There are the kind of startups that grow as a side hustle, always in the background until they are ready to take the spotlight. Then, there are the startups who go all-in from day one. Mac&Moore launched full-time right out the gate, and co-founders Jess and Nat haven’t looked back since. From going into business together, to relocating to Amsterdam for 6 months, to writing for The Independent, Mac&Moore have accomplished so much since they launched, and they’re sharing the highs and lows right here:
Hi Jess and Nat! We’re a little bit Insta-obsessed with you. Tell us about Mac&Moore, what do you do there?
Nat: We are a brand marketing consultancy that kickstart marketing for start-ups (mainly in the B2B space), allowing them to stand out, be remembered and be better than their competitors. We work either on a project basis to launch a brand from scratch or as a bolt-on to an existing team, and we use best-in-class freelance partners to meet whatever needs each particular client has. I’m the creative half of the duo and am really passionate about building identifiable personalities that allow brands to sound like human beings… not dry corporates!
Jess: Essentially we operate as a plug-in CMO allowing our clients to access high-level strategic and creative marketing as and when they need it. We love the human side of business, helping leaders to think smarter, clearer and more creatively about their brand. We work with businesses that want to add value to the world and help them connect and engage with their customers in a unique and memorable way.
What were you both up to before starting the business, and how did you become partners?
Jess: I was Head of Marketing for a start-up and needed a right-hand woman to help me. I met Nat and couldn’t wait for her to be a part of my team as I was always taught to hire someone smarter than you. It quickly became clear that our skill-sets hugely complemented each other and our combined work was unique, memorable and creative.
Nat: Before meeting Jess I worked as a Marketing Manager for several media companies. When we began working together, we realised very quickly that we each had things that the other one didn’t, and that made us a serious force to be reckoned with.
Tell us about the steps you took to start the business.
Nat: One thing we decided from day one was that if we were going to do it… we were really going to go for it. We were both committed to Mac&Moore full-time from the start and didn’t have any outside funding so we had to make smart decisions fast and make the best use of our time rather than spending too long thinking (or overthinking) certain aspects. We followed our gut on the name and the branding and did everything other than our logo ourselves. So within two weeks we had our website up and running, business cards printed and our first two clients… then it was just a case of building from there.
Jess: This was a very personal time for me. I’d recently turned 30, had come through the back of a bad break-up and was looking to completely overhaul my life, and the business seemed like a great place to start! Setting up Mac&Moore was an opportunity to do things properly and we spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of clients we’d like to work with and the vision of what we eventually wanted the business to be. Starting with strong foundations and finding your “why” is essential if you’re looking to build something to last.
Starting with strong foundations and finding your “why” is essential if you’re looking to build something to last.”
What has been your proudest moment so far?
Jess: This is a really hard question! Relocating to Amsterdam from London for 6 months is up there. This period of time was challenging, rewarding, fun, terrifying and, most importantly, a huge part of our own personal growth. We came back to London refreshed, stronger and more unified as a partnership. That experience showed me the true value of setting up on your own and the freedom it allows you whilst also offering me the opportunity to see life through a different lens.
Nat: There have been quite a few, and I am a big fan of noting and celebrating successes when we get them. Whenever we complete a big project and get positive feedback that always makes me really proud, repeat business is always nice too! One of my proudest moments was being approached by The Independent to write an article based on the work Jess and I have done around promoting female empowerment… that felt REALLY good.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned since starting Mac&Moore?
Nat: That I’m capable of much more than I gave myself credit for. One thing I’m really passionate (and vocal) about is female empowerment and gender equality. I started my career in a time before the term ‘Imposter Syndrome’ existed, but I definitely suffered from it. I didn’t have huge expectations of what I could achieve and yet since starting Mac&Moore and making a success of it I’ve realised that I can go after whatever I want, and I’m determined to help other women realise that on their own career journeys as well.
Jess: Things take time. I’m hugely impatient and I’m always bursting with ideas I want to see out there in the world! I’ve learned to go with the flow, trust my instincts and also believe that good things come to those who wait.
How do you both stay organised as a duo? Any tips or tools?
Nat: It’s safe to say that Jess is the organised one of the duo. She’s got a lot of agency experience and has taught me a lot (reluctantly) about filing (it really is a rock and roll lifestyle). Now we’re in our third year we’re pretty good at reading each other’s minds and passing things back and forth between us but I’d say that figuring out a system that works for you is essential, plus having good communication at all times.
Jess: I am a naturally organised person so haven’t felt the need for any of the project management tools that are available. We use FreeAgent for our accounting and this has streamlined our finances and allowed us to spend less time manually putting together invoices/uploading our expenses and more time on the day job! I write a to do list at the beginning of each week in my Completist planner and I then start each day with a hit list of three things I need to achieve. Prioritising and staying focused is key – it’s easy to get distracted (especially on Instagram)!
Would you say you have a healthy work life balance? If yes, what do you do to maintain this, and if no, what would you change?
Nat: This is a tricky one and I definitely think it’s an evolving process. Structure and routine is key for me now that no one is telling me to sit in a specific chair for 9 hours a day! I try and build in some fresh air/exercise into every day, not check/respond to emails too late at night etc. But I’d say the main thing is trying not to put too much pressure on myself. If you believe the ‘Gary Vees’ of this world you’d think that unless you’re at breaking point then you’re not working hard enough. I think that’s an unhealthy attitude, and both Jess and I have always been keen to create a business that supports both of our personal lives as well.
Jess: Before Mac&Moore I’ve worked 15/16 hour days with very high pressure deadlines. So ever since we’ve started the business it’s never reached that level of stress and I’ve always tried to be mindful to not take on too much that we can’t handle. I am hugely passionate about what I do and I’m always pushing myself to be better. I try to remind myself that stepping out into nature, taking a break, having some alone time and spending time with loved ones allows me to be better at what I do. With that in mind I prioritise time to unwind.
I am hugely passionate about what I do and I’m always pushing myself to be better. I try to remind myself that stepping out into nature, taking a break, having some alone time and spending time with loved ones allows me to be better at what I do.”
Any advice for friends who want to go into business together?
Nat: Try and be honest with each other as much as you can, take the emotion out of business decisions as much as possible and don’t forget to have fun! A business partnership is like any relationship, it needs work and sometimes you have to switch off and have some time out to have fun rather than constantly talk about work.
Jess: Get a mentor! At times it can be quite intense when it’s just the two of you. I’ve really valued having outside advice from an objective ear. Respect each other as business partners and as friends and remember it can be a fun ride and not to take life too seriously.
What do you have planned for Mac&Moore this year, and what are the next steps towards your goal?
Nat: We have big plans this year! We’re really excited about the projects we’ve got on the go at the moment and have put together a new strategy to reach more likeminded people we want to work with. Plus, we’re launching an event series Mac&Meetup, have just started sending out our newsletter Mac&Mail (make sure you sign up here!) and we’re also doing a fair bit of mentoring.
Jess: Create. Create more meaningful connections, create the positive change we want to see in the world and create more valuable work for our clients.