Creative Talk with Emma Turner, Milk & Sticks
Milk & Sticks are a Hawkes Bay design studio, enjoying the wave of creative influx to the area. We discover why they set up in Havelock North and what they love most about their clients.
Tell us why & how you started Milk & Sticks?
Milk & Sticks was the brainchild that came from a trip to Hawaii. I’d left my corporate job in the city and headed overseas for a few months researching and visiting various design companies in the states. I started doing workshops and exploring what was next and then sat with a pina colada in hand, me and Ben decided that it was time to start up our own design business. It had always been a dream of mine to have a boutique size agency and as soon as we touched back down in New Zealand, we got stuck into setting up the business.
Milk & Sticks – how did you come up with the name?
I was determined not to have a name associated with anything, I didn’t want to have studio or creative in the title, I wanted something that was a conversation starter, and I can tell you Milk & Sticks has certainly done that. People are always so intrigued, and you would be surprised how many more people have engaged with us because of our name. I was told at the start that it would be a mistake and people should be able to recognise your business from the name, but it has had the complete opposite effect for us and given us a talking point.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your own agency?
The hardest thing by far was those first few months and starting a business with a contact list of zero! I’d returned from the States full of excitement and passion about starting the business - we had set up a home office, I’d bought all new stationery and nice pens, I’d got my logo and new business cards, along with my new exciting website and email - and was ready to go. I’d get up each morning and dress for work, walk through to my office and start emailing potential clients. I spent 3 months doing this, which after a month was getting quite soul crushing having no leads back. I remember my first job under Milk & Sticks was designing t-shirts for a company’s annual fishing competition and I was so excited to have my first official job under Milk & Sticks. It all paid off in the end, pretty much 3 months to the day of when I started emailing and attending networking groups, the work started to flood in.
Are your clients all locally based?
Absolutely not, the great thing about the work we do is that it can be done from anywhere. We work with clients all over New Zealand and have clients overseas too.
Do you feel at an advantage or disadvantage being a design agency located in the Hawkes Bay?
Definitely an advantage, there is lots of cool stuff happening down here with SME and startups. Hawke’s Bay has become a hub for up-and-coming businesses and larger companies like Xero and Fingermark are moving their businesses to the bay too. It’s been such a great move for the business - our business has had amazing growth since moving here, as well as retaining our clients up in Auckland. People here love to support local and with so much going on there is never a dull moment. It’s not the sleepy little place people think!
What does a typical day look like at Milk & Sticks?
The day normally starts with a team catch up and run over of the jobs for the day ahead, as well as any new clients or projects that are coming up. Our projects are always varied - keeping the work exciting, whether it involves meeting directly with the client over coffee or brainstorming ideas for a big campaign. No two days are ever the same, we work in an awesome shared office space right in the heart of Havelock North. Our black Labrador Halle comes to work each day and definitely loves being the center of attention, not only with the staff but all of the visitors too. It’s a very social office with a range of cultures and characters.
When hiring, what are the top qualities you look for in a designer?
Top qualities we look for are real creative go getters, people who like working as part of a team, are confident to take ownership of a job and see it through, plus have a keen eye for detail.
How would you describe the culture at Milk & Sticks?
The culture of Milk & Sticks expands more into the culture of the office space we work in. We are definitely a fun bunch who thrive on working in a fast-paced environment, we’re all team players and lend a supporting hand where needed.
What’s the best advice you would give yourself starting out on your career?
I’d tell myself not to be afraid and have more confidence in my skills and to take every opportunity I was presented. My university lecturer once told me to make sure you grab every opportunity you get and use it to learn, whether it be a job interview or small job that lands your way. It was the best piece of advice I was given. I applied for every job and went to every interview I was called back for - and my first one was a total flop. I got up and learnt from my mistakes, and it made me so much more confident every time I had to talk in front of people about my work, and it has given me the courage to talk in front of larger groups of clients and teams – especially now that I am running Milk & Sticks.
What’s next for Milk & Sticks?
Coming into our third year running we want to grow our Milk & Sticks family in terms of clients and our team. We have got some really awesome clients that really love what we do, and we want to find more of them. We love the thrill of working with our clients on jobs - big and small, and getting to know them and their business.