The CEO and the Co-founder of Mimosa Agency, Danilo Sierra told us about their workstyle, web design strategies and his passion to what he is doing.
Based in Berlin, Mimosa Agency is an integrated digital creative agency specialised in branding, inbound marketing, research and consulting. They offer creative solutions to major and niche channels for their clients.
We talked about how he started Mimosa Agency, his strategies and vision on web design.
Q1: How has Mimosa Agency evolved since you started it in 2015? What was your motivation to start a company in the first place?
We started with the idea of reaching directly to interesting customers and working with people we loved. Camille and I were working separately on different projects or in-house for clients and we wanted to get to work a bit more on our terms and budget. Took a while to properly set up all the infrastructure and get people on board, so we actually became operational in September 2016.
Since then, it has been a very interesting ride, we have tested different types of industries, with different types of proposals, and now we are feeling more confident in the space we want to work in, which is mid to large companies in the OEM, industrial, tech and blockchain sectors who already know very well the digital landscape and what different efforts and tools can do for them, mostly because they can see the value of our work accordingly, and they allow us to break from industry clichés.
Q2: Which challenges did you face during your journey? How did you overcome them?
Most of our challenges are around format and the fact that most of us aren’t German in a German company located in Germany. Being in Germany while not being German forced us to learn a bit more how things work here, what clients were looking for, and what companies from abroad trying to get into the German market were really into when setting up shop. Some clients from abroad also strangely wanted a German person managing their account for the German market. I disagree with that, I feel that as outsiders in it, we have an advantage as we can sometimes see the German market a bit more objectively than Germans would like to see themselves.
Another interesting challenge, for example, was seasonality. It was hard to figure at the beginning, budget, and plan for the next years. We realized during the end of our first year that the sales process had to start earlier if you wanted to have clients during the slow months of July and August, since most clients go on holidays, no one is in office to approve proposals, or simply the activities freeze, therefore making things a bit complicated to invoice and maintain a healthy cash flow. This made the first two years difficult.
Another challenge is that we love working remotely and seldomly in-house at our clients, we do that only if the clients are really fun to work with, are paying really well or absolutely require our presence (like workshops or masterclasses), and we do not go on Slack unless our clients pay us a lot of money, which in some cases has costed us potential new accounts.
Maybe I am too millennial and entitled, but I hate commuting, and considering the nature of our work, paying a coworking space, a Soho House membership or an office space is too expensive for the only real thing we need most of the time: the WiFi password. We had some clients who wanted “to see our offices” just to almost ending the call when told we don’t have any. I am open to it, but it has to be really close to home.
Other than that, I think we have a good run, I love the people I work with, they like working with me because they feel I do a decent project and account management, and the clients keep coming back after the project is delivered, so I guess things aren’t bad at all.
Q3: What’s a typical day working as the founder and director of Mimosa like?
There is no typical day, and that is on purpose. Part of the goal to set up mimosa agency was to have a bit more of freedom to choose how to work and for whom. When you are employed in an office, you have to frame your creativity, work, efforts and office politics into a space a single time (From 10:00 – 18:00) and that is not always the best for your working profile, output, or mental health, at least in my case. We all really like to work remotely, and some times from abroad, because why would you miss a Greek sunset at the same time zone when is winter in Germany? Or why would you have to be so far from your Family if you already have client work secured? I think healthy and happy workers create better work, and this flexibility allows that.
The only constant has to be a good internet connection, a quiet private space to handle our client’s sensitive information, and not missing a single deadline nor appointment. Some days I feel like working at night, some days I feel like not working at all (I suffer from Anxiety), some weekends I am really inspired, and some days simply don’t allow you to move from your desk or meetings since 8:00 am until your last call at 23:00 with a client in Los Angeles. The trick, for me, is in how you schedule the deadlines and kick-offs so you never miss keeping your word and reputation.
Q4: We are curious about Mimosa’s company culture. What is it like and how does it help Mimosa’s customers?
This might sound selfish, but we had that idea that we could just go to someone’s whose work we liked and say “Hey do you need a website? I would love to take pictures of your work and put them up”, or tell a freelance creative “I love your illustrations, do you want us to keep an eye for you and get you clients?”. No meetings needed, no weird committees, no corporate offices. Just a call, a good email and get to work. I am proudly Marxist here, so my main focus is to avoid alienating anyone working with us and making sure we work on things that mean something important to us while elevating the client’s best interests.
