It all started in Australia…
Nick and Jo from Salt Media they tell us about the journey they’ve been on since 2003, developing what is now an established creative marketing and publishing agency specialising in hospitality, food, travel and lifestyle. They also publish the Indy Coffee Guide series across the UK, the Trencherman’s Guide and Food Magazine – a thriving monthly publication about food and drink in the South West that holds the widest readership in the region.
It’s clear that fifteen years on from launch day, Nick and Jo still hold the same passion for creating and enabling intuitive creative services to the varied hospitality and tourism sector. It almost seems fate that two (who met at university, worked in Sydney where they fell in love with the coffee culture, and eventually moved to North Devon) were destined to end up as Couplepreneurs.
Couplepreneur – Jo Rees and Nick Cooper
Business Established – June 2003
Website – www.saltmedia.co.uk
Industry – Media and Publishing
The desire was always there.
Even when they were working in corporate environments (Jo in marketing and publishing at the BBC in London and Sydney and Nick as a research scientist at Thames and then Sydney Water) they were “forever feeling the urge to start things and make things happen”, they just needed to reinvigorate their entrepreneurial mindset.
We asked Jo and Nick more about their incredible journey having just celebrated the 15th birthday of Salt Media with their team.
Where and how did your journey as Couplepreneurs start?
Nick and Jo’s journey started on that 18 months in Sydney where a passion for the speciality coffee culture in Australia blossomed. Nick says: “We decided to come back to the UK and start the kind of speciality coffee shop we’d loved in Sydney.” Knowing they didn’t want to return to London, they set up camp at Nick’s family’s holiday home in Cornwall for three months, to learn everything they could about the hospitality business, find suppliers and premises somewhere in the South West.
Jo reminisces, “Our friends thought we were bonkers! No-one understood why we would move away from the London corporate environment, good jobs and salaries to start a café in Devon”. Nick adds, “You’re taught that you go to university, get a job, work your way up the ladder, take out a huge mortgage only to sell once you retire and move to Devon for a quieter life. We just thought, why not cut out the middle bit and move to Devon and start our own business?”
So Nick sold his small terraced house in Reading, which provided the income on which the two ambitious go-getters lived off for the next three years.
It was while planning the café business that Jo started doing some marketing training work for devon County Council to bring in some extra funds and it was working with them that turned out to be the lightbulb moment for the launch of a local food magazine: ‘I thought, im teaching all of these food producers how to market their own businesses but the reality is that most of them don’t have any budget to do so, so why not start a magazine that promotes local food generally, so everyone benefits. It just had legs as an idea from the beginning and we were running to keep up with it.”
The idea for the café went on the back burner, Nick joined the team, working on business development and selling, and Salt Media was born. It’s simple to see how two likeminded people have become a successful Couplepreneur.
What do you believe the benefits are to being a Couplepreneur?
Jo says: “You’re both fully committed to the project which means that if you’re both driving it at a hundred miles an hour you can really get things done and create something significant. It’s also a benefit that you understand how the other works and have total trust in them.” Nick adds: “You are more likely to be honest with each other and while that can be hard for some couples, it’s important to have a ‘work relationship’ and a ‘personal relationship’ and keep them a bit separate so you can have the difficult work conversations.
Honesty, trust and reslience are key themes in Nick and Jo’s relationship. Jo says: ‘We’ve both had to be very resilient, especially in the beginning when it was very tough, and then during the recession, but you just have to persevere and keep putting one foot in front of the other. You will eventually get somewhere.”
And what challenges do you experience that are unique to Couplepreneurs?
Nick and Jo felt that when times have been tough – say around difficult HR issues or when cashflow was very tight in the early years – it was sometimes difficult to get away from the stress of work, because they were also together at home. Nick went on to tell us, “It can be difficult when you run a business with your partner.
Most people get to sit down with their other half at the end of a long hard day, debrief over a glass of wine, and then move on. When you work together you don’t want to burden them with issues from your day as you know it will affect them too.”
“You’re taught that you go to university, get a job, work your way up the ladder, take out a huge mortgage only to sell once you retire and move to Devon for a quieter life. We just thought, why not cut out the middle bit and move to Devon and start our own business?“Nick
How do you make it work, as a Couplepreneur, with a family?
From the outset, you are able to tell instantly that both Nick and Jo care deeply about the kind of childhood their children have and this is reflected in how they operate the business. Jo goes on to explain that the “do intertwining early and late shifts, so one of us will always take the children to school and pick them up. This has been one of the biggest successes of this lifestyle for us.”
Nick adds “In my opinion, being successful is being able to take two weeks off with the family, while not having to think about replying to any emails or calls and nothing going drastically wrong. Last year was the first time we were able to do a full fortnight away with the kids, and I am proud of the life we have built.” Both Jo and Nick are keen to stress that this has only been possible by surrounding themselves with people who are better at the job than them, people with different skills.
If you could go back in time, would you change anything?
When you analyse Salt Media as a thriving business, it is easy to see why they are doing well now. We did, however, ask Nick and Jo if they would do anything differently if they had the chance. Nick shared great advice that many other Couplepreneurs have touched on too. Nick says,
“I don’t believe there is anything you can’t do if you persevere and have a good plan. Don’t worry about what people think as it’s easy to believe that what you are trying to achieve is something that only other people could do, but unless you try, you’ll never know.”
They both believe that success is a result of many small decisions along the way. In Nick and Jo’s case, the success started with finding their passion for food and coffee in Sydney, to taking the leap and moving to Devon. Jo adds that if she were to advise anyone starting out now, she’s say: “Have a good plan, look at the downsides, be prepared not to make much money at first, but don’t be fearful – go for it. You’ll never know what you could achieve unless you try and if you are working in an industry that’s also your passion, it’s hugely invigorating and also a lot of fun.”
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