Founded by Mandy McGregor in 2001, Smokeylemon is one of the longest established website development and marketing companies in Taranaki.
Having moved back from London with an IT qualification in 2001, before the internet really took off, Mandy now has a staff of around 10-15 people, and a thriving pipeline of work, that take meticulous planning to manage.
Although based regionally and focused on supporting local business to thrive, Mandy and her team are always looking to take on significant projects outside of the region, too, and they have the claibre of talent to match. The Smokeylemon team are very much so a big part of the story. “if we didn’t have the people that we have in our team and the skills they bring, we couldn’t take on these larger projects,” explains Mandy.
However, finding skilled talent can be a challenge due to the diverse skill set required. People need to be great technically competent, be able to understand client needs and change them into workable digital solutions. Talent NZ wide, is scarce, with Developers in high demand, good marketers hard to track down, and people who can manage projects and make things happen seamlessly are as rare as hen’s teeth. To combat this challenge, Smokeylemon casts the net wide, with past successful sources of talent coming through:
- personal connections and introductions
- Slack channels for developers
- Seek / Trademe
What makes working in web development and marketing in Taranaki a good career move?
Smokeylemon staff get involved with many interesting projects and clients from all around Aotearoa New Zealand, and a work-life balance is encouraged and supported – people are obviously still doing what’s required and getting their job done. However there’s also flexibility that you often don’t get in the main centres and the stunning lifestyle and landscapes to go make the most of it. There’s also ownership pathways in some instances, and the option to buy into the business to become a part-owner.
There are other perks too, such as taking a paid day off for your birthday. Positive work culture is a key value, Mandy says. “The first question I think people should ask is ‘what’s the workplace culture like?’”
Case Study Jimi Hunt
We asked Smokeylemon’s Creative Director, Jimi Hunt to tell us about his experience of moving to Taranaki. What made him as a seasoned professional make the move, and whether it’s been all he imagined it would be.
My previous role was the Creative Director for Newshub, which encompassed all the current affairs shows under the 'three/Discovery NZ' umbrella. Spearheading top-down art direction for show rebrands, set design and digital output while running a team of talented designers. It was a very demanding role, often dealing with major news events such as the Christchurch Mosque Attacks, New Zealand and American elections, and longform news documentaries, such as Newshub Investigates Delta, designing, building and implementing complete graphics packages. This included dipping our toes into augmented reality, which you might have seen on election night in 2020. We were physically inside the debating chamber in Parliament presenting live results as it happened, visually representing the data as 3D models superimposed into the environment - it really was a career highlight.
Prior to that, I was the 'Design Lead - Brand Experience' at MetService and its commercial arm 'MetraWeather', providing top-down art direction and design services, producing the current MetService brand look and feel. I also worked with both local and international clients (BBC, RTE Ireland, ABC Australia, Sky News, Channel 9, Channel 10, TVNZ, TV3, Māori TV, Horse & Country UK) designing and building real-time data driving weather forecasts for broadcasters and digital content.
With a good 20 years of experience up my sleeve, my partner and I wanted a change of pace and be able to spend more time with friends and family. We decided that we were either going to move to Hawke's Bay or Taranaki. New Plymouth seemed like a more viable option with its linkages to big industry and a growing creative scene. Most of all, I found the people to be very friendly and the overall vibe very welcoming and progressive, which is something you can sometimes question as a gay couple moving to a provincial region. I have only had positive interactions and have felt very welcomed. People are genuinely interested in you and your story.
My new commute is seven minutes. It was previously 50 minutes on a good day. We're near the beach in a beautiful house with sea views - something we could have never even imagined or afforded in Auckland.
I researched several creative agencies in New Plymouth but only approached one, Smokeylemon. Mandy was very personable, friendly, and professional. I loved their work and saw where I could potentially add value with my somewhat specialised skill set.
My role with Smokeylemon is 'Design & Client Engagement Manager', but ever the design geek I spend the majority of my time on the tools designing for new and existing clients. This is great as I can work with the client from inquiry through to delivery, and form a really well-rounded working relationship. We have some great clients; I love the energy, inspiration, and passion they have for their products and services. It's a privilege to be working with them.
We have recently managed to obtain our first international client based in Papua New Guinea, and have expanded our reach with my television background to offer animation, film and editing services, which really helps bring the full circle of capabilities in-house, coupled with a dynamic and creative marketing team.
I really enjoy working across all our departments, helping knit together large projects, with a crew of true professionals. I haven't questioned the move to Taranaki once and I'm extremely happy that we did!
My partner still works for an Auckland-based company remotely, and travels back to Auckland once a fortnight to work with his team in the office. The drive to the airport is about 10 minutes, so day trips are easily done, and we get the big-city time when we need it.