Oak and Black | Case Study
Company : Oak and Black : Freddie Main- Founder
At Oak & Black, we work with reclaimed materials whenever possible and believe that with the right amount of focus, attention, and love we can turn these materials into beautiful products and heirlooms that will bring joy for years to come. The ability to create is within all of us and it is something that I know has always brought me great joy; seeing these creations bring joy to others is even more special.
Project : Two projects in social media management and digital marketing.
Don’t underestimate what they can do for you, they could take a lot off your plate and it’s little things that you don’t think, “Ack, it’s just this. It’s just that. Oh, I can do that myself.” Get it off your plate. – Freddie Main
So we start things off, Freddie, great to have you with us. Could we start off by telling me a little bit about your business, what you do, and maybe a bit about the project that you posted on Udrafter?
So Oak and Black does lots of creative work. We build barrel bars and other products like engraved wall hangings using reclaimed whisky casks and reclaimed materials. We do business to business in terms of gifting and providing for businesses’ clients and also their staff and then also business to the clients themselves, where anyone can go to the website and order products and have something custom-designed, custom-made, and our core values are kindness, creativity, and sustainability.
What was the project that you posted with Udrafter?
I’ve posted two projects, which were to help support with the social media and digital marketing. We’ve had a really good following on Instagram because we’re so visual as we do videos of how we make things and then show pictures of the final products of people using them. So social media is a massive for us.
And basically, as much as I love creating content and posting, I need to be doing other things. So Udrafter really helped me in that I can then post the project on there and get someone to help.
Was that one of the main challenges you were facing before you took an intern to do the social media?
Well, I think when you’re starting any business, you’re wearing literally every hat, as you know. And it’s not always about just focussing on what you enjoy doing, although I think that’s massively important but as much as I loved creating the content, I know that it’s easier to market a good product and my focus is on making sure that we’re putting out a good product.
So that was really the rationale for getting someone in to do it and the beauty with social media is it’s not essential to be local. It would be a luxury. So, Udrafter becomes like a good dating site that hooks you up with the right people to get what you need out of it.
Was there a specific moment that made you think I need to outsource this work?
I don’t know the specific moment, I think it was more reflecting on, “Where’s the consistency here?” I knew I had to have more of a pattern to the social media and also, I wasn’t very good at, bigging myself up or bigging up the company enough. Whereas if someone else is doing it, it’s less cringey for me. [laughter] I’m not having right to write it, although it’s still saying, “Look at how good this product is.”.
So someone else doing it makes it easier. I think it was that I’d known for a while that I needed to get a a structure and a pattern to it. So it wasn’t just random, and it wasn’t depending on my mood or the fact that I wasn’t so busy that I was able to actually create some content and then come back and edit it. I wasn’t able to do that consistently.
Had you outsourced work before with your business?
Yeah, I’ve outsourced some aspects of production, but again, for me it comes down to, “Do I trust that person? Do I trust the quality of the work that comes out of it?” because ultimately, I need to then put my name on it.
So that’s really important. The first year for me has been all about building the brand and I want people to associate the brand with quality and as well as the three values of kindness, creativity, sustainability. So it’s important that we’re authentic and that we’re genuine and therefore, whoever we outsource to gets that.
When you’re outsourcing that work, you were saying about making sure you’re maintaining the genuineness and authenticity, what channels did you use to sort of outsource that work? Was it online, offline, or how would you normally get these people in?
Well, it’s been through yourselves for the social media and, two other people. So I’ve actually outsourced two aspects of production for a period due to problems with some of my kit and that was just through searches online. I try to find someone who’s local because I try and work locally as much as possible to make sure its sustainable.
What drew you towards the freelance/ intern route than looking to hire a full-time employee?
Well, it’s a win-win. I love a win-win. I haven’t got the resources to hire anyone. As, you start a new business, you quite often don’t pay yourself because you’re trying to keep things going. So that was an advantage, but also the fact that someone else is getting an opportunity to build their CV and be proactive with that. I’m lucky enough that I’m happy for them to pick it up and run, and step in to give them give guidance and give my parameters, but then not micromanage and actually let them use their creativity.
