Thinking Business > Interview: Ben Jeffries,
Ben Jeffries, CEO & Co-Founder,, at PandaConf Stage during the final day of Web Summit 2019 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal.

Interview: Ben Jeffries,

We recently caught up with Ben Jeffries, 24 years old and co-founder at
He set up his first business, Breeze, aged 15 which opened his eyes to the opportunity of influencer marketing. Raising over £100k in just 24hours, he went on to partner with YouTube sensation Caspar Lee. 

He’s been labelled one of the young entrepreneurs to watch by Alphr, CMI and, had many significant keynote speaker roles and won countless awards. We caught up with Ben to learn more about his achievements and why John Terry would be his ideal influencer.

Q – Having started your first business aged just 15, what motivated you to keep pursuing your dream?

Starting a business from such a young age. I looked up to a lot of successful entrepreneurs. Seeing people who had really achieved something inspired me. In particular, a guy called Ajaz Ahmed, founder of agency AKQA really gave me something to aspire to. Obviously the likes of Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuk are up there too. Seeing what they were able to create and the impact they inspired me and excited me to create something. At the age of 15, my first business just came about through conversations with friends and the word ‘Breeze’ which we used a lot. We joked how it might be cool to have it as a logo on clothing, t-shirts, caps and stuff and seeing there was a demand, I thought why don’t I create the supply?

Q – What have you learnt that didn’t work and what would you have done differently?

A million things! Especially in the early days you make so many mistakes. The biggest one being the chase for perfection. It’s a massive lesson, not just in business but in life too. Just stick to the brilliant basics. I was trying to launch everything from rucksacks to coffee cups and really I needed to focus on the basics and build the brand and build an image. So what I learnt is that I really didn’t need to overcomplicate things.

“So what I learnt is that I really didn’t need to overcomplicate things”

Q – From Breeze, what learnings and business experience did you take to set up 

When I was trying to market Breeze, I was thinking hard about how I could get people beyond my friends and family to buy the clothing. I was very aware that if celebrities wear your brand then other people become interested because they look up to them. The big issue was that I didn’t know any celebrities, but I’m quite a big Chelsea fan. I decided to reach out to the Chelsea reserve team, these are people who at the time had 10 / 15k followers and their main social channel was Twitter. So I basically said, I’ll send you over some clothes, please can you post some photos of you on social media wearing them. They were really keen to get involved and excited to be part of the brand and it really started to work for me. So I started to build up this network of ambassadors to speak about my brand on social media. Seeing the success I was getting for my brand I realised there was an opportunity for other businesses to leverage this too. So it enabled me to set up a company to offer this service to other brands.

Q – What became of Breeze? 

I basically sold off all the merchandise which gave me the time and space to focus on the new business. 

Q – In my best layperson’s speak, influencer is a marketplace where you connect brands and influencers, but can you tell me a bit more about what it is you do?

Where we sit from a marketing perspective is that we combine human creativity with intelligent global data to create influencer marketing campaigns. So in practice, the intelligent global data is our marketplace that helps us match make brands and creators. Backed up by our in-house team who sit on top of our technology, running the strategy piece. We work with all the main agency groups, as well as direct with brands like Ocado, Superdry, Pernod Ricard helping them build their influencer marketing strategy.

Q – We’re all influencers, right? Even the micro influencers can make a difference?

Absolutely, everyone is an influencer in their own right. People, however many are following and listening to them, can have a real impact and the nano influencers will definitely feature more in 2021.

Q – Do you feel as though you’ve had an ‘influence’ (sorry) on how this whole industry now works?

With the industry itself, there’s quite a lot that needs doing. It needs to mature to keep up with the rest of the marketing industry. So we’re trying to educate people on that front. We recently did a report called the Age of Influence, to help brands and creatives understand what works and what doesn’t particularly in light of recent events and the growing need for quality.

Q – There’s a big call for transparency with brands using influencers, how do you manage this as a business and hope to change the general public’s perception?

One of the key things from this is that the influencer marketing industry has really grown up a lot. People never used to declare if what they were doing was an ad or not. There was no authenticity. Now it’s caught up with the rest of the industry and you have to be transparent. This actually really strengthens the partnerships with brands because creators / influencers will only work with brands that they do truly align with because their followers see they’re getting paid for it. In fact followers will react quite negatively both in terms of comments and unfollows if they feel the creators aren’t being authentic. We’re measuring the negative and positive reactions to see how promotions are performing.

Q – Is this negativity sometimes driven by the press who feel threatened by the explosion in influencer marketing, given that the budgets are coming out of traditional ad spend?

