Rachel Courtright is the Managing Director of multi award-winning advertising agency Brains Design, who have shared their creative ‘big ideas’ with blue chip IT companies including Apple, Adobe, and Oracle. Rewind six months, and Rachel had just flown across the globe from Sydney to Amsterdam to pitch for a potential client. Unexpectedly, she was faced with the daunting and complex process of establishing a new office in this previously unfamiliar European city. Zoku served as her long-stay home office and brainstorming hub for a period of four months, so we caught up following her stay to find out more about her relocation experience.
WHY DID YOU FIRST MOVE TO AMSTERDAM?
I initially arrived in Amsterdam to pitch the services of Brains to a significant client prospect, expecting to return to Australia and service the customer from overseas. However, as a condition of winning the contract, the client required us to immediately set up an office in Amsterdam. Suddenly I found myself uprooted, in a position where I had to move away from my family, my office, and the organisation I’d been running in Australia. I also had all the legal issues to deal with – registering a new business, finding and moving employees over here, securing an office location, and working out where we could actually meet daily to run our company. Even as a seasoned business traveler, this was hugely challenging for me.
HOW DID YOU DEAL WITH THE CHALLENGES OF RELOCATION?
Quite frankly, a huge part of this was living and working somewhere I felt extremely comfortable. When I first moved to Amsterdam I stayed in a traditional hotel, and honestly, it was a learning experience. I became a familiar person at breakfast, but it was lonely. I really missed the interaction between colleagues and my family. So when my first staff member joined, we searched for a new hotel to live in, and found Zoku. I was a little apprehensive due to concerns about my age, believing the concept was aimed more at youthful millennials and small startups. But really, it wasn’t like that at all when we arrived. From the moment we walked upstairs and were greeted, it was clear this was a very inclusive environment – the staff were brilliant, the Sidekicks knew us by name, and we instantly felt accepted and completely at home. I felt I could walk upstairs in my pyjamas with my legs curled up on a sofa to read a book or do some business, at any time of day or night. This was particularly important as I ended up working a lot of late nights and early mornings, sometimes up until 1am or 2am completing projects.
I’ve become intertwined with the Zoku community, and it’s a wonderful feeling. In all the years I’ve been traveling, I’ve never experienced this.
Zoku isn’t a place you just go to sleep, have your breakfast and check out. You can interact with others here, exchange knowledge and network. You can debate, sit late at night at the bar, and are always surrounded by others in exactly the same position as you. It seems to breed this open interchange and inclusive feeling amongst all the guests.
HOW DID ZOKU SUPPORT YOU DURING THE SCALE-UP PROCESS?
I needed as much help as I could get, because immediately the workload for our client was enormous. I didn’t have time to focus on my work while navigating all the legal loopholes around setting up a new office, and at the same time recruiting new staff. Zoku supported this process by connecting me with just the right people, which was a huge relief. I had a chat with Hans, the co-founder of Zoku, and within a few minutes he had put me in touch with Dieter Oude Kotte, a contact from amsterdam inbusiness. The following day, he booked an appointment with me and he started solving all my problems. His connections to the right people, including lawyers and accountants, meant I could focus on servicing our client, rather than all of the peripheral, day-to-day things that had been causing me a lot of anxiety.
Once the new office was up and running, it unfortunately become unmanageable to work from Zoku; the Brains team was growing rapidly to cope with demand, and we needed somewhere larger and more private. The Commercial Manager from Zoku, David, introduced us to Spaces – a creative working environment offering office spaces with flexible contracts, ideal for a growing team like ourselves. Spaces has been the base of Brains Design ever since.
HOW IS YOUR CLIENT PROJECT GOING NOW THAT YOU’RE MORE SETTLED?
Work has been going really well! Our first project was to create the strategy for a global launch, and because we were able to focus totally on this project, it was a huge success. From concept to delivery it’s taken around four months, and it’s been a very positive experience.
AND FINALLY – ARE YOU ENJOYING YOUR NEW CANAL FILLED NEIGHBOURHOOD?
Amsterdam is an incredibly vibrant city; it has all the buzz of a capital, but none of the stress. The people here are incredibly friendly, and the streets are full of small, intimate shops and restaurants. There’s this whole feeling that you’re part of something really fun and exciting. Zoku has opened the door to exploring some of Amsterdam’s unusual and more out of the way spots too; there are wonderful bikes available to rent to take you anywhere, and the staff are always the first to point out what’s going on. With the help of the Sidekicks, it’s been amazing to explore the city and not feel like a traveler, but feel like a local.
Rachel features in our video, Life at Zoku. You can watch it here.