge expectations but a short amount of time to deliver and (as is often the case!) a budget that needed to stretch a long way. Since the new company (Archer) was going to be listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange, the whole process had a firm deadline and was a tightly guarded secret, only to be discussed with the board, my boss, and our third-party team. Due to the secrecy, we developed a code name for the project – Project Neon. Yes, the true inspiration behind our company name today!

With the new brand framework in place, we then rolled it out across 118 global offices and developed the brand to meet the growing business’s requirements. I was promoted to VP Marketing, Branding, and Communications and had the pleasure of leading a wonderfully talented global team, delivering marketing activity across the global business.

Although the 16-year-old Head Girl version of me would have been very proud of where I’d come, the truth is I grew a bit disillusioned with corporate life and felt the need to try something different.

I love being active, so a small Aberdeen company caught my eye. ActivityMix offered a range of sports-oriented services designed to help companies engage, inspire, and enthuse their teams – employee engagement. I won’t lie, it meant a drastic pay cut, but I was keen to try something new and experience a much smaller company. It’s fair to say that it was different in both good ways and bad. However, it was a fantastic insight into small business life, which ultimately gave me the confidence to set up my own company.

This opportunity presented itself in 2016 when my husband’s role was transferred from Aberdeen to Stavanger. At the time, I was on maternity leave with our eldest (born December 2014), but I was keen to return to work once he was at barnehagen (nursery). With the industry in a downturn, a distinct lack of Norwegian language skills, and a long-standing desire to establish my own company, Project Neon was born.

2016 was an ONS year, and you’ll find that our company registration was processed on the first day of the show that year! With my son starting barnehagen the week or so before, I’d frantically sorted the paperwork, some business cards, and a small website, knowing that I needed to get in front of my network at the show!

Now, eight years later, I’m proud of the agency we have created.

Claire joining me in 2018 was an instrumental shift, with her media and communication background fully complementing my own. As anyone who runs a business will tell you, it’s a rollercoaster and resilience is a key skill required.

Today, my role is founder and managing director of the company. I manage the day-to-day running of the business, as well as lead the commercial activity and drive our own business development as we strive to grow the business, attract new clients, and diversify into complementary sectors.

I am also still active with our clients and get heavily involved from a strategic perspective, particularly when we are onboarding a new client or for specific projects. I love diving into client work, but I equally respect the work of my team and know that in many cases they are better qualified for a task than me!

As well as being the MD of Project Neon, I’m also a board member for UTAX AS – a digital transformation company, creating AI lead products within the health sector.

Outside work, I fully embrace Norwegian life with my husband, two boys, and dog Albie. As a family, you’ll find us on the ski slopes, on mountain bikes (very reluctantly from my perspective), at the beach, hiking the mountains, and travelling around in our camper van. Since my husband and I are both active, we try to inject our love of sport and the outdoors into our kids. As a result, like many parents, our lives are filled with after-school clubs, and I’m an Oilers hockey mum in the winter!

While we spend a lot of time as a family, we also try to carve time for ourselves. So, every Saturday morning, I get with a great bunch of ladies for a morning swim in the fjord… yes, all year round! I’m also very routine with my commute to work, running three times a week.

As an immigrant, family can often take on new meaning, and I feel very fortunate not only to have a fantastic and close family in the UK but also a secondary family – close friends who we love to spend time with and turn to for the day-to-day.

It’s probably fair to say that Project Neon’s company values (proactive, engaged, and vibrant) are unsurprisingly quite reflective of my own. But from a personal perspective, I’d also add honesty to that list… a value I try to live by both as an employer, supplier, and person in general!

Quite honestly, I haven’t always made the right decisions. Saying that, I have made some great ones! But we live and learn. The path we take shapes us, and while I love the path I’ve taken so far, I’m always excited about the journey to come.

– Laura

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