Episode #15

Bitesize #1: Welcome Emily, we are CookiesHQ

Back in June we welcomed Emily Mellon to the team to look after CookiesHQ’s marketing. And she had a tonne of questions: how do we work? What makes CookiesHQ unique? Why do our clients love us? What’s different between a web and mobile app and what the hell is Ruby on Rails? The list goes on!

Of course, the UK was still in lockdown back then, and amongst all the craziness, we never got around to answering them all. Now things are a little more normal, we’re setting time aside to dedicated to exploring these questions Emily can learn more about us. And, we thought why not record these bitesize sessions so the rest of the world can learn more about us and what we do too?!

This week, after brief introductions, Emily finds out more about the sorts of projects we love, if we’ve ever had a real ‘uh-oh’ moment during a build and of course, why on earth we’re called CookiesHQ…Join the conversation on the CookiesHQ Twitter.

 

Head over to LinkedIn to find out more on Nic and Emily.

Read the transcript

Nic:
Hello and welcome to a new episode of the Tough Cookies podcast. Today with me is Emily Mellon.

Emily:
Hello.

Nic:
Hello Emily, how are you?

Emily:
I’m all right, thank you. How are you?

Nic:
Yeah, I’m good. So for those who haven’t followed our news on either Twitter, or Instagram, or LinkedIn, Emily’s our new marketing manager here at Cookies and she joined us, I think, four months ago now?

Emily:
Yeah. It was June, officially.

Nic:
We do everything officially here. So when you joined us, it was basically, midway through your lockdown.

Emily:
It was. Right bang in the middle.

Nic:
And, we have done a terrible job on-boarding you. You were left on your own for about a month, I think.

Emily:
Yeah, a little bit.

Nic:
So what we’ve decided is, obviously, in order for you to understand Cookies and what’s going on in Cookies, how we work, work lines and what makes us unique, we needed to have a lot of conversations, and we thought that it would be a good idea to actually record those conversations together, and share them through this podcast and we found this name to be the bite-sized.

Emily:
Yeah, bite-size cookies.

Nic:
Bite-size cookies, there we go.

Emily:
I think your LinkedIn post earlier, when I read it, I sort of had an image of me as a curious toddler, just asking lots and lots of questions.

Nic:
Go for it, but let me first ask you some questions. So do you want to explain a bit of your background?

Emily:
Sure. Yes. I first became interested in marketing while I was doing my masters at Uni and I was working as a Microsoft brand ambassador on the side, and I’d always wanted to live in Bristol and moved here back in 2017 to work for Bryony Thomas, who’s the author of Watertight Marketing. I worked there for three years, and learned loads, and loads and loads about marketing, but unfortunately Bryony got quite ill at the beginning of the year and then, obviously, the COVID pandemic hit, and I found myself looking for a new role. Luckily, at the same time that you guys were looking for a new marketing manager, and you guys were already fans of Watertight Marketing, and I think it all worked out well.

Nic:
Yeah, we’ve been following Bryony’s work for quite some time… And I’ve always very much enjoyed her style and what she was doing, but she’s mainly working with SMEs to larger businesses, where obviously here, we work primarily with startups and scale ups.

Emily:
Exactly, yeah, and obviously quite a different offering. We were sort of selling marketing knowledge, and now we’re building products and software.

Nic:
How do you find the transition?

Emily:
Challenging, but really exciting. So I actually, while I was at Watertight, did a little bit of website work, I was doing some CSS coding, so I am quite interested in it.

Nic:
I saw you today doing some CSS coding on our website, and I was scared.

Emily:
I haven’t broken anything yet.

Nic:
Yet.

Emily:
Yeah. I guess, I do have a lot to find out about CookiesHQ, and I’d like to start with asking you, why are we called CookiesHQ?

Nic:
That’s the horrible question. I think from now, it’s been nearly 10 years and I need to come up with some sorts of inspiring stories about why we’re called Cookies, or CookiesHQ. The official name of the company is CookiesHQ, but between ourselves, we call ourselves cookies. We are cookies and the people here are part of the Cookies team. Now, the main reason is probably laziness. So when Nat and I started Cookies nearly 10 years ago, we were technically called ‘We Also Do Cookies’, and that was our official company name, and only because we had a domain name lying around, it was called wealsodocookies.com, God knows why we had this domain name, I have a tendency to buy every single domain name that pass from my head. So we didn’t want to spend any money, and we say, Okay, we’re just going to take it as a domain name only because we need to know if we could work as a couple for more than a couple of weeks together.

Nic:
So we took the domain name and then very quickly when I was going to networking events, or when I was presenting the company to people, because of my French accent, trying to get people to understand ‘We Also Do Cookies’ was very, very difficult. So we realized maybe we need a shorter name and we wanted to keep the cookies idea in it because, by then, we were sending cookies with invoices to our clients, for some reason. And therefore, we settled down to the office, the CookiesHQ. So that’s our official company names, but a team is the team cookies basically. And we have the block all the cookies crumbs and the podcasts or the tough cookies in the oven called the smart cookies and everything now has a Ram around baskets. We even have like internal product called digestives and things like that.

Emily:
That’s a running theme.

Nic:
Yeah.

Emily:
And obviously we’ve got the logo that you insist is not modelled on you.

Nic:
I promise it’s not, no.

Emily:
Okay. So as you say, you’ve been doing this nearly 10 years. Are there any projects that you feel really proud to have been a part of?