Also, in this way, things become a bit more personal and fun. This is how we ended up assembling the network. We only work with people we like both at a professional, work ethics, creativity and personal level. And when we have the privilege to choose work among different clients, we do it only for people we really like working with. You can tell from the first discovery call who is actually going to become a customer.
Q5: What makes a website great? What are the steps which should be considered while updating or redesigning a website?
It has to be stupidly simple so everyone can use it. I am obsessed with minimalism and brutalism, but also with the way Nintendo designs its consoles. We like websites that are very well thought about for the final users. I also like the idea of a bit of mystery, so people ask you questions because at the end that’s literally its main function: to provide the right information and convert. If it were to me, most website should look like the motherfuckingwebsite with a slight bit more of color and images and maybe font. But that’s it.
If I were to tell someone a tip when remaking theirs is “get rid of half of the things you want in it, and then get rid of some more”. A good website has to have 1) What you do 2) A good set of pictures of that 3) A way of contacting you. Right now there is a lot of SEO optimization in every literature about web design, but to me a lot of potential clients don’t know that a lot of the features they want, would require someone to maintain that website, so their budget suffers.
For the steps, we don’t give that consulting for free so call us, haha 🙂
Q6: You have an inspiring portfolio… After you receive a brief, how do you come up with new ideas, insights, and strategy for the project and what is your approach behind them?
We like to co-create with the client. Unless they wrote an insanely descriptive brief, questions and meetings will always be necessary, and I also believe clients love seeing and participating in the action, so what we normally do is sit down with as many stakeholders of the project in the client’s side, after lunchtime (all my meetings are after lunchtime) and go on EVERYTHING they can think of to minimize the dreadful “what abouts” that makes the project expand and suffer for everyone, especially for the creatives.
Q7: From Hyundai to Rakuten, and Jean Paul Gaultier, you have worked with prestigious clients from various sectors. How do you ensure that your agency is appealing to so many brands and industries?
We like to really make them feel we are part of their team. After all, our motto still is “We are your on-demand marketing department”. We are a network of freelancers rather than a building where websites and social media posts come out of, so mobility, participation, working from their own facilities, and whenever possible with them makes everyone enjoy working with us.
Another very important note, we pay well, we pay fast and try to be transparent in everything we do to the creatives and the clients. In most projects, the creatives decide what the budget should be for them, conditions necessary to avoid free-rework, we estimate what is gonna be our budget for the project management and account management, and if this goes well with the client, we all get to work super happy.
Q8: What are some useful digital marketing and design tools that help you and your team accomplish your goals every day at Mimosa?
By far… to me, Squarespace. Everyone who is not making a project aimed at 40K visitors a month and a minimum high five-figure budget (in Euros!) for their digital presence or similar should be using Squarespace or a similar tool like Wix, Cargo etc.
It literally contains most of the things you need to run a successful business web presence. All the sites look beautiful, and everything about it treats you like the web should be like: intuitive, fun, and helpful. It includes basic marketing features and a lot of other things you can just click and start using.
Q9: What big trend do you foresee in the digital industry?
Agencies will continue to fragment into specialization and continue being these soft network clouds of freelancers located remotely. We rarely have two consecutive projects that are alike, so unless you have a good sales department to sell the work of every member of the team or an already consolidated agency, your agency will suffer and all these creative people will not be doing what they really want to do. I look forward to a world where this is not the norm, though. This model puts a lot of pressure on the creatives, so aggregating in small agencies and co-ops should be more common.
A trend I want to kill: Internships, badly paid, or free. I personally hate them and they are extremely exploitative and keep the creative industry from reaching good potential and respectability. I would love if young creatives could learn soon enough that they are good enough, prepared enough, smart enough, and creative enough and beyond to sell their work. But I am also aware there is simply not reachable to everyone. If you are gonna work “for free”, work for yourself. Otherwise C.R.E.A.M. I wish I learned this way earlier.
Q10: How does being a DAN member contribute to mimosa agency’s success?
I cannot even begin. Considering we are and remain a small agency with no big New Business department, and no particular vision to “scale” DAN is literally one of our lifelines after our own personal networks.
I tried multiple services, directories, networks, sales outreach, and direct advertising initiatives for the agency and none of them compares to the leads (in quality) we get here especially considering the purchase intent. We basically get people at the brief level already rather than going on for months with them to close a sale.
I am literally gonna found a second agency for creative services in Gastronomy and you bet it will be a DAN member.
Mimosa is an integrated digital creative agency specialised in branding, inbound marketing, research and consulting based in Berlin.