Serena Terry has more than a decade’s marketing experience with local companies including Learning Pool and social prescribing business Elemental, where she was appointed COO in 2019. But to over half a million TikTok fans, and more than 100,000 Instagram followers, the Derry woman is better known as her honest and funny alter ego, Mammy Banter. In May, Serena launched her own agency, Catchy Co, specialising in social media marketing, training and content production.
Congratulations on the launch of Catchy Co! Why did you decide to set it up?
I always wanted to do it, but what I found scary was that there are so many marketing agencies who can back up their work with testimonials and case studies from previous customers. Yes, I’ve got companies I worked for as an employee for 15 years, but as an agency I didn’t have the testimonials yet, so I decided to keep building up Mammy Banter.
For me, I think my credibility is that I practise what I preach. The proof is in the pudding. Every single one of my customers this month is from Mammy Banter. I did my first Instagram masterclass last week and was able to use her as a case study, talking clients through what I’ve done and the different demographics I focus on, as well as looking at the future of digital marketing in general.
How daunting was it to leave full-time employment and go it alone?
It was really hard. I was in a well-paying job, we have two kids, a mortgage. But lockdown was the turning point for me; I needed more flexibility and I needed a new challenge. Lockdown also taught me I was able to be productive working from home, so that myth was dispelled. And the more Mammy Banter was going up and up in engagement and followers, it gave me a bit more security to think, there’s bound to be at least five people in every 100,000 followers on Instagram that owns a company or knows a business that is struggling with social media.
I just said, ‘I’m going to do it. If I don’t do it, I’ll never know’. So I did my business plan, I looked at what I needed to earn, and I got a good accountant. It wasn’t about wanting to be rich. I just wanted to pay myself a salary, maybe work less hours and enjoy making more people laugh with Mammy Banter, but also have the flexibility to go and collect my son from school, for instance, and be able to close the laptop. I can dictate my hours, I can dictate how many campaigns or customers I take on, that is definitely one of the perks of being out on your own.
How has it been going so far?
What’s crazy about Catchy Co is I’m so busy at the minute and I haven’t even done any marketing for myself yet. I’ve got some bigger businesses I’m doing campaigns for, and then smaller businesses and lifestyle bloggers, who can sign up for a 1.5-hour course with a resources pack. Longer-term, I’d like to continue supporting all size of businesses, and really get my name out there as a growth consultant that can come into start-ups, scale-ups, or corporate organisations, become an extension of their team and help them with growth via digital marketing campaigns.
Do people expect you to be like Mammy Banter in real life?
Mammy Banter is my Sasha Fierce, my alter ego. I was worried at the start that people might be joining the course expecting a comedy session with Mammy Banter. But I got a couple of testimonials yesterday from people saying they have put into practise over the weekend what we went through in the session, and the resources I sent out, and their engagement rates have already shot up.
Your Mammy Banter videos have racked up 14.5m likes on TikTok. Why has she resonated with so many people?
I think it’s the honesty of it. I hated Facebook and the whole fake world of Instagram picture-perfect mums and the Photoshopping and the ‘look, we’re rich’. TikTok was a platform for me where I thought, people are honest here, warts and all. That’s the kind of social media you want. You don’t want to go on and go, ‘Oh my god she’s a perfect parent, she’s sailing through lockdown, she looks great, she’s not putting on any weight!’ We want relatable, down-to-earth humour. Branding-wise, I’m going to be launching a merchandise range with T-shirts and hoodies and sweaters that go up to 5XL, again just to get that message across that the Mammy Banter brand is inclusive of everyone.
What do your children think of your new found fame?
My five-year-old isn’t really aware of it yet. My 12-year-old daughter only followed me last week when I got verified on TikTok and then unfollowed me the day after. She loves it when her friends talk about Mammy Banter and I’m sure she laughs with them when they’re talking about it, but then face-to-face she’s like, ‘Ugh, I just don’t think you’re funny’. The day she finds me funny my comedy career’s over, there’s something wrong!
How have you found the North West as a place to live, work and invest?
I joined both Elemental and Learning Pool at the start-up stage, so I was privy first hand to the opportunities and the challenges to scaling and growth in the city. And just seeing how many tech companies have scaled in Derry alone and are now providing services worldwide is great. Patrick St has become a complete software as a service hub. You can see those companies are constantly recruiting, and we’re seeing more start-ups come into the tech space too. Community-wise, I absolutely love Derry, I’ve always been a complete homebird. I’m looking forward to when the Clipper returns next year and we start to get more events back, and growth for Digital Derry. It’s exciting.
What would you say to someone thinking of returning to Derry or Strabane?
There’s huge growth and scale locally with tech firms if that’s something you currently work in, and room for you to grow within them. If you want to bite the bullet and start up on your own business, the pandemic has changed the rules around needing to be in a certain office and in a certain town. I’m sitting at my kitchen table and my clients are in America and all over the world, right now. Just go for it, is my advice!