If you’re looking for some insight into the early stages of starting a marketing agency, then you’ll want to keep reading. Desk Life recently sat down with Olivia Piepe, Co-Founder and Director of Juniper Communications, to discuss the highs and lows of startup life, going into business with friends, getting great clients, and working in an office with an intern who’s 8 inches tall (that would be Penny the Dachshund).
Olivia’s interview is exactly what every freelancer needs to hear, and anyone aspiring to start their own agency one day. After meeting at university, she and fellow Co-Founder Annajane Lewis went on to create their London Fields-based business together, combining their experience in startup marketing and high-end luxury brands. Here’s what she had to say…
Hi Olivia! Things are going well here at Juniper. What made you want to leave full-time work and start the business?
After years of working in-house for a variety of companies, we were drawn to the idea of working for ourselves. We began working on the business around 3 years ago. I quit my full-time job after a year of running it, and then a year later Annajane quit hers. We’ve been running Juniper full-time together now for about a year.
When did the idea of joining forces and starting Juniper come about?
I can’t really remember exactly how it happened to be honest! We knew that we both had complementary skill sets and experience, and being really good friends it seemed to happen very naturally. The biggest jump was quitting our jobs, because it’s all very well deciding to start a side hustle together, but actually creating a business that allows you the opportunity to leave the security of a full-time job, that was definitely the biggest hurdle.
Juniper Marketing and Communications is an integrated marketing consultancy that delivers expert marketing advice, realistic solutions and a tangible return on investment.”
How do the two of you split the workload?
We allocate a lead account director for each client, based on who has the right skill set to match, or who has the capacity. From there, the other person (or our admin team) supports the lead account manager when needed.
Did you bring clients on board from your previous jobs?
We began with a client that Annajane worked with in her previous role, and we worked for them as Juniper Communications for a 6 month project, which was amazing because it meant that we could really hit the ground running.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first year of business?
Getting to grips with the admin that comes with running a business, I’d say. We spent the first part of the year without an accountant, and we realised pretty quickly that we really needed one. And then of course managing the accountant, invoicing, chasing up invoices, dealing with expenses and so on, were very important. When you are used to doing marketing you may not be familiar with the admin side of things, and not realise how important it is for keeping the business running smoothly.
I’d say that was the biggest challenge of year one, but the more we do it the more used to it we become. As we grow and bring on staff there will be new challenges to face I’m sure!
When did you move to the office that you’re in now?
We moved into this office about a year ago. We started off spending most of our time working in Annajane’s house, in cafés, and working separately at home. It was difficult because I was either spending a lot of money in a café or spending all of my time in the house going stir-crazy. In the end we found this place through suggestions from a couple of friends, and it was perfect as it isn’t far from where we both live.
Being so busy, how do you manage to stay organised and on top of everything?
I use a really great tool called Workflowy, which is a list tool, and I usually create two lists; one which includes definite priorities and one for things that would be nice to do that day in addition to everything else.
We also try to stay organised using shared drives, so we make sure all of our files are in the right place.
What is your process when working with clients and sticking to deadlines?
Essentially we will meet with them, and we might then give them a presentation to tell them what we would do for their brand.
We usually work things out by how much time it will take us, and give the client an amount to buy our services for this time. For the website that I’m creating at the moment, I have allocated around 6/7 days for the whole project.
Do you feel running your own business gives you both good work life balance?
When you’re self-employed you have to know exactly how much work you have to do and when you need to do it by, so you’re in control of it yourself. I would say our work life balance is quite good at Juniper, and that’s something that has always been really important for both me and Annajane. In a way, there was no point in us starting our own business if we couldn’t have a good work life balance.
How does the business compare to your previous jobs?
To be honest we’ve had a very nice first year. There are definitely some moments of worrying, but actually, up until now we’ve always had everything work out well. Of course sometimes it’s been quite a slog, and being a startup we have to reinvest a lot of our money back into the business.
In terms of having moments where I’ve felt like giving up, I can honestly say that I prefer this 100 times more than any job I’ve ever had. 1,000 times more! It’s incomparable to working for someone else. It is of course more work because you have to act as your own boss and hold yourself accountable, but being able to bring Penny [the Dachshund] to work with us is just the best thing!
What’s your proudest moment in business so far?
We actually just won a Retail Industry Award for our digital work for SimplyFresh, which we feel very proud of!