AweSUM's: Career Tracker - Jodie Cook (2010)

— 12.04.18

by Adam Greenwood

The first in our new series of alumni 'journey-tracker' stories, Jodie Cook talked to Catalyst about what she's up to right now....

In 2010 I graduated from the University of Sheffield having spent three years studying Business Management. I stayed in Sheffield for a year afterwards to work two full time jobs so I could save up to start my own business. One of these roles was on a 1-year graduate scheme at a social care company, and one was working as a waitress at Las Iguanas restaurant on West Street!

Since then I have founded a social media agency, JC Social Media, providing social media management and training to a variety of clients, with a team of 20 based in Birmingham. I have also co-founded a children’s storybooks company, Clever Tykes, introducing 6-9 year olds to enterprising role models. I spend a quarter of each year working from a different country around the world and I compete for Great Britain in powerlifting. The following six years after graduating as documented in Catalyst Magazine here, but here’s a snapshot of my life and work in the last three months and the next three months...

Flaunt social media reporting

In the last three months I have launched Flaunt Report, a reporting tool for social media agencies, with a friend who runs a web development company. Flaunt was previously a tool that only my own agency used, so it was exciting to be able to turn this into something that other agencies could incorporate and impress their clients with!

Social media as an industry hasn’t been around all that long, so best practice is still forming. We see our role as being able to raise the standard of reporting in the industry to ensure it keeps its integrity. I’ve really enjoyed speaking to other agency owners all over the world about the work they do and how they operate: the tool now has users in Canada, Dubai, Australia and the USA.

Most of my work on this has been in the set-up. I spent January in San Diego writing the Flaunt website, setting up our email marketing, setting up our social media advertisements, communicating with users and training the team to manage it going forward. This was in order to lay a solid foundation from which to attract new users – so far so good!

Corporate social responsibility and Clever Tykes

Whilst studying Business Management at Sheffield I completed a module called Corporate Social Responsibility. This introduced me to the concept of how commercial entities can contribute to a better world. Early profits from JC Social Media were used to set up Clever Tykes, which is now self-sustaining. Clever Tykes is set up to contribute to #4 and #10 of the UN’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development: quality education and reduced inequality.

In the last three months I have worked on the ecommerce side of Clever Tykes, and organised the distribution of the books we sell online. Previously, when we sold books via our website or Amazon, my co-founder and I would pack them, write the labels, walk to the post office and post them. As sales grew this became unsustainable and was taking too long each day.

We had to find a solution. I decided to immerse myself in Amazon’s distribution, named Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA). I read The Everything Store, all about Jeff Bezos and his vision and practices for Amazon, then I researched, spoke to experts and set about planning how this could work for Clever Tykes.

At the start of the year we moved our stock of storybooks to Amazon’s warehouses and set up our FBA. This now means that when orders are received via Amazon, Amazon packs, labels and ships them ready to be posted to the customer on that day. We also configured our own website to operate this way, so that Amazon ships orders received there too.

I have loved working on this project because I’m a huge fan of military-precision organised processes that operate seamlessly with minimum human input needed. Now instead of operating the process myself I just receive emails to confirm that it’s happened. I enjoy setting up systems then trusting that they run, and from what I have read about Jeff Bezos this seems to be his ethos too!

Automating the fulfillment in this way has freed up time to be able to focus on marketing and partnerships, safe in the knowledge that our delivery processes are sound. This has been fruitful so far as we now have a new base of customers who homeschool their children and use our books as the basis for some of their lessons! We also won a national award, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards “Entrepreneurs Champion of the Year”, and have secured some press coverage in the Telegraph. This wouldn’t have happened had we still been traipsing to the Post Office!

Team JC

Currently, my main focus at JC Social Media is training and supporting exceptional people to excel. My role is supporting both our general manager and our training manager. In turn they support our clients, our team, and they grow and progress the company. My management style is to coach. I try my very best to ask questions, and keep asking questions, and encourage independent thinking of the team so that the solutions they come up with are owned by them.

I enjoy working with people who focus on their own personal development: they want to learn and to progress, and they are always trying to improve how they deal with obstacles. I learn a lot from the people I manage.

The next few months

Next month at JC Social Media we are running a round-table event alongside a multinational law firm, all about social media policy and the use of social media in recruitment. We host the event with a partner in the law firm who is also a Sheffield University graduate; the last time we met he mentioned the “Sheffield pajama jump”, which I don’t remember but apparently was infamous!

Also in the not-too-distant future we hope to secure a USA sponsor for Clever Tykes. My co-founder at Clever Tykes is my husband Ben, who is also a Sheffield alumnus. He studied Economics and graduated in 2011. In 2017 Ben and I secured a UK sponsor to gift our enterprise education storybooks and resources to all 23,500 UK primary schools and now we want to replicate this in the States. They have around 95,000 elementary schools so it’s a big job but I’m convinced we can find one!

Alongside working on the above I am in training for an upcoming powerlifting competition. I’ve been selected for the Great Britain team for the IPF World Championships in the <57kg weight category. Joining me in the team of 7 is a friend from my gym, Lucia, who is a Music graduate from Sheffield University! I’m enjoying training for worlds and know that there’s no pressure on the competition, just to do my very best and enjoy the experience of competing on a world stage alongside lifters I’ve admired since I took up the sport.

As I write this I’m in Brisbane, Australia, about to head to the Gold Coast and watch the weightlifting in the Commonwealth Games. A friend from home is competing so I’m going to cheer her on very loudly! Being surrounded by so much sporting excellence helps me get into the mindset of training hard and competing.

Do you want to be interviewed? Alumni can ask for a interview by emailing mgtalumni@sheffield.ac.uk

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Find me on Instagram and Twitter (or search @cookiewhirls) and LinkedIn.

11.07.16

Alumni perspective: six years after graduation, by Jodie Cook