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Podcast interview with Jodie Cook

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless Jr. interviews Jodie Cook, co-founder of Clever Tykes, a series of children's storybooks inspiring enterprising behavior. Jodie is also the owner of JC Social Media, a team of social media managers based in Birmingham, UK.

Throughout the episode, Jodie shares her journey in entrepreneurship, including the inspiration behind Clever Tykes and her experience being included in Forbes' 30 under 30 list in 2017. She also discusses the importance of inspiring children to think entrepreneurially and how the Clever Tykes series can help accomplish that goal.

Additionally, Jodie shares practical tips and advice for entrepreneurs, including the importance of self-care and committing to something that feeds the soul for at least an hour a day.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights and inspiration for anyone looking to make a positive impact in their community and inspire future generations.

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Jodie Cook Teaser 00:00

It becomes, which series of children's storybooks should I buy my kids? And that's great because we want it to be something that everyone just decides to do. So we really welcome like other people in the space. We do fair work actually promoting other companies that are in the entire education space because we want to validate it as an industry.

We wanna make sure it's important, it's at the forefront of education, and that everyone kind of knows about it and the benefit that it brings.

Intro 00:27

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:52

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit over 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we are repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are gonna be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and what I like to call CB Nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on the visibility game, a.k.a. Marketing, Advertising, PR, and Sales. I often say the name of the game is being found, and these tools will help you to do that. We have heard the philosophical question if the tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? If there's a really, really great product or service and no one knows about it, how great is it really? What impact does it ultimately make? This is where we will go into this month looking at visibility, branding, marketing, public relations, sales being the lifeblood of businesses, building many companies and so much more.

This is probably one of the most exciting and probably the most excruciating topics, but we hope this month to demystify or maybe even vanquish the fear and hope and arm you with the tools to be able to increase your visibility. So buckle up and sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Jodie Cook of JC Social Media and Clever Tykes. Jodie, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Jodie Cook 02:22

Hey, thanks for having me.

Gresham Harkless 02:24

No problem. Super excited to have you on. What I wanted to do is just read a little bit more about Jody, so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Jodie is the owner of JC Social Media, a team of social media managers based in Birmingham, United Kingdom. She co-founded Clever Tykes, a series of children's storybooks inspiring enterprising behavior, which are read in every primary school in the UK and have just launched in the United States of America.

She was included in the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2017 and won the 2017 Entrepreneurs Champion Award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. She also competes for Great Britain and powerlifting.

Jodie, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Jodie Cook 03:04

Yes, absolutely.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:06

Awesome. So I wanted to hear a lot more about what I call your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Jodie Cook 03:11

Cool. Ok, so, the social media agency, I started purely, like there wasn't much thinking behind it. I just wanted to write social media posts for different companies. That was from a love of writing and a kind of love of like social media when it first started being a thing for companies. So it started off without a business plan, apart from just getting clients. Then once I had one client, I got another one and then got another one, and then it went from there. But there was definitely no business plan, it was quite simple. As we've grown the agency, we've kept to those very simple, basic principles of just make clients happy, they recommend you, then you grow. Sometimes it just doesn't have to be complicated.

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When I was a couple of years into JC social media, I started talking to some friends and kinds of people around me who'd also started businesses. And trying to work out why is there such a difference between people who think that starting their own business is something that would be a huge risk and that they could never, ever do. Or maybe they'll do it, but 20 years in the future and those people who just think, yeah, I'll give it a go. How hard can it be? Like, why not? And they don't see it as a risk. Often you can split the whole kind of business community into those two separate sections. A lot of the time from research, we found out that a lot of the time, the reason some people just feel like they can go ahead and start their own business is because they've had a role model growing up. Someone who they've learned from or heard about their story, who has made them think yeah, I could do that, and has made it accessible to them.

I don't don't know if you're the same, if you had a role model growing up, Gresh, but it's very common for entrepreneurs, CEOs, business owners to have had one. And so as part of research around it, we looked into if someone hasn't got like a parent or family friend that they know that started their own business, who business role models in the media say, and we just found really that business owners were portrayed really horribly in TV shows and in the media. So you've got people like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, and then if Matilda, you've got her dodgy car dealer dad. Then in the Lego movie, you've got Lord Business, who's this horrible character who glues all the Legos together so no one can play with it. Business people are portrayed in a really mean and greedy, horrible way.

And of course, we know that in reality, it's not like them. We need people to go and start their own businesses to grow the economy and create jobs and create wealth. So it was that thinking that led to me and my co-founder writing a series of children's storybooks to write the role models kids could learn from.

