Making eskimosoup

This summer, journalist Lucy Tessier spent some time working with the eskimosoup team. Here’s what she found:

“The mighty turbulence of the past 18 months has rocked companies on an international scale, throwing their work off course and creating a plethora of challenges lying ahead…however, eskimosoup found that their values and persistence never meant more. Based in Hull, the eskimosoup team work meticulously to generate social good through inspiring campaigns and media production. It’s breakaway to independence from a larger group in 2014 has meant that it has become one the region’s fastest growing companies when it comes to profitability, carving out their niche, stunning results, and reputation. Indeed, last year eskimosoup became the smallest and most recently established business ever to win the International Drum Awards Grand Prix, beating favourites Porsche and Jägermeister to the title.

Locally, many are familiar with the iconic orange building that stands proudly at the top of Princes Avenue that is home to the eskimosoup team, but how did each members’ journey at the company begin? “In 2008 the events and marketing business I ran merged with the original eskimosoup. We operated as a group for a few years before, with my former business partners’ blessing, I took the business independent in 2014, with the focus working on health and social campaigns.” Recounts MD John Gilbert, as he adds: “I figure that probably we all only get one life and so it is important that you use your set of skills for something worthwhile. A lot of eskimosoup’s values are more typically associated with being a charity than they are a business, though we make no apologies for the entrepreneurial aspects of our work as I believe that helping communities achieve social good through media that matters is a pretty good way to make a living.”

eskimosoup welcomes employees from a variety of pathways, one of those being the apprenticeship scheme which led team member Alice to her career revelation: “When I left college, I had no idea what I wanted to do job wise…so I was looking into a few different industries, but nothing really spoke to me until I discovered eskimosoup. Even just by looking at the campaigns or the projects that they’d been working on, you could really tell that every member of the team was really passionate about what they wanted to do.” With an expanding social media presence and captivating multitude of campaign and project designs, it would certainly be incredibly difficult to say no to employment at the company, and this is something that Alice could never regret as she outlines, “I went in for a chat with John and it wasn’t formal, and it was then that I realised that it was the kind of environment I wanted to work in – I could tell that it was going to be quite a rewarding start to my career.”

Working at eskimosoup promises a vast array of opportunities that unlock creativity, encourage individuality, and promote self-discovery, however the attribute that the team agrees is their proudest success is their personal growth. “I think my biggest success within the company is that I actually get to manage my own projects,” explains team member Alex who has been with the company for three years, “you get so much freedom and because I’m project manager I get left to do my own kind of thing and run with it which is great and super rewarding!” Like Alice, Alex was also an apprentice and has worked her way up through a company that champions personal growth and development. “The team has always had so much faith in me, they’ve always said to me, ‘Oh well we wouldn’t give you anything to do if we didn’t think you’d be able to do it,’ which was their way of subtly trying to push me which helped a lot,” agrees Alice who is also now a project manager, “so I definitely think it’s the personal growth element I’m most proud of and seeing where I was when I started compared to now.”

Though the eskimosoup team has endured countless challenges throughout the past year with having to adapt to working during a pandemic, their eagerness to persevere during this time with projects and campaigns is extremely commendable. A company that dares to defy boundaries and takes risks in the name of success, one employee took a risk to be able to work for the business; as Keyley describes: “I joined the team after being furloughed for 9 months. It was a risk leaving a job to start something new during that time. There were parts of the role I hadn’t experienced before so I knew it would be a challenge, and the timing was always going to be risky if it didn’t work out. Everyone was so lovely, and it’s been so exciting to actually get stuck into all the work.”

One of the biggest challenges faced during the pandemic was continuing film production. Pippa, Head of Projects, explains, “We started work on a film for Yorkshire Cancer Research in Autumn 2020, to tackle the misconceptions around vaping and encourage more smokers to use vaping as a quitting method. One of the main challenges was arranging interviews with health specialists for the film while we were facing social distancing and travel restrictions. We are all really pleased with the final outcome though and Vaping Demystified is now shortlisted for a CIPR award which we’re really excited about.”

