Small Business: The marketing agency doing its own thing – Motion Sickness

Left to right: Motion Sickness founders Jono De Alwis, Sam Stuchbury and Alex McManus.
Left to right: Motion Sickness founders Jono De Alwis, Sam Stuchbury and Alex McManus.

University mates turned business partners talk getting creative, good times and navigating the corporate world. Motion Sickness co-founder Sam Stuchbury, 26, spills the beans on his non-traditional marketing agency.

A brief description of the business

Motion Sickness is an independent creative agency specialising in social media marketing and content marketing. It was founded in January 2013 by Alex McManus, Jono De Alwis and myself in our last year of University.

What sparked the idea?

I’ve never really wanted to work for anybody else so starting my own business felt right. In my last year of university, I saw there was a bit of a gap in the market for a young nimble agency that could not only conceptualise ideas but fully execute them end to end.

I sensed there was a bit too much bullshit in the industry so wanted to build a company that was true to who me and the other founders were; just good honest work and not taking ourselves too seriously.

We started the business as three students, living in a big flat in Dunedin. We’re all from Auckland so after graduating we moved the business to Auckland and it just exploded when we got here.

We timed it well with people’s perceptions of digital marketing and took a non-traditional approach, that’s why I think things have worked so well.

How big is the team and where are you based?

We have a total of eight people in the team. All of the people in our team are 28 years-old or younger which I think gives us quite a unique edge as we’re sort of native to social and digital as we’ve grown up with it. It gives us a unique distinction as to what people want to engage with, which cool.

What does a typical day consist of for you?

It’s pretty varied which is great. I often start the day at Holm cafe on K Road for breakfast then it’s off to the studio or on to a shoot. We’re pretty busy at the moment shooting various things for campaigns so I have been directing shoots around NZ probably two to three days of the week for the past month or so. When I am not shooting I am usually seeing clients and working on creative and strategy with the team at the office. We all work pretty collaboratively.

Sam Stuchbury, Motion Sickness co-founder.
Sam Stuchbury, Motion Sickness co-founder.

What’s business like at the moment?

We’ve got to a point where we are anchoring ourselves and are really happy with the work we’re producing. Right now we’re focusing on working with a group of really awesome clients that we can do really good work for, rather than scaling and not being able to produce the best work.

Where did the business name Motion Sickness come from?

There’s a lot of different stories to that. When we first started the business we were struggling for a name and I remember, when we started – it had been going for a few weeks – we had lots and lots of calls for work and I remember my business partner coming off of the phone saying he had motion sickness from how fast things were moving, so we sort of stuck with that.

It also plays into the actual work we do; a lot of the clients we work for make sure they are on the cutting edge of social and content, so we’re keeping them up to speed with everything that is going on so it kind of works in that space as well.

What are the long term plans for the business?

The long term plans are just to continue to be a New Zealand and world leader in social and digital advertising and to have our content leading that space.

The thing that excites us is producing really unique and creative work for our clients – work that’s a bit different. We don’t have any interest in becoming a business that has 100 clients, we prefer to work with 10 or 15 of the top brands in New Zealand, or around the world, and doing really good work for them.

We just focus on chipping away at our own work and don’t really care about the competition, and it’s worked so far.

Sam Stuchbury, Motion Sickness co-founder

Who are you currently working with?

In terms of the content space, we’re doing a lot with Les Mills International at the moment which is awesome, with our social media strategy work we do stuff for Jim Bean, Canadian Club, Blunt Umbrella’s, Icebreaker and Burger Burger to name a few. The majority of our clients work on a retainer basis and we’re pretty much an extension of their business – we’re their creative arm that looks after their content and their strategy and then all of their social media.

Inside Motion Sickness’ Auckland-based office.
Inside Motion Sickness’ Auckland-based office.

How crowded is the advertising and marketing market?

People always warned us when we started the business, ‘you’re entering one of those competitive industries’, but from day one, we’ve just been operating in our own space, in our own niche. I really do not care about the competition.

None of us have ever worked in traditional agencies, we don’t rub shoulders with other agencies, we just do our own thing. We go fishing, we don’t go to Ponsonby social club. We just focus on chipping away at our own work and don’t really care about the competition, and it’s worked so far.

What advice do you give others wanting to start their own business?

You see lots of people trying to start a business for the sake of starting a business, or to make money. For us, we’re creative people, we get the kick from people enjoying our campaigns, not making money.

Do something you’re passionate about and can see yourself committing your life to because you’ll either get bored or you won’t enjoy it.

NZ Herald