I don’t think so. Influencer marketing is a perfect complement to existing marketing. It works really well to support paid, out of home and print activities as it provides an extra voice. At the end of the day, it’s just word of mouth marketing and so it works really well with the press. 

Q – With the rise of TIKTOK, alongside Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram do you see all these platforms succeeding or will there be a consolidation?

We saw Facebook buy Instagram and then try to buy snapchat although they ended up going down the IPO route. Now TIKTOK is having to split up in the US with the Oracle and Walmart deal, I can’t see any of these bigger platforms going away. I think there’s going to be more social platforms popping up as technology evolves. TIKTOK has really smashed it in terms of the content mixing, Snapchat with their maps feature and their camera /AR feature and Insta is great from a story sharing perspective. Then YouTube has the edge as you discover users via topic.

“I think there’s going to be more social platforms popping up as technology evolves”

Q – There’s a huge movement towards businesses becoming ‘forces for good’ with the like of B Corp amongst others facilitating this movement. How can influencers be used to support this kind of progress?

Anyone with a following has a responsibility, especially those influencers with a large following. We partnered with the young people’s mental health charity Young Minds last year with creators really positively spreading the word about mental health. It was a joint campaign with Facebook and Publicis Poke. We’re also currently working with another charity, the Global Fund for Human Rights. We’re doing everything we can to encourage the positive spread of information.

Q – The Covid-19 pandemic has changed people’s views on their lives, across the world. Have you seen changes in clients briefs as a result and has the choice of influencer style also changed to reflect this demand?

Yes, of course. April and May were really interesting. It was such a shock, nobody knew what the best strategy was, but people really wanted just good honest content. They wanted real, relatable live content, so we saw a big shift. More and more, we also saw creators being asked to produce content on behalf of brands, with brands seeing creators in a similar capacity to creative agencies and working with them to produce branded content.

Q – Influencers are often seen as the preserve of B2C businesses, but how can this approach be used successfully for B2B?

It’s a very different type of marketing. I did some consultancy with Accenture a year ago and I told them the best people to get to be your influencers are your own people. They’re the guys who are inside your business and can really give an honest view over it and help provide positive content. Influencer marketing is very relevant to B2B, but certainly your own people are the best place to start.

“the best people to get to be your influencers are your own people”

Q – You’ve used crowd funding and Private Equity to fund your growth, how have you found this experience?

Definitely not a simple experience. With all of these things it takes a lot more time and effort than you expect. Even when you have the best possible team, it still takes time to get through the process, but when you do get there it’s so good to have such supportive investors on board as they can really help. 

Q – What advice with regards to financing projects would you give to startups?

Probably the most important thing is to think about what you want from investors. Think about the support they’re offering, what connections they have. Check their track record, will they support you throughout the journey, through the good times and the bad times? We didn’t go for the best financial offer, we went with the team who fitted us best. Also, don’t be afraid to use an intermediary. We actually used someone to do a lot of the legwork. It obviously cost us a percentage of the funding, but it meant that we weren’t completely absorbed by it.

Q – What’s next for Influencer?

It’s been an interesting year. We’ve had to curtail our very aggressive expansion plans, but things are certainly looking good for Q4 so the expansion will be back on the table for growth in Europe and America and it’s great to see the team going from strength to strength. 

Q – What’s the next big influence (sorry again) in your sector?

Technology evolution will play a huge part. We need to catch up in terms of the data we can offer across the campaigns which will help us to deliver guaranteed results, the more we build our data, the more we can do this. We’re investing heavily in being able to provide ROI and measure success metrics around everything from sales to brand uplift.

Q – What have you learnt since your business life started at 15 that you still swear by doing today?

I’d say 2 things. 

    1. Don’t see failures as failures. They’re stepping stones. You need to move forward and learn from these.
    2. You need to be honest and open with yourself. You need to recognise the need to hire people who are better than you, it’s the only way your company will truly develop.

“You need to recognise the need to hire people who are better than you, it’s the only way your company will truly develop”

Q – Who would be your ideal influencer for

There’s a bit of a story here. My ideal influencer – would actually be John Terry. Back in the days of Breeze, I didn’t only target the Chelsea reserve team, I also went after a few of the bigger names too. I think I tried a bit too hard with John Terry and he ended up blocking me on Instagram and as such a big Chelsea fan, that was hard to take! So if I could get him on side that would definitely make me happy

Q – Who has had the greatest influence on you and why? 

There’s no way I’d have what I have without having the support of my family and friends. From a business angle, Caspar has been an incredible co-founder to work with, we balance out really well as our passions combine really well. 

What a great interview and it really feels like just the beginning for Ben, Caspar and their team. We wish you the very best of luck and hope to have you back for a second installment. get creators discussing your brand with their highly engaged communities.

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