Simply Zesty – The Story 1 Year On
One year ago today Simply Zesty opened for business, and what a year it has been! Having enjoyed a couple of great posts from Contrast and Echo Libre chartering the first year of their companies we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the highlights of our first year in business here on our own blog as life and business can move too fast at times and it can be important to look back and see where you have come from rather than always looking forward. All that we can say is that although there have been a lot of ups and downs over the course of the year we never really thought we would come this far ourselves in just 365 days and we are blown away by the amount of support and the help that so many people have given us to get this far. There have been many sleepless nights, plenty of hard work, some tears, plenty of joy but most of all just a lot of relief to have taken the business this far. Here are some of the highlights from the last year…
We started out aiming to help the start up businesses who didn’t have huge marketing budgets and our mission statement was to “help businesses punch above their weight” using social media for marketing. Lauren was our first and only employee and she worked long hours for the first few months doing everything from pitches to looking after clients and cleaning the office, she was literally everywhere. We started the business with 10,000 Euros as seed capital and if ever there was a business that was bootstrapped this was it. We didn’t have any money for marketing ourselves or taking clients out to lunch so we spent a lot of our time in hotel lobbies pretending to be bigger than we actually were. When we spoke about the “office” to clients what they didn’t know was that it was Niall’s spare bedroom. We were lucky though that we were able to attract clients quickly and what we lacked in money we made up in working long hours to keep our clients happy and start to grow the business.
Using Blog As A Marketing Tool
As Co-Founders we were having a hard time getting the word out about the company. Neither of us really liked attending networking events as they all seemed to be full of accountants, business coaches and people from other agencies looking for business. We had tried everything and decided that we needed a new tact. On a warm sunny evening we went for a coffee and after a long chat decided that we would re-design our website to have the blog front and center and also agreed that we were going to do all our networking online through social media. From that day on we would each spend at least an hour per evening writing a blog post that offered real value to our readers and the blog would become the center of our universe in terms of marketing ourselves
Getting Our Unique Style
Wherever we go people always commend us on our unique style which to be honest has nothing to do with us but more to do with 2 very talented young individuals who we ended up working with because of Twitter and meeting them both there. The first is Phil O’Kane who we asked to take our photos because having followed his blog we both knew he was a good photographer. We told him that we wanted to get some “funky” photos with Dublin as the backdrop. Phil made us laugh and pose and what came out the other end were photos that made us look about 10 foot tall and had a unique style that we loved immediately. In a world where most companies use stock imagery on their sites they could not have been much more different and we loved them! We loved them so much that we decided to make them a key feature of our new website (god that is vain when we read it back!). Needing a new website we had a look around and found the uber talented Sean O’Grady who we gave the very loose brief of designing us something “clean and funky with the blog as front and center”. He came back with what is still today a site that we love and adore beyond belief. For somebody so young he got the brief spot on and delivered a site that lets the content do the talking.
Sarah Kavanagh was our first member of staff, who joined us in July last year. Sarah has been an invaluable part of the team and has seen us grow to where we are now. Sarah started as an account exec, but now we’ve expanded and grown our client base, we’re pleased to be able to make the most of her incredible skills and have her in a full-time design role. Every company starting out needs a Sarah and we’re incredibly grateful for the hard work and long hours she has always put in. She was there at the very start of the company and has gone through a lot of the hard dark days at the start with us so it’s a delight that she can enjoy the good days with us now as we grow.
Jon Snow And Mashable
Our own blog was starting to get some good traction thanks to the amount of time we were spending on it and Lauren scored a couple of big wins in terms of raising the profile of the blog and company as a whole by recording an interview with well known channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow talking to him about social media and how it was starting to affect the news room. We were starting to do more and more guest posting to help promote our own blog with Lauren writing a great article on one of the world’s most popular blogs Mashable.
We had been having an argument about getting our own Facebook page for a while and after a good bit of back and forward we decided to go with one. We were a social media agency so would have been expected to have one but on the flip side were only going to have a Facebook page if it was the best one we could possibly have. We went ahead and did it and to this day it is one of the best ways we have of communicating with people who like our brand.
