Interview Feature: Nathan & Josh Cockburn

I’ve learned that I am quite driven and I like to know what things are leading to.

Nathan and Josh Cockburn were featured in EDB a year ago, as they were just starting out in new jobs. We caught up with the brothers to see what the past twelve months had taught them. We last chatted to the pair on 1st August 2022, the day Nathan had started his first day working fully-fledged, with East Durham Business designer Alan Sawyers at AS Design, following a six-month Kickstart placement…

Meanwhile, his younger brother Josh had joined the business for a summer job following two weeks of paid work experience. A little over a year down the line, both brothers are celebrating their work anniversaries. Leanne Fawcett asked them about their first ‘proper’ year at work.

EDB: Going back 12 months, did you think we’d be following up your last article a year down the line? NC: I don’t think I’m that surprised actually. A few months after I first started, Alan and I worked on what we called a ‘Battle Plan’, which was a progression matrix to take me up to the end of January 2024, so I knew there was a job for me here up to and beyond then if everything went well. I’m glad it has though.

JC: I am surprised and Nathan is surprised I’m still here too. I didn’t really know what to expect but Nath didn’t expect me to last even past the work experience.

EDB: Are you doing the same jobs you were back in August 2022? NC: Not at all. We have a few sister companies based in the same unit as us, mainly production and ecommerce based, my job when I started was just to work in those. When I finished Kickstart and went permanent in August last year I’d say my job had become half production and half web and design. Now I’m 100 per cent web and design.

JC: My job has changed too. I now do all of the packing for some clients and most of what Nathan was taken on to do. I also do social media for AS Design clients and our own businesses, scheduling content and helping to keep on top of things.

EDB: How would you say AS Design has changed in that time? NC: We have definitely grown the business and had to go VAT registered a few months ago. We’ve also got a lot more structure and all of us in the business share a digital workspace with task management that gets overseen by an admin support worker called Andrea. A year ago I never really knew what my working day was going to involve until I got to work but now I always have more of an idea what we’re working on and I have an app on my phone that I can add tasks to if I remember something outside of work.

JC: There’s definitely a lot more for me to do and I recently increased my hours too. The work Nathan and Alan do definitely brings more work into the other businesses I’d say.

EDB: As well as designing East Durham Business, you’re also now involved in a sister publication, tell us about that… NC: We launched Prudhoe Business in April. Josh and I grew up here and we wanted to do something that we could all be involved in. We’ve both really enjoyed doing it and I went round Prudhoe for the first issue photoshoot and it was really good to meet some interesting businesses I didn’t know existed.

JC: I was in the first issue and it was fun doing that and having my photo taken by a professional photographer.

EDB: What would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned about business over the past year? NC: Definitely how things work in the background, money and finances, especially taxes and all of the different things businesses have to plan for and pay out.

JC: During term times, Alan and I do a ‘Business Hour’ every Thursday where I learn about things that help me in my business A Level. I agree with Nath though, taxes are definitely the biggest thing I’ve learned.

EDB: And what have you learned about yourselves? NC: That I can pick things up really quickly. When I started I was printing t shirts and packing orders, now I’m building websites and designing for print and digital. I’ve also edited videos and created my own illustrations. I used to struggle to think of ideas when starting new projects but now I always have a picture in my head of how I want things to look, so I’ve learned how to use a kind of creativity I didn’t even know I had.

JC: I’ve learned that I am quite driven and I like to know what things are leading to. For example I recently created a spreadsheet to track any extra money I make so I know what I can put it towards. I have also learned some general life skills like time management and communication skills.

EDB: What are you most proud of? NC: When I first started, I created a digital packshot for a box set of our client Toyah’s album Anthem. I didn’t work on the release itself as it was done before I started, but we have just completed the follow up, The Changeling, and it made me realise how much work goes into it. I was much more involved in this one and re-coloured 12 previously unseen black and white images that had been presumed lost for 40 years. When the box set got announced in July, there was loads of great comments from Toyah’s fans saying how amazing they thought it looked and Toyah did a thank-you to me which went out on her Instagram. So thousands of fans seeing her personally mention me was a proud moment.

JC: We had hundreds of orders at Christmas and I packed them all on time, even though the postal strikes delayed them. I also managed to come up with a system of putting certain types of orders in a certain place and marking them as packed. Some of the orders were quite complicated, with lots of them going overseas meaning they were expensive to send, and we had no reports of mistakes so I am quite proud of that.

EDB: And what’s next? NC: We’ve set up a new venture as an offshoot of AS Design, called SNAC Digital, where we can generate income from non-design work like hosting and maintenance. It’s quite exciting to be involved in my first proper business venture and becoming a director at 21.

JC: I have also launched my first business venture as well and have imported some products from China to sell online via my own website. I’ve called it Room Gadgets By ThatJosh – it’s an experiment to help me learn about business and make extra money but it’s also good experience. I even got to attend my first business event!