George Chilton, Creative Director and co-founder of Hubbub Labs tells us about a content marketing agency based in Barcelona.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
George Chilton: I’m very grateful that we’re all healthy and well – though we are as worried as everyone else. My wife, 15-month-old son, and I live in Spain, and our extended families are in the UK and Colombia, so we’re sad not to be able to see anyone. Of course, like everyone, we’re speaking more via video chat – but it’s not the same. Fingers crossed things start to improve over the summer!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Hubbub Labs.
George Chilton: I’m the co-founder and joint owner of Hubbub Labs, a Barcelona-based content marketing agency for education companies and startups all over the world. I’m originally from the UK, but I’ve lived and worked in a number of countries, including South Korea, Spain, and Colombia. Over the course of my career (if you can call it that), I’ve worked as a copywriter, English teacher, editorial assistant, and – in my last role – as the managing editor and principal in Publicize – a PR firm for startups in Medellin, Colombia.
Although I’d always had the ambition to run a successful company, I didn’t feel I had the know-how or experience to do so. It wasn’t until I’d worked in a fast-paced startup environment, where I was managing writers, keeping clients happy, and getting results, that I felt I should pursue my goal. I’m eternally grateful to my bosses there. Being part of the company decision-making process taught me a lot and gave me the confidence to launch my own business.
When my wife and I moved back to Barcelona in 2017, I decided to start Hubbub Labs with my co-founder Dan Shepherd. His management and organizational skills are much stronger than mine, but I have the editorial and creative experience needed for this type of agency. We complement each other well.
How does Hubbub Labs innovate?
George Chilton: In terms of philosophy, we’re always focused on giving value to our clients. Therefore, much of our innovation is based on developing new services that we roll out to them and then test in the marketplace.
It’s to our advantage that our team is small, agile, and can move on ideas quickly. If the ideas don’t work, we either iterate or drop them and move on to something else. Being service-based, this process is quite straightforward. Currently, we offer strategy content marketing, blogs, lead generation assets, copywriting, training, digital marketing, ads, etc. Frankly, this means there are few overheads for us, other than the team costs.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
George Chilton: With the pandemic hanging over our heads, we were acutely aware of the precarity of the situation and humbled when we saw hardworking and talented friends and colleagues in other roles struggling to keep afloat through no fault of their own.
However, we recognize that we were extremely fortunate. Our business grew considerably in 2020 because we were principally working in an education niche. Schools, publishers, and ed-tech companies had to change what they were doing, but they didn’t cease operations. Although we lost some projects, in many cases, our clients increased communications and marketing rather than reducing them. We’re all very grateful to our clients for their continued support.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
George Chilton: To me, our team is superheroes – they work hard, never complain and make working at Hubbub Labs a total joy. While human resources decisions are always difficult, once again, we were lucky, and we were able to keep everyone on board.
The biggest (maybe tangentially related) decision was to stop working at our coworking space. We gave that up during lockdown in Barcelona and only went back to an office in September. It was a good bit of cost-cutting, but it’s been a relief to see people face to face again!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
George Chilton: As we took on more projects, client communication increased. In terms of evolution, I think it was just a matter of becoming more efficient. Internally, we use Notion to assign, manage, and track client work – it also works as a CRM to some degree. We use Slack for team communication and email and Zoom to interact with clients.
We’ve always been a remote team. The only thing that’s really changed is that we haven’t been able to travel to see our clients at all.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
George Chilton: We’ve been bootstrapped from the beginning and have, so far, not taken any loans, grants or investments.
Your final thoughts?
George Chilton: 2020 was a strange, sad, stressful year. 2021 is already underway, and while the pandemic is still raging, I feel there is a growing sense of optimism that things will get under control. The whole situation has reinforced the value of friendships and shown me that time is, by far, our most valuable resource. I don’t pretend to have any special wisdom or advice, but the pandemic has given me a new perspective – and opened my eyes to just how fragile our ecosystem is. I hope that we can make this New Year one that embraces collaboration and human values and really considers our collective impact on the environment.
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