Nic:
Yes, for various reasons. There, there are some that are, have been with us for probably now six, seven years, like the like of Global Pre-meds or Patternbank, the people that have been putting some trust in us for all those years, and continue to date. And that makes me really proud, knowing that people see us through the growth of the team and continue to work with us and continue to trust us to escape their App and mainly the business, because that’s what keeps their light on. So I’m very proud of that. On the other side, working with some clients like MSF, Doctors Without Borders or Article 19, which helped to fight, which fights for freedom of press basically, and help journalists that are, in very difficult or dangerous position in certain countries, working with people like that is makes me extremely proud as well. And, and every single startup that you help, I don’t know if there’s one project that made me more proud than the other, but for various reasons, there are some that have a different place in my heart.

Emily:
Sure. I know that when I was sort of researching Cookies for coming aboard and I saw the work we’d done for Article 19, I thought that was really interesting.

Nic:
Yeah, and the fact that we know that we have a piece of software that is communicated and we communicating with the United Nations and talking to reporters over there and they are using our software. That makes me very happy.

Nic:
Big, big thing.

Emily:
So I guess on the flip side of that, has there been any huge sort of our own moments during a project or a build?

Nic:
During a project or build, there’s always moments we’re like, “Wow, how are we going to do that?” We recently, we’re always pushed by our clients, our clients always want the best and better, and which is great. It forces us to get always out of the comfort zone, and recently we launched a project called Stornaway and they’re doing interactive videos, and their point of reference was Netflix, and we had to be as good and as performant as Netflix when we were doing seamless transitions between videos basically and interactive videos, that was when we managed to crack it and we managed to do it, we were extremely happy about it. That was a big, big, good moments, but at the moment where the client says, “Look, we have Netflix as a reference”, We kind of ask ourselves, “Have we bitten off more than we can chew?”, But we did it.

Nic:
There’s also the clients that, we had one, unfortunately where the relationship was working, okay, but we could see that the product didn’t find its market and it’s not a product that we built originally, it’s a product that we inherited, and so it was a legacy code. We had a big discussion internally with the team. We didn’t know where, how to take it, where to take it. And, and clearly the client was spending money with us, but it did not feel right because we knew in our hearts that it was not working. So we had a big discussion with a team and we decided to almost give a notice and say, look, we talked to the client we said, “We have three months. If we don’t find markets fit within three month, I think we’re going to stop taking money. We’re going to do everything we can to help the handover to something cheaper, maybe a freelancer or somebody like that to support the App. But I don’t think it’s right to spend more money with us until there is something meaningful to be done”. That was a very difficult decision to do. But I think in my heart, it was the right decision.

Emily:
Yeah, definitely. I think it’s so important in businesses that are built on relationships, essentially, that you do what feels right, and you do stick to your values.

Nic:
Yeah. Relationship are at the heart of everything we do here, so it’s very important that relationship sits right for both parties. If one of the parties is not happy, then none of us can be happy.

Emily:
Precisely. So what is one thing that’s really surprised you about running an agency?

Nic:
How difficult it is. Then we talked about that a bit.

Emily:
Cause you were freelancing for a long time before, right?

Nic:
Yeah, so I was freelancing, I was freelancing before building cookies, and I got a little bit too much work and Natalie joined me to help me project managing the work, originally. And then we kind of decided to grow and grow the agency, but it’s, yeah, I think it’s surprising how difficult it is to run an agency, but at the same time, I don’t think it’d be fair to say that I’m running an agency. I think Natalie is the one running the agency, I’m the one on the forefront. I’m the one that you see on pictures and everything because Natalie is an introvert and she’s not in a place doing social events or whatever. It’s not for her, but the one that is actually making the right decisions, and the one that is putting the company on the right track is Natalie. If it was for me, we would not be where we are today. 10 years later, we would still be, I don’t know, a couple of people turning around and changing decisions every couple of weeks.

Emily:
You’re just doing what you’re told. Acting as the pretty face of the company.

Nic:
Yes. That’s what it is or I think now we’re in that round where I can play with what I want to play on the side. She’s happy, and as long as it doesn’t cost too much money and it’s not impacting the company itself. So I have some freedom, but it’s bounded freedom.

Emily:
And what’s the most rewarding thing about running an agency, then?

Nic:
The team. Working with amazing people, being able to employ amazing people, that is extremely rewarding. The clients working with co-innovative startups, working with amazing teams when we integrate scale-ups and things like that, and we do contingency, that is extremely rewarding as well. There’s a lot of rewarding moments and kind of feel like sometime the founders do take it, like we are the ones that seem to receive the rewards, but it should not forget that without the team, we’re nothing. So, all the rewards should be shared with the team, basically.

Emily:
From what I’ve seen, it’s really good sort of atmosphere here of sharing the successes and everyone’s celebrating together.

Nic:
Yeah. I’ve been told them, so Natalie is really good at sharing the successes, I’ve been told I’m not that good at sharing success and I’m pretty good at sharing bad news. So, but that’s my nature, unfortunately, yeah.

Emily:
Maybe I’ve only been paying attention to Natalie then.

Nic:
Yes. That’s what has happened.

Emily:
Okay. So now I’ve learnt a bit more about who we are. I guess next will be, what we do, but I’ve been doing some research on building an app and it all seems pretty complicated. So that might be best saved for next week?

Nic:
Do you want to do another bite-size 20 minutes?

Emily:
I think so, that might be good.

Nic:
What do you want to talk about?

Emily:
Why building an app seems so complicated.

Nic:
All right, That’s it.

Emily:
See you next week?

Nic:
See you next week. Bye.

 

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