Jumpin’ The Gun: The JTG Founder's Story
TEA SPILLAGE alert! Did you know that Jumpin’ the Gun founders, MD Michelle van Sittert and Creative Director Keagan Clack started the company straight out of varsity? No kidding. And get this! They are also engaged to be married…
“Many people are surprised that we work together, live together and spend all our free time together but never get sick of each other,” says Michelle. “But there is honestly nothing better than finding the person you enjoy creating with the most and having that synergy align every time.”
Keen to amble down memory lane to learn all about the initial meet-cute and how this literal #PowerCouple leverages their unique skill sets and combined awesomeness to steer the JTG ship? Hop aboard, matey!
The Meet Cute
Michelle and Keagan met as students at Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography.
“Michelle was a second-year student when I started my first year, and we happened to meet as she was head of the Student Council and I was one of the new 1st year elected members. We started by just bouncing our ideas off of each other but soon found ourselves collaborating on more and more projects and before too long we became an inseparable creative duo,” says Keagan.
To this day they still approach everything with this stellar divide and conquer attitude but most importantly they also play to each other’s strengths. Michelle brings incredible strategic thinking, branding, design, and project management skills to the table, whereas, Keagan, brings technical know-how like video and animation, website development, as well as systems development.
“We like to stay agile, there are a lot of overlaps in our skill sets and we try to use that to support each other where we can - tapping in or out as we steer this white-knuckled, seat-belt-buckled ride that is Jumpin’ the Gun,” says Keagan.
Creative Collaboration in Practice
Wondering how all of this collaboration works in day-to-day practice? Creating a website is a good example to explain the Michelle & Keagan process™.
“When approaching the website lead, both Keagan and I will be present for the initial client meetings and Q&A sessions so I can understand the business and the brand the client is presenting to us, and Keagan can get a proper gauge of what the client's needs and requirements are,” says Michelle.
“We are both intent on creating a unique working relationship for each of our clients so we are able to assist our clients in unique areas whilst also being a valuable collective asset as a client soundboard.”
Then, when taking on a project Michelle will plan out the process, outlining what we need to do and set up all team requirements by collecting assets from our clients. At the same time, Keagan will figure out the technicalities of what needs to happen and set up the back-end functionality while also researching any current constraints.
“Once the initial phase is complete, I will then focus on the user interface whilst Michelle will work on the user experience,” says Keagan. “This means that I will develop the site structure, design and overall functionality while Michelle will consider the story that the website needs to tell, develop the customer journey and work to expand the brand through content for the website with our team.
In the final phase, Keagan will complete all final bug tests, solidify mobile responsiveness, domain and hosting whilst Michelle works on final feedback implementation and integrations to the necessary platforms.
“Everything we do is a collaborative effort and we work together to produce a final product that we are proud of,” Michelle enthuses.
10 Top Tips to Go the Distance as a Creative Duo
Here are Michelle and Keagan’s ten top tips to nurture a creative partnership.1. Choose the right partner
“We know you don’t want to hear this but your initial feeling is most probably right! Trust your gut on whether this person just gets you, whether you think you can collaborate long-term with your potential partner but most importantly consider how they react under pressure - not cope - everybody copes as best they can but it’s how they choose to respond and initiate action in those crucial moments that needs to align with your way of thinking, doing and being,” Michelle advises.2. Talk about EVERYTHING
“We literally never stop talking to each other. Whether it’s about work, the latest Saint Hoax post, feedback on the latest episode of The Block, Clash of Clans updates or long conversations about Disney business theories; we just really like talking to each other. Good communication can be hard to find but you'll know when you find it because it will feel easy,” says Michelle.3. Don’t be afraid to disagree
“We have no problem disagreeing but owing to a very high level of mutual respect and admiration, a personal or professional disagreement will never affect the other and we tend to resolve any differing opinions through constant debate and rethinking until we have the resolution. We both know that any feedback or criticism shared is never done to hurt the other and we are both looking for the best possible answer for Jumpin’ the Gun,” says Keagan.
4. Value each other’s insights
“Effective collaborative decision-making requires patience, active listening, and a willingness to consider diverse viewpoints. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own head with ideas but sometimes it’s just a matter of perspective and being able to see the common ground and value in others’ insights,” shares Michelle.
TOP TIP! Establish a shared goal, start with the points you agree on, and work your way out from there. If you come to a point where you disagree, debate and evaluate which direction gets you closer to that shared goal.5. Be brave enough to take the road less travelled
“Right in the early days of Jumpin’ the Gun, Michelle pushed for us to go into social media marketing. At first, I was quite hesitant as it was a relatively new industry and would require a totally new approach to how we handled projects and clients. Ultimately she convinced me to give it a try and it quickly grew to be one of the core services we offer,” Keagan encourages.6. Leave space for one another
“Since Keagan often needs to focus on the intense details of all our work so that we can produce high-level creative whilst also figuring out all our technical difficulties, I work to ensure that our actions are aligned with our strategy and our client’s needs and that we have thought of every obstacle and opportunity. This keeps our company well-maintained while allowing Keagan creative freedom,” Michelle encourages.
7. Be each other’s fiercest cheerleaders
“Any entrepreneur will tell you that there are some scary stops on the roadmap to create your business. When Michelle needs the courage to face certain conflicts, I am there to support her. Where I need the courage to make bold moves, she is there to take the leap with me. Our partnership thrives on both our polar opposite personalities and tendencies but also our completely symmetrical way of thinking and approach to creative executions,” says Keagan.8. Have ALL the fun
“We both love to work but we both like to have fun. Our partnership was built on the idea that you can ALWAYS have fun whilst working and that any creative project should be enjoyable. This exact thinking is what we have applied to our entire team and business philosophy,” says Michelle.9. Sharing is caring
“Share the knowledge and share the load. As we learn we are constantly teaching one another the new techniques or principles we have learned but at the same time, we are ensuring we take on equal responsibility and challenges” Michelle advises.10. Get serious about boundaries
“Boundaries for us as a couple have become crucial. For any creative, rest and inspiration are what it takes to show up every day to generate endless streams of content and take subjective criticism for everything you make. And that’s why our boundaries for having downtime together and doing the things we love to find inspiration are non-negotiable,” says Michelle.
And now, what’s next for JTG?
“We started as two students pushing each other to create bigger and better campaigns and encouraging one another to snatch up as many individual awards as we can, and that attitude hasn’t changed but just our direction thereof has. We push each other to make bigger and better moves, whilst encouraging each other to snatch up as many opportunities for our team and clients as we can,” says Michelle.
“We are always looking to improve our creative ability and take JTG’s team to the next level of design, copywriting, community management, and more. This means working together to create the perfect structure that fosters this growth but also spend quality time as a duo with our team members so that our collaborative way of working can be passed on while our individual skill sets can also be transferred,” Michelle concludes.