No matter how much I tried I could not get a job in my native North East when I graduated in 1996.

I was finally offered a job as a Graduate Account Exec by a fellow North Easterner (who I am eternally grateful), with a lovely below-the-line agency in sunny Leamington Spa.

I didn’t even know where Leamington Spa was, but it became my home for a number of years (10 in fact). From then I built my career working for only the best creative advertising and design agencies in the West Midlands.

It wasn’t as cut throat as Madmen, but I even had my own PA and we enjoyed boozy lunches in Michelin Star restaurants with clients and often ‘beat the traffic home’ on a Friday in our flashy company cars.

It was hard graft, but got to work with huge brands with celebs on TV, press and the start of digital campaigns, always looking out for something to ‘go viral’.

We decided it was time to have babies and when our youngest was 2 years old, we decided to quit the agency game and move back to the North East for a better work-life balance.

After a few failed attempts at various start-up businesses like a nappy cakes gift emporium, property development and organising local events, I decided to move back to what I do best. That’s design and marketing.

I had no clients or suppliers, had moved from the Midlands so had zero business contacts, so this is where I became an ‘accidental’ freelancer.

I carried on doing some freelance business development work for a lovely design communications agency based in Coventry. With another baby just born, many meetings were on Skype in a newsreader style (PJ bottoms and a smart top, often with baby sick on the shoulder).

The following year I decided I was going to continue freelance work but rather than work for agencies I was going to go out and get my own clients.  I needed a name, so I called myself Vicki Stone Marketing.

My aim was to keep my hand in the industry while the kids were growing up. It was at the time when the whole ‘mumpreneur’ phenomenon hit the UK and people used to say how it must be great to ‘work around the kids’. In fact, it was far from this and was bloody hard work. The only place I could get peace and quiet was in the utility room and was too bloody knackered to work at night when the little babes were asleep.

I lived a life like this until my kids were both full time at school (which seemed like eternity).

With the UK’s regional agency climate changing dramatically over the last 10 years, we radically changed our business model and re-branded to Stone Collective in 2017.

I’ve worked in big agencies for most of my life and didn’t want the same headaches my previous bosses had with massive overheads and staff to lay off when you lose an account.

A marketing problem shared is a marketing problem solved. That’s Stone Collective’s simple philosophy. To that end, we curate some of the most experienced strategic, marketing and creative thinkers in the North of England and the Midlands.

It’s this philosophy that’s recently helped us win clients like Northumbria Police.

Every project, campaign and client is different and so too should be the team, with different skills and relevant experience. Our clients get both access to the very best regional talent and a seamless service from senior teams.

We’re flexible in our approach and teams which means we can go for small and large accounts and we’re often up against much larger agencies.

And our team are all freelancers. See, I’m not afraid to use the F word.

We offer clients one straightforward point of contact and we do the heavy lifting.