Gresham Harkless 05:50

Nice. I absolutely love that. I know you touched on it a little bit, but I wanted to hear a little bit more about what you're doing with JC Social Media and then also with Clever Tykes.

Jodie Cook 05:58

With JC Social Media, the team is based in Birmingham, UK. Most of our social media management. Where we run various different social media presences for our clients. Then we do quite a lot of training as well, training, kind of consultancy, and training all sorts of companies and individuals on how they can make best use of social media. When we started off, my kind of background I guess was in like healthcare and social care. So we started off with a lot of clients in that sector.

We slowly branched out into other sectors and now it's like restaurants and professional services and lots of different weird and wonderful clients. I guess the more weird, the better because they're the ones that tend to stand out and send out really well online as you'll know yourself.

Gresham Harkless 06:45

Absolutely. And with Clever Tykes, could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Jodie Cook 06:48

Yeah, sure. So with Clever Tykes, well it's almost split two ways. So we sell books on the website. We sell books through Amazon, that's mainly, it used to be in the UK and then we launched on Amazon, in the US fairly recently. So reaching kids around the world through storybooks and teaching resources. So we've got things like activity packs and coloring packs, and our illustrator is absolutely fantastic. He's just helped us create a range of resources to go alongside the storybooks.

So teachers who are going through the storybooks with their students, they know which questions to ask. So we've got like teachers, guys that run alongside them, who say what's this character doing here? Why is she doing that? What could she do instead? And start to get those discussions going on with their own students. So our main audience is teachers, parents, and homeschoolers. But then three years ago, what we realized was that the kids whose lives we can change the most are not the ones whose parents can necessarily buy the books for them. That's when we thought, how do we go about getting these books in the hands of every child in the UK without them necessarily paying for them themselves, and this is where we decided to get a sponsor on board and then we got these signed off.

Then we realized it's taking so long to get 10 schools signed off. It's gonna take us like years and years and years to do the whole country. Why don't we just forget all the small stuff? Why don't go really big on this, why don't find one sponsor to put books on all 24,000 primary schools in the UK because the sales cycle's probably the same. We just had it in our heads. There is a person in a room somewhere who can sign this off, who can say, yes. All we have to do is find that person and it'll all be fine. So that's what we decided to do and told pretty much everyone what we were doing.

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We got people to tell their friends and tell their contacts and sure we were at the forefront of people's minds. And then a kind of friend of a friend told a friend, and then we had a meeting with a guy called Martin who was one of the directors at Lloyd's Banking Group. So we told him all about the project and then to cut a long story short, he ended up signing off on that project. Then we were able to gift the story books to every primary school in the UK along with the kind of teaching resources and everything else that went with them so that every kid could have a positive entrepreneurial role model.

Gresham Harkless 09:06

Awesome, I absolutely love that. You might have already touched on this, but what would you say is your secret sauce? Or what do you feel distinguishes you or your organization apart?

Jodie Cook 09:14

I'd say what distinguishes us as the co-founders, is that we just don't really give up and we just don't mind following up that bit extra or going that bit further to get in touch with someone. We see it as overtaking the people who have given up and that will just get us further. If someone's not responded to you like three times, how many people give up at that point? What about the fourth or the fifth or the sixth time? How many people are actually vying for someone's attention at that point? It's probably fewer. So just carrying on going often helps you get to where you want to go.

But then I think also on the secret source type like the side of things, with the storybooks, we actually welcome competitors because I don't think there's another series of kind of kids' storybooks that do exactly what we do, but there are ones approaching exactly the same problem in a different way. I see that as a really, really good thing because it's validating the market. The question doesn't become should I buy my kids a set of this kind of storybook, it becomes which series of children's storybooks should I buy my kids? And that's great because we want it to be something that everyone just decides to do.

So we really welcome other people in the space. We do a fair bit of work actually promoting other companies that are in the enterprise education space because we want to validate it as an industry. We want to make sure it's important, it's at the forefront of education, and that everyone kind of knows about it and the benefit that it brings.

Gresham Harkless 10:38

Absolutely. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This might be an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but it's something that makes you more effective and efficient.

Jodie Cook 10:52

I was thinking about this earlier. I was trying to think which ones have added the most, and I think there are three that I wanted to mention that are all part of the same kind of theme. One of them is Essentialism by Greg McKeon, the other one is called One Thing by Gary Keller, and the final one, which I've actually just finished reading, is It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy at Work, which was written by the Base camp founders.

