“Everyone gets a say when we make hires. Our rule is we don’t do divas.”
With a concert pianist mother and entrepreneur father perhaps it was destiny that Christine MacKay would end up running a creative business.
The mixture is well suited to running the Salamandra.uk animation studio in Dundee.
Founded in Eton in 2014, the company opened its second office in Seabraes Lane a year ago.
Despite Covid-19, the company had a successful 2020, with the pandemic bringing new types of work as well as challenges.
Learn what makes team tick
But Christine said the company’s ethos and spirit meant it has thrived.
“Everyone gets a say when we make hires and our rule is we don’t do divas,” she said.
“I really do pride myself on learning what makes my talented team tick… and it seems to work.
“We’ve got a diverse workforce who are open minded and supportive of each other.
“The more open minded, the more imaginative you can be. We are all sharing things we like – artworks, new software tips or animation techniques or approaches. It helps keep the spark going.”
Nurture and value employees
The bond between the workers has meant they’ve taken part in charity ballet classes, nerf gun shooting contests, charity fundraising and, of course, dressing up at Halloween.
While remote working, they have taken part in regular virtual yoga classes together.
“The bottom line is that you don’t have a company or product without employees,” the chief executive added.
“Nurture them. Value them. Celebrate them. Success, reputation and satisfaction will undoubtedly follow.”
Challenges and opportunities
The company has carried out work for brands such as Sky, Deliveroo and GSK.
It has even worked on blockbuster movie franchise projects.
Salamandra has done everything from assets for social media, to corporate videos, adverts and even designed and animated children’s books.
The team of 12 was already used to collaborating digitally between the two offices when lockdown hit.
Last year brought its challenges but also opportunities.
“It’s been a real mixture – we’ve had customers close down, while other clients have grasped the opportunities,” Christine said.
“At the start of the pandemic we had a couple of quiet months – July was a shocker.
“But since then it’s really ramped up and we’ve just had our best month ever in December.
“We carried out some really interesting projects last year – a lot more virtual and augmented reality work.
“We created 3D auditoriums for presentations so it feels like you’re attending a big international conference.
“For another client we created animations of products when you scanned a QR code in a catalogue.
“We’ve done a lot more work making online presentations more engaging to make up for the lack of face-to-face these days.”
The business plans to expand in 2021 and will take on five young workers under the Government’s Kickstart scheme who will be split between the two offices.
Christine, who speaks five languages and has previously worked in South Africa and New Zealand, has also not ruled out international expansion.
“While I was in New Zealand for three years I found out more about animation – it’s an amazing medium which isn’t used much by business,” she recalled.
“We absorb so much more information through visuals. I started Salamandra to capitalise on that and help businesses problem solve visually.
“I do want to open up one or two other hubs and not necessarily just in the UK. We want to grow our teams to double our size in the UK and then have a go overseas.”
20 awards in 2020
Last year Salamandra won 20 accolades for its work, including business, marketing and film awards.
But more important is knowing the impact it has made on the companies it has worked with.
Christine added: “It’s amazing when a client says ‘that’s exactly what I had in my head’.
“That’s partly due to our briefings which are very robust, where we ask lots of questions and do research on the company, their industry and competitors.
“Budget is, of course, a big question – we’re creatives so we always want to do something amazing and will shoot for the stars.”