LONDON — The co-founders of search-first digital and creative agency Rise at Seven have parted company, three years after setting up the business, with Carrie Rose completing an MBO to become the sole shareholder.

Stephen Kenwright, who started the agency with Rose in 2019 and has served as commercial director, has agreed to exit the business following his current sabbatical leave. The firm’s remaining initial investors have also been bought out by Rose.

Under the new ownership structure, Rose will take full control of Rise at Seven Group in the UK and US. She has appointed the agency’s COO Nick Hussey, formerly at McCann, Mother and Forever Beta, as group managing director, with his current operations role expanding to take on day-to-day leadership of the business.

Rose said: “The Rise at Seven journey has been incredible and I couldn’t have done it without Stephen’s brilliant counsel and support. He and I started this as friends and I’m proud to say we will remain exactly that. He has been the most incredible, calm and inspirational support. He always dreamt of building one of the industry’s best creative agencies, and we did it together. I will miss working with him, as will all of the Rise team.

“Now we embark on a new challenge for true global domination. It requires a fresh way of thinking and commercial direction. We are starting to attract more senior talent and brands with lofty ambitions for global growth and the agency has made a number of changes in recent months to build a truly global agency capable of multimillion pound accounts.”

Kenwright added: “Rise at Seven is and always will be very close to my heart as I have been a part of this agency seeing it become a once-in-a-generation agency business and it is because of the people and the clients that make Rise unique. What we achieved in three years is nothing short of miraculous but what the business needs now is a new direction to guide it through the next phase of its expansion plans.

“Appointing Nick as managing director allows me to pass the reins to one of the best agency operations persons in advertising I know, and allow him and Carrie to truly disrupt search and advertising. I wish Carrie all the luck in the world and I will continue cheering every win.”

In the 2021-2022 financial year, Rise at Seven had growth of 250% to revenue of £7 million, with more than 90 people across four offices in the UK and the US.

Rose said she and Hussey would be working together on “ambitious plans” around M&A to expand the Rise at Seven group and putting further infrastructure in place to deliver client work.

Rise at Seven has made two senior hires to its search and strategy functions as part of Rose’s growth plans. Kristal Ireland joins as executive director and will be managing the agency’s search service offerings, including content strategy, data and SEO.

Ireland is a former head of ecommerce and technology for Virgin Trains and joins Rise at Seven from national sports coaching charity UK Coaching, where she was digital director. She joins Hussey and communications director Dave Bennett on the agency’s board.

In addition, Will O'Hara joins as digital strategy director and will focus on search, content, data and insights. In previous roles as head of SEO and SEO director during eight years at MediaCom, O'Hara worked with brands such as Co-op, William Hill, Haven and Save the Children. He joins Rise at Seven from D2C and ecommerce platform provider THG where he was organic performance director.