Acclaimed for their campaigns on subjects such as smoking and alcohol reduction, criminal exploitation, domestic abuse, and mental health, the eskimosoup team concur that of all the projects they have designed over the years, amongst their proudest achievements is working on the Not In Our Community (NIOC) campaign which aims to advise and help young people but also give them a voice.

“We’ve worked on a lot of societal challenges, and we’ve learned that at the heart of many of these issues are self-esteem and aspiration. It’s all very well encouraging people to drink less, exercise more, or quit smoking though you must have the conditions in your life sorted, good mental health and something to look forward to in your life to draw upon the motivation to change. The idea of change itself suggests that someone else knows best, so for someone to wish to improve their lifestyle and relationship with themselves they have feel some sense of control and a genuine desire to want more for yourself and your loved ones.” Explains John Gilbert as he also adds: “Working with people who have suffered from abuse, fraud and exploitation shows the worst of humankind but the willingness of survivors who share their painful experiences to try to help others is proof of the best of humankind. It’s a privilege to work with victims who turn their negative traumatic experience into something positive to try and prevent something happening to someone else and spread awareness.”

Originally commissioned as a 5-month project in 2014, Not In Our Community, still runs to this day and has expanded in its remit and forms of delivery that have been recognised as best practice nationally as well as winning prestigious international awards.  Though some subjects may have been hard-hitting at times because of their relevance, especially considering the topics of domestic abuse within lockdown, the team has been committed to providing the community with the right help in these situations. Moreover, Alice reflects, “NIOC has been a massive eyeopener and has had a massive impact on me, because when I first started work I was like, ‘God, I had no idea that this was happening so often,” she also describes the reception that the campaign has received: “The comments we’ve had through social media and the stories – you know people have been trusting us with their own stories which is great. Especially when we do the surveys there’s always a lot of people that know about certain darker matters and aware of the signs which we’re fortunate for.”

Alice has also played a large part in maintaining the momentum of another initiative spanning several years, Got Your Back, as she says: “Got Your Back has been an incredible journey. Since 2018, we’ve covered so many different issues and it’s crazy to think about how many young people do actually want to voice their opinions about similar issues…it’s always hard to reach young people so I think we’ve definitely achieved lots by running the project.” From organising podcasts in the past year with the Editorial Board of young adults, to directing her own miniseries aimed at spreading awareness about the trials and tribulations of growing up in today’s world, Alice has pursued her passions triumphantly in film and digital marketing despite the difficulties that the last year presented the eskimosoup team with.

As we leave the pandemic’s restrictions behind, the next year for eskimosoup looks exciting. John outlines: “We’ve produced a feature-length documentary which will be coming out if not late this year, early next year. This approach has been new and therefore very challenging for us, but at the heart of it is fun and an uplifting subject matter by trying to raise viewer aspirations in particular those stuck in a rut, who can be lifted through the stories of people they can identify with who remind them that there is a world of opportunity on their doorstep.” In addition to clients including mental health charity, Mind, and Yorkshire Cancer Research, the team have recently been working with Hull University, in light of recent news stories as John adds: “I’ve been really interested and concerned about why there seems to be increased negativity from some boys leading to gender-based violence against girls and women, and this has obviously been spotlighted in the recent media, so that’s been something we’ve been talking about and learning about. Recently we’ve been working with Hull University to develop a campus-based campaign to encourage men to act as active bystanders. The message is to tackle what seems like low level sex abuse as the evidence shows that this can escalate into rape and serious sexual assault. We hope that with all of our efforts we can reduce the prevalence of harmful behaviours and it’s great to be working on something that tackles perpetrator behaviour.”

If there is something to be learnt from the vigorous passion of each team member at eskimosoup, it is that no challenge is too big even in the most disconcerting times, and if an individual places themselves in the right environment with the best colleagues and mentors imaginable, there are no boundaries to what they can achieve. From the extremely supportive atmosphere in the office, to the opportunities to develop thrilling new skillsets, the quirky name of eskimosoup has found meaning and one the team should be immensely proud of.”

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