Jaye Cowle is the founder of Launch, who are on a mission to build the happiest paid media agency in the world. Founded in 2012, Launch drives revenue for clients through paid media, conversion optimisation and data analytics and has a turnover of £2.2 million.
In this edition of Founders Brew, we caught up with Jaye and learned about some of her biggest hurdles, how she finds time for herself amidst all her responsibilities, the object that sums up her career to date, and more.
Jaye Cowle shares that her biggest hurdle was her battle with cancer four years prior. In just four weeks, Jaye went from finding out that she had cancer to having a massive operation all whilst being the sole breadwinner and CEO of her company. She explains that “at that time, there were only seven of us. But all those seven people relied on me for their mortgages. Not only that, we had fifty odd clients that relied on us to do their advertising and drive revenue for their business.”
Crediting the help of her team, the NHS and the curative operation, Jaye managed to overcome the hurdle. The event taught her the importance of relying on her team, “Can you say it's the best thing that ever happened to me? No, obviously it wasn't, but it taught me how amazing the team were and that I needed to rely on them more.”
Before her diagnosis, Jaye describes herself as having a very positive mindset. However, her experience with cancer taught her to be braver and even more willing to take risks and push boundaries.
In terms of the moment that she knew she made the right decision to set up her company, Jaye pinpoints this to when she started invoicing her clients. Cowle’s decision to leave her job and set up her own business was strongly influenced by the birth of her children and the need for flexibility and balance. The revenue coming in and the results she was building for her clients validated her decision.
Cowle reflects that she finds it difficult to define her own success, but she considers helping others to achieve their goals as success in and of itself.
One of the problems that I’ve got is that I don’t see success when I achieve something, I see success when other people are achieving things, which is why our mission is to be the happiest agency in the world.
She explains that the company's growth and financial metrics serve as tangible indicators that they are doing the right thing; “When your revenue starts to get into seven figures and you hit the 1 million, 2 million, that is giving you feedback that as a company you are making a significant impact for the businesses that you work with, the employees that you have.”
When asked about which skills from her previous life helped her out most when building her business, Jaye recounts her previous role as the head of sales and marketing for a luxury travel company. This helped her understand how to make the most impact with a limited budget and this experience, she says, helped her build her current business in digital marketing.
When asked about an object that sums up her career to date as a founder, Jaye likes to use the coordinates of her very first office in Cornwall given to her as part of the Google Elevator course. Holding the coordinates in her hand, she explains how it represents the growth of her company and the faith invested in her by a tech giant like Google. She goes on to describe her decision to shift from her job in London to entrepreneurship, and a small office on the south east coast.
The origins of Jaye’s entrepreneurial pivot can be traced back to when she found a cheese shop for sale in Cornwall while seeking to evade the high cost of childcare in London. "We were visiting family in Cornwall over an Easter weekend when I went onto Google and searched for businesses for sale in Cornwall. That’s when I saw a cheese shop for sale, and I thought, we do marketing. How hard could it be to run a cheese shop?" Despite having the first campaign slogan all figured out - “Buy one get one Brie” is a winner by our books! - Jaye decided against pulling the trigger on her cheese shop dream, although it was a great way to really start to think about what business she wanted to create.
When asked what she should spend more time on, Jaye quickly identifies a need to take better care of herself. She recognises the importance of balance, explaining that “a happy founder is a much better business person”. Jaye has been trying to achieve more balance in her life because, whilst she is comfortable and well-versed at giving advice to other people about looking after themselves properly in order to prevent burn out, she knows that she needs to take her own advice and spend more time on herself.
Although she sometimes loses sleep over day-to-day business concerns such as recruitment, costs, and client satisfaction, Jaye recognises that she needs to delegate more and focus on bigger goals for her own health, and the wider health of her company.
In terms of the challenges of being a founder, Jaye adopts a nuanced perspective. She discusses the isolation that can come with the job, especially during the pandemic, however she also highlights how the pandemic expanded networking opportunities beyond traditional geographical limits. "Being a founder can be very isolating. Being a founder and being based in Devon can be extremely isolating and when we went into the pandemic, suddenly you could do everything virtually."
She then goes on to describe how the pandemic initially negatively impacted her business, leading to the loss of about 40% of clients, but they were eventually able to pivot their services and turn the adversity into an opportunity. "The pandemic was an absolute disaster for anybody in performance, marketing or paid media. Although we lost 40% of our clients, we only lost 20% of our revenue because our biggest clients stayed and we pivoted to do more conversion optimisation, improving people's websites."
Another challenge highlighted during our discussion is the sacrifice she and her family have had to make along the course of her entrepreneurial journey. Whilst Jaye created Launch with the goal of having more time with her family in mind, being a business owner meant that it wasn’t as easy as that. “When it’s your own business, the buck stops with you and you take on a lot of responsibility. Suddenly, you’re looking at your phone while pushing the swing.”
Whilst there have definitely been sacrifices, her children are at an age now where they can have intellectual conversations about working and even creating their own businesses. “Being able to have those conversations with my children maybe outweighs what would have happened if I’d had a more structured work balance.”
When it comes to connecting with other founders and sharing experiences, Cowle emphasises the importance of being part of a supportive, collaborative community like Helm. "The value of Helm to me has been... people. Founders are all people. They all have interesting stories. And being able to be in a group where I have weekly calls with people through coffee roulette, where you're randomly paired with a member of Helm. My gosh, you have no idea where that 30-minute conversation is going to start and finish."
She advises potential founders to be clear about their mission and vision and emphasises the importance of a positive mindset and happiness in work and life. "Really being clear with what your vision and mission is from the start will mean that you make better decisions along the way because we do get decision fatigue."
Being able to have a positive mindset and show strong leadership means you've got to get out of your head.
Jaye outlines her belief that this leaves you open to more opportunities. "I think that positivity is undervalued by people and people don't invest enough in it. One of the reasons that we made our mission to be the happiest agency in the world is because happiness brings great things, and a positive attitude can have a much bigger impact."
Finally, Jaye explains how her business, Launch, sets itself apart via its commitment to happiness first. "Launch is a bit different because we put happiness first. Ultimately, we're all humans and we all need to work and collaborate well together.”