Claire O’Connell has spent the last two and a half years creating and developing her new venture The Chook. Claire has a rich background of design environments including film, costume, make-up, advertising and graphics. I caught up with her to understand how this exciting new venture came about and where she sees it going.
Originally from New Zealand, Claire, like many of her Kiwi cousins, has travelled widely to develop herself and her skills. She worked in the film industry in both New Zealand and the US making costumes and in make-up and special effects on well known shows like Zena the Warrior Princess. Eager to extend her design experience further she travelled back across the Pacific to study Graphic Design before joining the De Bono Institute in Melbourne. There she used her understanding of visual design to develop thinking on how humans process complex information via the use of clear and intuitive user interfaces. After a five successful years where she also kept her hand in as an artist and designer she decided to move to the UK and put this knowledge to work by starting an advertising agency in Manchester.
An entrepreneur at heart, Claire began to form the idea for The Chook.
“I always knew that I wanted something bigger to work on and not just sit in an office all day. I wanted to do something that would help creatives on a world wide basis. The internet is a fabulous tool and I wanted to use it to find a way to connect creatives, not just with each other, but with customers that need them.”
Last year she was accepted onto the Northwest Development Agency’s prestigious ‘Winning Pitch High Growth Program‘ where she was partnered with successful digital entrepreneur, Andrew Thomas (founder of McCann’s UK Network digital operation in Manchester in 1999). and launched The Chook (www.thechook.com) on 11th November.
“The Chook is designed for all creative industries to show their work; from photographers, stylist and make-up artists to web designers, graphic designers and digital technologies to interior designers, textile designers and architects . We want it to be accessible and helpful to everyone and connect them to the right creatives, wherever they are based.”
The Chook is visually stunning. Claire describes it simply as a ‘Yellow Pages with pictures’.
There are 16 main categories and more than 150 subcategories which divide the world of creative talent into easily navigated sections. Each section returns a page of stunning images, a showcase of the best of the best in that field. In this way a user can quickly scan these images to find the ones that best fit what they are after. Then once they have found what they are looking for the user click’s the image to see a further 16 pieces from the same creative and even a showreel of their work where applicable. In addition The Chook encourages users to give feedback and to share via social media to help spread the word.
The Chook intends to exploit what Claire sees as a gap in the market. “Rather than try to offer creative industries yet another community or network to join, I wanted to give them a chance to be seen, to be easily found and contacted in a clean and uncluttered, advert free environment. A simple design focused directory to sit alongside their contemporaries as opposed to a cluttered community. The Chook offers a simple 3 step navigation – define, search & connect. That’s it. Pure, clean and efficient.”
“I think most people respond better to pictures than description when looking for any form of creativity. The Chook is designed to save time and money for creatives to exhibit their best work in a brand safe environment. Creatives and customers come together in a professional, uncluttered marketplace where they can leave reviews, rate work and get connected. We are interested in all types of creatives whose work is best represented visually and draws clients through their design and flair.”
So, apart from the above and the obvious benefits for client and artist, what else is important to Claire and The Chook brand?
“The Chook brand is clean, transparent and value adding, We want to avoid adverts and unnecessary clutter by trying to be and do to many things. It needs to do one thing and do it very well and that is to be a damn fine directory. We build a worldwide recognition as the best place to find creative talent. We have only just launched and already you can find a better result if you Chook-It than if you Google it.”
“We are already seeing a lot of traffic from our launch and have visibility in more than 30 countries. Also, social media will play a big role in our growth and we will continue to develop our Facebook community and Twitter network.”
I have to say it was an absolute pleasure to talk to Claire and I have little doubt that with her industry experience, personable nature and boundless drive, her followers, clients and resources for The Chook will increase many-fold.
It is a world wide product with a world wide vision and an exciting, inspiring project for all women entrepreneurs. I would like to thank Claire for her time and wish her all the very best with this innovative and creative endeavour.
Please check out The Chook at www.thechook.com or get in touch on the contact details below.
THE CHOOK HQ
Suite Thirty Six 88-90 Hatton Garden,
Interviewed by Phil Birch, Business Editor.