Serena Terry, Mammy Banter

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!

Find out more about Catchy Co at catchyco.com and follow @mammybanter on TikTok and Instagram.

A new YouTube channel has been launched to help young people whose education and career prospects have been affected by the pandemic.

North West Regional College students joined forces with Enterprise North West and Startacus to create Week Gen-C, to inform people about the skills and tools they will need within the post-Covid economy, and the opportunities that already exist.

The channel, funded through the David Cross Young People’s Fund, features panel discussions and interviews with businesses including Learning Pool, Alchemy Technology, FinTrU, Hypixel Studios, UV Arts, Storefront and Ferry Clever, as well as support organisations such as Young Enterprise NI, Extern, NWRC Careers Academy, Derry Credit Union, careers and employment services and mental health charity AWARE.

Brian O’Neill, Director of Development and Enterprise, Enterprise North West, commented:

“The overall Week Gen-C project has exceeded our expectations and this has been mainly achieved through the hard work and creativity of the steering group of young people involved in the series of events right from the beginning. These events have been designed, produced and delivered by young people and have taken into account the negative impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic on young people’s prospects. We firmly believe that these series of events could be upscaled or replicated across NI to inspire other young people”

Alastair Cameron, Co-founder of Startacus, added:

“We’ve all been affected by the pandemic, but it has been even more challenging for our young people so it’s vital that we all do our bit to help them to look forward and to inspire and encourage them to reach their true potential. We’ve been delighted to partner with Enterprise North West on the Week Gen-C project and we have been hugely impressed by the creativity, commitment and dedication shown by the students from NWRC in bringing the entire project to fruition”.

The Week Gen-C recording are available to view on the Week Gen-C YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqLRGRr1jo5LF56hDH6tN0Q )

A hospitality pop-up incubator has been selected from 12 Northern Irish start-ups to be named overall winners of LEVELUP 2021.

Delivered by Startacus in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council, LEVELUP 2021 was a two-day hybrid event which took place on 21st and 22nd April, looking at innovation, ideas and inspiration from around the world.

The event was part of the programme for Enterprise Week Derry Strabane and explored how people, both locally and internationally, have created opportunity, economic growth and initiated real change.

Hill Street Hatch are a pop-up space in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter offering a creative partnership for entrepreneurs in the local hospitality scene to test and launch new concepts and ideas.

Co-founders of the start-up, Ema O’Kane and Ryan Crown, scooped the £2,000 cash prize after their virtual pitch impressed a panel of industry professionals and investors during Derry-Strabane Enterprise Week in April.

LEVELUP judge Judge Naomi Timperley praised the winning pitch: “Love love love this concept – great pitch and passion.

“A great idea to ‘try before you buy’ for the hospitality industry. So many restaurant concept ideas crash and burn and this is a way of trialling the concepts first and building an audience.”

Hill Street Hatch

Catch-up on LEVELUP and other Enterprise Week events here.

A selection of early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs have taken part in a start-up boot camp to help grow and scale their business.

The one-day virtual event, delivered by Ignite NI, saw 15 participants with scalable and technology-enabled ideas learn more about the key factors involved in building a start-up, receive one-to-one support, and take part in challenges and themed sessions.

They also heard directly from successful CEOs who shared their experiences growing their own companies, and were introduced to representatives from boot camp partners from the Council, Ulster University and Invest Northern Ireland, who supported the event.

Kevin O’Connor, Council’s Head of Business, said the boot camp was a massive success in showing entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses why the district is a good location to take their first steps.

“The start-up boot camp was an excellent opportunity for us to engage with entrepreneurs and explain that we have a support ecosystem within Derry and Strabane to support founders on their journey and to help them to grow.

“If we build supportive communities then the start-up density will increase and the number of successful companies will increase, which then leads to higher job creation and a thriving region.”

To contact Council’s business team, call 02871253253 or visit derrystrabane.com/businesssupport .

With December 25 fast approaching, a new website has been launched to help gift-givers shop local this Christmas.

shoplocalderrystrabane.com signposts shoppers towards the best artisan and locally made gift providers and showcases the outstanding food and drink options available in the City and District.

The easy-to-navigate site features video messages from business owners, daily competitions and links to the social media pages of other shop local initiatives.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Brian Tierney urged people to champion local businesses this festive season.

“It has never been more important for us to get behind businesses that are locally owned this year, given the smaller window they will have to open to the public. Finding the perfect gift for loved ones has never been easier or safer with many local retailers now offering click and collect or home delivery services.”

The site will function beyond Christmas time and will be available for the public to access in the New Year.

Derry City and Strabane District Council are working with Ignite NI and alongside other partners, Invest NI and Ulster University, to bring an exciting one-day virtual start-up bootcamp for founders/early stage companies specifically for this Council area.

The bootcamp is open to anyone who wants to build a successful start-up of scale.  It will be delivered through a one-day online course on Wednesday, 25th November by Ignite NI, who will bring their expertise along with the shared experiences of their NI Propel alumni companies and mentors.Through a series of workshops, Q&As and 1:1 chats, the start-up bootcamp will provide you with the building blocks of a successful start-up.By the end of the session, individuals and teams will be well on their way with a growth mindset. 

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, welcomed the bootcamp.”This has been a particularly tough period for our local business community so, as a Council, we have been working with partners to grow and support the entrepreneur ecosystem within the district, and this bootcamp is an example of that.”We want to stimulate high growth potential within our business community and give entrepreneurs a platform from which to build, and through this bootcamp those individuals and groups will be equipped with the necessary supports and tools they need to grow.”The bootcamp will also help us build a network of start-ups within Derry and Strabane which is exactly what we want to see as we move forward.”If you want to build a successful start-up of scale, whether you are a student, an academic or employed, an individual or a team; if you have an idea or concept or it is in early stage development but don’t know how to take it forward, this is for you.

Kevin O’Connor, Council’s Head of Business, added: “To build a successful start-up, you need to have the right growth mindset from the start.”Through this start-up bootcamp we want to provide the building blocks, the knowledge and the encouragement entrepreneurs need to take the right first steps.”To apply to take part in the start-up bootcamp, please visit https://airtable.com/shrNrEMYuMSU9KkMR

The application process will close on Wednesday, 18th November 2020.