Business Chicks Premium member, Jodie de Vries has worked on some of the most recognisable brands in Australia. From high-end jewellery campaigns for Argyle Pink Diamonds and Cerrone to website design for the NSW Ministry of Health, NT Tourism and Sydney Airport. Jodie is the managing director of Tiny Hunter, a strategic branding agency she runs with three other passionate and talented women. We caught up with Jodie to talk brand mergers, her passion for design and how she went from unemployed to MD.
What were you doing before Tiny Hunter?
Before this, I owned an agency called Philter Group. In 2014, we merged with another agency that had complementary strengths to form the bigger and brighter Tiny Hunter. Before owning my businesses, I worked as a graphic designer and also lectured at Shillington College and Swinburne Tafe.
Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I always loved design and back in high school was forever using very early era ‘design’ software to mock up clip art style cards and invitations for my friends, or decorating my books with hand-drawn lettering (not of the Instagram-worthy variety, unfortunately). I wasn’t entirely sure how to turn that into a career at first, so I somehow ended up studying science at uni before I realised I needed to change paths and make design my future.
Tell us your brand story.
Tiny Hunter is a family business run by three seriously passionate women. To say we’re a tight-knit bunch is an understatement, and I feel incredibly lucky to work with such inspiring people. We specialise in branding – helping clients to find that tiny bit of gold that makes them remarkable. Then we help them to amplify it through design, marketing, and communications. We have a passion for family and Australian businesses, although we have global clients too.
When I think back to the beginning, when myself and my business partners Jo and Emma established the business, our goals were never about scale, riches, or reputation. It was about creating an inspiring and supportive culture for our team and making true connections. This underlying motivation has definitely had an impact on how we do business – we work with people and brands that we truly like and respect. It’s not led by finances, but by the fit. And when you’re trusting someone with your brand, the fit is so important. For us, we’re all about creating true partnerships and spearheading collaboration. We work hard to understand our clients and their industry and in return become an integral part of their team.
Why are you so passionate about communication and branding?
I just love the layers that are involved in getting a brand or communication piece exactly right. We work with many amazing businesses that have true craftsmanship and expertise in what they do. From Argyle Pink Diamonds and Beerenberg Family Farm to whiskey pioneers, Lark Distillery. With all our clients, they are relying on us to deeply understand their business – what makes them special – and also their target audience and to create a bridge of communication between the two. It is a big responsibility, and I get such a kick out of contributing to their success.
Why do you think your business model has worked?
We have developed a niche approach as a branding agency with our Brand Kinship process – a human-centric approach to building brands. Any business in any market needs to be able to clearly articulate why they are different, and why people should care. And for us this is it. We believe our success has come about by carving out a niche offering and then working hard to deliver excellent results.
What have been your biggest challenges in business?
One of the biggest challenges in a labour-based business model is balancing resourcing and capacity. We have always had a strong focus on work/life balance and ensuring the team is busy enough, but not flat out. But, it’s a very delicate line. Using temp staff or freelancers isn’t the best option when having stringent processes and very high expectations! There isn’t a perfect answer to this – it’s just about remembering where that delicate line is and working proactively to stay on the right side of it. Luckily, we have excellent relationships with our clients and are always open and transparent and work together to meet deadlines and deliverables.
How did you first fund your business? Would you do it again now?
Before I started my business I was working for an early ‘dot com’ business – an early breed of small digital agency long, long before digital was a thing. Like many, the company went bust, and just before I was officially unemployed I got a $7,000 loan from the bank for a new laptop (yes expensive – it was a while ago!). I started working from my kitchen table and had to borrow money from friends to get by when I realised how slow clients are to pay. It grew slowly, and steadily from there with good old-fashioned hard work. And yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Who are the women you most admire in business?
I am inspired by all women in business, and to be honest by all women generally. We are a fierce, determined, get-shit-done kind of awesome and often that is coupled with juggling seriously busy home lives as well. Kapow ladies!
What do you do in your downtime?
I am not entirely great at relaxing, as the to-do list seems endless. But I do like to go for walks, read books (although generally of the business variety) or listen to podcasts in the car. I always love catching up with family or friends for wine, dinner, dessert or quite likely, all three.