In September we were approached by Vodafone to help them with the launch of the 360. It was the first time Vodafone Ireland had included bloggers in a press launch and we were delighted to be involved. The launch seemed to go down pretty well too, with a great post from one of the country’s most respected journalists – Marie Boran. Shortly after this we moved onto a more day to day role with Vodafone helping with their overall social media strategy. Signing Vodafone in Ireland was a major move for us and we could really feel our little agency starting to grow up.
Busy Birthday Month
A busy birthday month! The two of us and Sarah Kavanagh all celebrate our birthdays in the same week in September, which means that when it rolls around, we get to eat a lot of cake!
Never ones to sit back and relax, we decided to have a bit of fun testing out Twitter’s new list function and attempted to ‘crowd source the world’. Our experiment to create a directory for Twitter users worldwide was a good bit of fun and also got us some invaluable coverage.
There were conferences in Ireland pretty much every week covering social media but we wanted to do something that would really stand out and get people excited about the industry so we brought some of the best speakers from Ireland and UK together for a day of fun at the Simply Zesty Winter Camp…
75k Visitors To The Blog
When we started focusing here on the blog we didn’t really have any specific traffic figures in place because we knew that it was more about the quality of reader that we were attracting but even we were blown away when the blog started to become so popular that it was getting over 75,000 visitors every single month after only 8 months of us really pushing it as our main marketing tool. We reckon that the blog is responsible for bringing in well over 80% of the business we attract but it also takes a lot of hard work with myself and Lauren often spending over 10 hours per week writing blog posts each.
A Shiny New Home
As our agency started to grow we knew it was time to move out of our pokey offices! We moved into our new office in Deerpark Road earlier this year and were determined to put a stamp on it. Some of our favourite features include the pingpong table, foam decorations courtesy of Made in Hollywood and the breakout corner, which, although pretty, rarely gets used!
Even though it had been a great few months for SZ, we decided it was probably time to a bit of ‘traditional’ marketing, and subsequently found ourselves in the Independent. We receieved 3 or 4 leads off the back of this and we hugely recommend combining traditional PR with online. It really does work!
In the past couple of months we’ve grown our little team pretty aggressively. We’ve got 2 outstanding account managers in Niall and Rob. Each bring different skills with them, but are equally passionate about social media and dedicated to doing great work for our clients. And we now have two new account executives – Tom Fox and Ciaran Treacy, who will be operating in client teams with Rob and Niall Fagan, as they start out with Simply Zesty.
Some Amazing Clients
Our bread and butter! We’re incredibly proud of the clients we have on-board and have a range of household brands and smaller names that we help through social media. Our client list includes Vodafone Ireland, Nokia, Universal Pictures, The Body Shop, Vodafone Foundation, Visit Dublin, Rehab Ireland and Kinvara Smoked Salmon. We’re pleased to have built up our client list in a year and believe this shows the power of social media and how many brands are using this as a way to reach their customers.
By our own admission we were not the most organized for the first year of being in business so it was time that we hired an accountant/office manager/chief organizer who came in the form of the lovely Sarah Rowlands. Getting Sarah on board means that we can focus on looking after clients and doing the sort of innovative work that has got us this far. It also means that we are in a much better place to manage our growth going forward and hire more great staff and take the business to the next level now that we have a sound platform to work from.Every office should have a Sarah to keep it ticking over smoothly.
It’s been a fantastic first year and not even we can believe the position that we’re in, with a fantastic team of SZers and working on some exciting projects, courtesy of our clients. We are never ones to rest on our laurels and will continue to aim high and work hard. We only hope to keep growing our company, with the brightest talent that Ireland has to offer. The past year has shown us that you never know what’s around the corner and we’re excited to embark on the next year of life at Simply Zesty. Who knows what’s in store for us next, but you can bet we’ll let you know when we do!