Our Business Journey with Mac & Moore
You’ve managed to achieve some amazing things in such a short space of time as a new business, can you tell me a bit more about Mac&Moore’s vision?
NAT: When we set out, our vision was just about the only thing that we knew for a fact. We wanted to do good work that we’re proud of and work with integrity. Now that we’re almost two years in, we’ve evolved our approach slightly to place a focus on gender equality at the forefront of what we do. We only want to work with businesses who have the attitude that diversity is valuable. We’ve built an incredible network of people who share the same fundamental view that times have changed, and we’ll all benefit if we move forward with a new approach and be loud and proactive in creating action around the conversation.
One of the things I love most about having my own business is being able to be location independent. You recently moved your business from London to Amsterdam for 6 months. What was the main reason behind the decision?
JESS: For me it was a mix of both personal and professional. We set-up our business with a “we have nothing to lose” attitude and also both had a commitment to take risks and be open to change. I’d been in London for over 10 years and although starting Mac&Moore had given me a whole new lease of life and a fresh perspective I was looking for a new challenge that would completely take me out of my comfort zone. With the news of Brexit looming and some existing clients based in Amsterdam we thought “why not?” and set out making plans to relocate for a minimum of six months.
Did you set specific goals for your time there such as business development and securing new business leads?
JESS: It started out with us going with the view that we could stay indefinitely if we liked it. But it soon became clear that our business felt right to be run out of the UK. It’s taken me over 10 years to build up the reputation and contacts I have in London – so you have to be committed to putting yourself out there and networking when you move to a new city. So, with that in mind we decided to focus on our own personal brand and creative projects whilst being in Amsterdam, along with having the space to hash out a strategy for the future of Mac&Moore. I truly believe that this allowed us to produce better work remotely for our UK clients as we were out of our comfort zone and therefore pushed harder to deliver better work. It also allowed us to have more head space for our own creative work which is so important when you’re a start-up.
What was the first month of the move like? Did you hit any barriers or was it straightforward to operate your business day to day?
JESS: Our first few weeks were definitely exciting – almost like we were on an extended holiday! When the initial excitement wore off there was a bit of an adjustment period and setting up somewhere new at times can be quite isolating. We took for granted our network of friends and family who were close at hand in London, but to counteract this it forced us to go out and find places to meet people/work. We were really fortunate to meet some great ex-pats who had already made the leap and were able to give us some invaluable pointers about the city. We also had some local pals too who educated us on the Dutch way of life.
Did you attract any amazing work opportunities during your stay and did you get to collaborate with any local brands?
JESS: Ironically when we moved from London to Amsterdam, within the first month we were contacted by one of the most well-known UK brands, Transport for London, to help on a project. Taking this on meant our focus shifted from finding new clients in Amsterdam to expanding our network of creatives/freelancers and entrepreneurs in our new city.
NAT: We built a great partnership with a Dutch video production company called Ministry of Frames. During our time in Amsterdam, we met up for some really great creative sessions where we shared ideas, traded skills and learnt from one another. It was a wonderful experience to be able to gain an insight into not only a different creative skillset but learn more about the cultural landscape of The Netherlands… plus their office dog took somewhat of a shine to me!
How would you describe the start-up scene in Amsterdam for female founders in comparison to London where it is buoyant?
JESS: The Netherlands is known for having a really good work/life balance and commitment to a good workplace culture. It’s also a very creative city so attracts creative talent from across the globe. I recently read that 72 & Sunny, an Amsterdam based creative agency, is aiming to be one of the most diverse agencies in the world to work for having seen the value of diversity in the workplace. Having said that, I think there is more of a scene for female founders in London.
Can you recommend any specific events or networks which you discovered in the city for founders and business owners?
NAT: Due to the fact we only knew a handful of people out there and spent most of our working weeks working alone at my kitchen table, I made a point of forcing myself out of my comfort zone and researching/attending some events. I can recommend SheSays; they have outposts all over the world, but the Dutch arm is powered by FinchFactor and everything I attended was amazing. From a negotiation workshop to a panel event on the ‘rebranding of feminism’, I was totally impressed by the set-up and valuable content. London is so saturated with events that it’s hard to know what will be worth your time (and precious cash), and we’ve been unfortunate enough to waste both on some that were more of a vanity exercise for the host. But now I’ve seen what a creative benefit a really great event can have on my work I’m hungry to find some equally inspiring stuff back here in London.
The first thing I do when I am travelling/working is to scope out the local co-working scene – did you find any great ones in the city?
JESS: We did – I even wrote a blog about it! Amsterdam is much more accessible than London and there’s something for everyone.
You’re now back in London, looking back, what would you say were the main benefits of living and working in Amsterdam?
JESS: The most important thing is I was able to let go of the past. My experience in Amsterdam gave me the opportunity to really think about what was important, what kind of business I want Mac&Moore to be as well as time to reflect on everything we’d achieved over the past 18 months. Coming back to London has given me a new drive, ambition and direction plus a reminder that we can do anything we set our eyes on.
NAT: I agree with Jess on the fact that uprooting our very young business for 6 months and moving somewhere that we had a very minimal network raised a few eyebrows when we first suggested it. But we stuck to our guns and proved that actually we do know what is right for both ourselves and for Mac&Moore. The move has given me a lot of confidence in what I can achieve both professionally and personally and reminded me that breaking your routine can break bad habits … which does wonders for your productivity!
What would your top 3 pieces of advice be to anyone thinking of making a similar move with their business?
We’ve actually come up with 4 pieces of advice! These would be:
• Do your research. It’s no easy task re-locating especially if you’re not being sponsored by an organisation/business. Understand the implications for your move in terms of real estate, taxes and registering with the government.
• Create a network and become a local. It can be a lonely experience moving abroad but it doesn’t have to be! As soon as we told people we were moving to Amsterdam we were connected to loads of amazing individuals who as well as giving us great tips and advice, have become friends for life. We found some incredible hidden gems by asking around, rather than relying on TripAdvisor or guidebooks. That stuff is great if you’re heading off on a city break and need to tick all the boxes, but when you live somewhere, you want to experience it as a local. Some of our favourite spots were actually tucked away in our neighborhoods and would probably never have come up on a Google search.
• Don’t let people come and visit too soon! We were so lucky to have a string of friends and family come out and stay with us during the six months which gave us a wonderful opportunity to show off the Amsterdam that we had discovered as a resident. BUT we made sure that for the first month we didn’t have any visitors, meaning it forced us to go out and explore the city for ourselves.
• Give yourself time. Completely uprooting yourself can be tough going at times, you are plucked out of your comfort zone and dropped into a different routine and culture. As it was the first time we’d lived on our own (and for Nat in a different country), we found having a lot of time to ourselves quite confronting at first, but we tried to relax and be patient, and actually, the ability to just ‘be’ is one of the things we’re proudest to have developed out of the whole move.