And so they're all along a very similar theme, is focus and avoiding distraction. That's something that is definitely important to me and has been a long my journey so far that unless I'm absolutely clear on my vision and what I want to do and who it's benefiting and the reason behind everything, it's so easy to get distracted and you could end up wasting like years of your career just fulfilling pointless obligations, doing what other people want you to do, and not really actually achieving anything. So the books that have really spoken the most to me are the ones that are on that theme. The ones that really make you think, no, I'm not gonna say yes to that because yes, it would help that other person, but maybe I can help them a different way.

That actually doesn't take away from the one thing that I really, really want to achieve, which for me at the moment is getting my storybooks into every school in the world. So, having that at the forefront of everything means it's easier to avoid getting distracted and especially reading books like that and finding just little tips and tricks and things to say that help you along that journey.

So I think It Doesn't Have To Be Crazy At Work book, they talk about how can you have an autoresponder that goes back to people that helps signpost where they can find their answer without you being changed your email all the time. Or how can you just be more efficient in some of your processes and how can you eliminate some things? There's no point in automating or delegating something that you can just not do.

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Gresham Harkless 12:36

Yeah. No, I absolutely love that. I love those CEO hacks. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a word of wisdom or piece of advice, or if you can hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Jodie Cook 12:47

If I look back at my former business self, I was so unbelievably naïve. And I think on one hand I think, I probably could have gotten to places faster than I did do if I hadn't been as naïve. But on another hand, I think maybe it was actually better and maybe I wouldn't change anything because it was probably part of like my story. But at first, when I was starting out with my social media agency, if someone said to me like, oh, I wanna talk to you about social media, I'd be like, okay. And then I'd basically keep calling them until they talk to me.

I didn't ever comprehend that someone might have just been saying that too politely. Let's talk about it. I think I was just so naïve to think that anyone wouldn't mean what they say. So I always treated everyone at face value, and I guess maybe sometimes that's not been the best thing for me to do because it means that you might give out trust too quickly. So that's probably what I'd say to my younger self is don't verify before you trust.

But then on the other hand it's, would you rather be overly trusting and would you rather be overly cynical? And I think I'd pick overly trusting each time, nevertheless.

Gresham Harkless 13:50

Yeah. It's funny you say that. I love that kind of two-edge perspective.

Jodie Cook 13:54

If you're gonna be naïve, you almost have to accept that other people will be more experienced and will be more hardened to it and almost not take their advice. Because if you've got this big dream and you know that you can make it happen, yeah, sure, there might be an element of naivety, but the last thing you wanna hear is someone going, oh, I don't think that'll work. Oh, I know someone that tried to do that and they failed because it's going away. Leave me to it.

Gresham Harkless 14:15

Exactly. Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show, but I wanted to ask you, Jodie, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Jodie Cook 14:24

Being a CEO means doing the hard things and not the easy things. It's easy to hide behind email. It's easy to hide behind AdWords. It's easy to not confront someone. It's easy to just say, deal with that some other time. It's hard to do the stuff that will actually make the difference, like being honest with people, like confronting, like asking for the sale, like public speaking. Putting yourself out there.

I think I feel like a CEO's responsibility especially is doing the hard things in order to demonstrate to their followers or their team or their tribe or whoever it is that the hard things are the things that make the difference to inspire them to do it as well.

Gresham Harkless 15:02

Absolutely. Absolutely. Jodie, I truly appreciate you for taking some time out. What I want to do is pass you to the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and our listeners know.

Then of course how they can get a hold of you, get a copy of your books and all of the awesome things that you are working on.

Jodie Cook 15:17

The main place you can find out about me is, and then from that is linked to my agency and then also, which are the children's storybooks that I have at the moment.

One thing that I'm putting together is a book on how we can raise entrepreneurial kids. What I love hearing about is how people were raised to be entrepreneurial. So if there's anyone listening who's got any stories of, when they were younger, my parents did this particular exercise with me or they talked to me about things, has really made the difference. I would love to hear about that.

Those examples are just so inspiring for parents, teachers, and homeschoolers to carry out with the kids that are under their care.

Gresham Harkless 15:57

Absolutely. Again, I truly appreciate you and we'll have all those links in the show notes just so that everybody can follow up with you and then let you know if they had some really great entrepreneurial stories as well as children so that you can add to your book.

But again, I appreciate all the work that you're doing and all the awesome things that you're doing. I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Jodie Cook 16:12

Thanks so much. Thanks for having me.

Outro 16:14

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast, powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

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Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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