Name: Gemma Charman
Job title: Social media & creativity manager
Company & location: Squeaky Bean, Redhill (part of Winterbotham Darby Ltd)
Education: University of Leeds – BA in Digital Media
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? I have always had a passion for communications and media since college and have always been a huge foodie! While at university, I started a vegan Instagram account, posting photos of all my meals (usually something with baked beans!) to try and break the stereotypes around veganism. When I began following food brands on my vegan Instagram, it became clear social media and marketing was something I was passionate about. As the number of followers increased on my account, I was approached by food companies who were keen to collaborate with me on Instagram, and so I began to see the opportunities a career in food could offer – while also fully utilising my digital media degree.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): My job combines my passion for food with my creative skills in digital media and consists of running the social media accounts, replying to comments (‘the voice behind the brand’), responding to emails and customer queries, and also planning and creating various content for the channels, varying from recipe photography, graphic design and producing videos. I also really enjoy identifying, chatting and building relationships with influencers, and negotiating with them on how to promote our brands.
The underlying aim is always to increase the fame of our brands (including Squeaky Bean, Vadasz and Unearthed), build our community of followers and – importantly – to get people to try our products for the first time, after which we know they will be hooked!
What does a typical day look like for you? Working from home due to Covid-19 has meant I’ve had to adapt and be extra creative with my home cooking food photography studio!
A typical day for me will usually start with getting up to date with comments, tags and mentions that have come in overnight on the social channels. Then towards the end of the afternoon, I will look to reply to any comments or content tags that have come in during the day.
In between, I join creative sessions for planning, scheduling and creating social media content and as there are always launches coming up, I regularly meet with the brand managers to plan content and help with press releases and PR activity.
When I started in October 2019, my first big project was working on a full rebrand for Squeaky Bean. Since then, I’ve worked on some exciting product launches – and a few quirky projects too, including helping to design a gaming beanbag for a hedgehog belonging to the most famous gaming YouTuber in the world, as well as commissioning someone to film themselves free-falling out of a plane (safely, of course)!
“Working from home due to Covid-19 has meant that I’ve had to adapt and be extra creative”
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. I was fortunate enough to land my job as a result of becoming an influencer via my vegan Instagram account. While at university, I was approached by Squeaky Bean and was asked to prepare some ideas for their existing social channels. I came up with some creative recipe ideas which I promoted for their launch on Instagram, and this relationship continued during my studies.
When I graduated I contacted Winterbotham Darby to enquire about any career opportunities and at the time they were considering expanding their social media team, so I was lucky a new role was created for me. Before the interview, I was given a list of areas I could potentially be asked questions on and I prepared a presentation covering these points, mainly using examples of projects, collaborations and posts on my Instagram account. I also outlined why my qualifications and experience made me a good candidate, and this seemed to work well as I got the job!
What’s the best part about working for a food company? The industry is so creative and fast-paced, there are always new products popping up and exciting new projects in the pipeline. It’s amazing to be involved in the initial planning stages and then get to see a finished product in the supermarket, knowing that you have helped with its development.
The industry is fast-moving and offers many exciting career opportunities in new areas, and the growth of social media marketing proves this. Winterbotham Darby is a great company to work for too, with lots of opportunities for career development.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? One misconception is that we are always eating samples and taste-testing new ideas (although there is certainly an element of truth to this!).
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Opportunities may arise when you least expect them. Never be afraid to use your personal platforms to connect with people and brands online.
Don’t be afraid to show and explain personal hobby projects, such as Instagram, at your interviews and very importantly be yourself – building relationships and networks is key to being successful in your food industry career.
What’s your ultimate career dream? In the future I would love to create my own food product or brand and see it sitting on a supermarket shelf!