Jumping out of the advertising industry onto a hot iron

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 28 September 2021
Joe Carter.

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Joe Carter turned a passion into a career parachute.

The now former communications director at Colenso BBDO flipped his side gig into a full-time role.

Carter, with Kate Slavin, formed Ironclad Pan Company, cast iron cookware — with a “Three Generation Guarantee”, or about 100 years.

They make sure the pans will last. Each one is made by hand, from the pouring of the metal to the finished product. It’s the only cast iron cookware made in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

It was an unusual move for a couple of creatives. They formed the company in late 2019 and then started in 2020. No outside capital. Just their own entrepreneurial spirit.

AdNews caught up with Joe Carter to find out about life after advertising.

Why did you leave the industry, and is it scary out there?

“I fell into the industry, but I don’t think you ever ‘leave’ — the incredible people and mentors who have supported and worked with me during the past decade will always form part of my thinking, values and life. They, and therefore the industry, won’t ever leave my inner psyche.

“I left because an opportunity presented itself to apply everything I’ve learned to our own business. It was unmanageable as an every-evening-and-weekend job so after overthinking and intellectualising everything, the business got to a point where I needed to commit full-time.

“The biggest risk ended up being not taking the risk at all. As an entrepreneur, no two days are the same, which causes excitement and a heap of nerves. But I’m surrounded by people who know way more than I do so it’s more challenging than it is scary.

ironclad pan

What skills did you learn in the industry that are helping you now?

“Aside from learning how to create a meaningful brand and profitable business, the biggest learning I’ve taken with me is resilience. Every week there’s a new problem that requires me to work both in and on the business.

“There are so many learnings from the mistakes, and I think the marketing industry taught me that it’s OK to make mistakes, and to accept accountability for them. When it’s your skin in the game, there’s no hiding from both the success and the failures.

“With no outside shareholders or capital investment, you have to be honest with yourselves (rather than a client) about what’s working and what’s not.

“It took me a few months to realise that making sure there’s enough money in the bank to continue doing what we love is success in itself — that’s the real trophy.”

Advice for those going out on their own?

“Ask for help and just start. If we go it alone, we’ll only ever see our product, customers and culture through our viewpoint on the world.

“If we ask for help in the areas where we don’t have superpowers, people will tell you everything you need to know.

“There are so many ideas that never move beyond a boardroom or our inner monologue, and I think we just need to make more of these ideas. Crafted beautifully and delivered simply.”

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