Vixen Digital was born from Maggie Carroll’s entrepreneurial spirit, co-founded with her husband Sean Carroll to grow people’s businesses. Now tucked away in the Old Steine, Vixen Digital is a team of 13 (if you include Zara the dog) and continues to develop and grow from the pandemic. The Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign stops by to chat with Sean about the best parts of the industry, worst jobs, and opportunities for learning more about business.
By Charlotte Kidd, Brighton & Hove Living Wage Campaign Coordinator
Can you tell me about Vixen Digital’s journey?
It all started with Maggie, my wife. She came over from Poland, studied at the University of Sussex, and has been here ever since. During her master’s she got into Digital Marketing and after becoming a freelance consultant got progressively better contracts with larger clients. One particular contract with EDF energy had a requirement which meant we had to start a limited company, so that was the catalyst for Vixen Digital.
At the time I was a teacher and I’d been helping Maggie, learning as I was going along. We decided if we were going to do this, we’d do it properly. So, we built the website, grew the business, networked, and went on like that. Then we got married and had our daughter.
The pandemic then became another catalyst of change, and we lost around 70% of our business. But it was a quick bounce back because people realised they needed more of an online presence. After that, it was a snowball effect, with people realising they needed digital marketing services.
And what about you and Maggie, how did you meet?
I used to go to Coventry University, and I had friends who went to Sussex. I came down to Brighton as one of our friends put on a benefit gig – I think it was a for donkey sanctuary, and I was playing guitar to help. I saw Maggie but I didn’t think she was interested at all as much as I shyly tried to dance with her. The next day everybody met up for breakfast, hungover, and perhaps I look better hungover than drunk, but it turns out she was interested. (Although I did have hair then.) And it went from there. That was back in 2013.
When you think back to that time do you have a worst job that comes to mind?
Probably my job at Bargain Booze (though they do have the best marketing slogan I’ve ever seen – ‘make life richer for the pourer’). It was difficult because there was no manager, and there was a lot of responsibility when deciding who you were serving, and I was 18 when I started.
It was a group of 18-year-olds running the off-licence and we were naughty. On the weekdays we had nothing to do, so we had Kerrang radio station on and entered every single text competition they had, we tried to get on to the radio –
Did you win any?
We did, two tickets to Kings of Leon.
Sounds like it might’ve been the best job ever.
What about the industry you work in now, what are the best and worst parts?
The best part is growing people’s businesses, and having a positive impact on helping people grow their business. In most cases, people’s businesses are very personal to them. There’s a big mix between the personal and business goals. For example, you might have a yoga instructor who starts their own business, and it’s very much part of their daily life and personality.
The most challenging part of our job is managing expectations. Sometimes people’s budgets don’t always align with what they want. But though it’s a difficult conversation, it can pave the way for a better relationship, once you’ve got over that hill.
What have you still got to learn in your career journey?
Managing a bigger team. Although we’ve grown quickly, we’ve been conscious to be sustainable with our growth. We aren’t getting clients for the sake of it, or staff for the sake of it. We want a nice balance. I want to adapt and learn from others – and delegate. Sometimes when the business becomes personal you become precious about handing things over and it can be stressful. But sometimes managing and delegating is the biggest skill. And trust someone with it. That’s the ongoing thing that needs work.
Would you have done anything differently?
Probably taking on people sooner. There is such value and enjoyment that’s been brought into the company by inviting others to come on the journey with us. With all of us aiming to build something we’re proud of.
Vixen Digital can be found at the Old Steine in Brighton.