It’s important for me that when I go through that selection process, we’re having a conversation. I need to speak to the person. The emails are good, but I need to speak to that person and actually get a feel for them, make sure they understand what Oak and Black’s about. I want to know that they’ve looked at the website, that they’ve looked at the social media and I want to ask them what their view is, what they think the strengths are, where do you think it could go.
How did you find the sort of virtual recruitment process and the virtual world with the pandemic and things? How did you find that process, number one? And what did you look out for in individuals? Was it based on cultural fit or mostly skills or maybe a bit of both?
A real mixture. I go a lot on feeling, but that feeling only comes from the information that you’re presented with in the first instance. So I found it OK. I would find myself being quite judgmental, in terms of when I’m looking at the applications. Thinking, “Why have they not done a cover letter?” And what I appreciate also is that they’re probably going for lots and lots and lots of jobs that have been posted.
But I think the people that stand up for me, the ones that actually put a personalised cover letter that’s tailored to that company. That they’ve got detail in there, in their CV section, there specific skills. So if I’ve got a project in mind and I want someone to help with digital marketing, but also actually could they help with my SEO on the website, I’ll look at the skills.
If someone’s local. That would be great but it’s not essential. Then I would just send a message, get in touch. what I’m looking for is actually, are they getting back in touch? Are they replying in good time? That tells me a lot about someone. Are they checking it? Are they replying? And then it’s about getting the conversation, maybe exchange emails. Here’s my phone number. Let’s actually get a call.
Let’s have a Zoom call, and let’s have a catch-up. So, yeah, I found it absolutely fine. No issue with the recruitment process for this project. For another project, it may be different. I don’t know.
Bringing it back to your project for a second. What were your expectations going into it? and did your expectations develop over the course of the project?
When I first did it, I wasn’t entirely sure because I wasn’t sure what level to expect and obviously that depends on the candidate. I think what’s good about Udrafter is when you start a project, you’ve got that safety of that middleman [Udrafter]. Where if they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes, then you’ve got an opportunity to sort of say, “Hold on a minute.” Not that that’s happened. It hasn’t, but also it gives the intern a bit of security and safety as well. So in terms of me feeling secure about doing it, it definitely met the expectations, and it continues to do so.
There are alot of students out there, maybe not having experienced the workplace, how was their integration with your team?
Fine. It’s just working directly with me, and we just communicate via WhatsApp, I’ll send content through and just give suggestions. So it’s been absolutely fine. I think it’s important for me to understand and for anyone to understand that it might be the most important thing to you, right then, but they maybe have got other things going on as well. So I think if you can establish boundaries of expectations of actually when should this be done?
I just said if we can have by a Sunday night, the plan for the week, I can have a look at it and just have a bit of clarity in my head of what’s going on. I can tweak some things, make sure it’s factually correct if you’ve got someone’s name wrong for example and then throughout the week as and when I create content or take pictures or shoot videos, or get ideas, I just, boom, boom, boom, ping it through on WhatsApp? And then they can take the time to make it into something magic.
To other business owners out there or managers who might be unsure about hiring an intern or if they need one. What advice could you give them?
Don’t underestimate what they can do for you, they could take a lot off your plate and it’s little things that you don’t think, “Ack, it’s just this. It’s just that. Oh, I can do that myself.” Get it off your plate. Be clear in your expectations, be clear on what you need from them and then trust them to actually do the job. Guide them if it’s maybe not going to your expectations, but take ownership of that and then hand over.
Again, if your focus needs to be elsewhere, then what’s the best way for you to use an intern? Actually. How can they best support you? and the way I look at things, is if I was in a position to then take this person on, they’ve already done their job interview and you’ve already got someone pretty much on the books. So that’s where it becomes a win-win. It puts them in the shop window.
You just don’t know what’ll come from it. You might actually think, “Actually this person is really good at this. I might actually boost the project, see if they can handle that.” and from a business owners’ perspective, what’s the risk? It’s not like you’re hiring them and then having to fire them. It’s actually you know, you’re doing it project by project. Everyone’s clear on that. Everyone knows that from the outset.
So, I think it’s a really smart way to do things and It means you’re dynamic. If you’ve got a project that’s actually one person’s working on, you can hire a second intern, you can hire a third intern to work on different projects. So it gives you versatility and it gives you that dynamism that I think a lot of businesses probably need.