Back when he was a one man band, it was common to see Steve Crowe in Crave for half a day, plodding through his work. He remembers it as an exhausting time—two young kids, trying to pay the bills and cover the mortgage, while remaining flexible enough with his work hours to help out at home.
‘All of my memories are of hustling for new business, trying to keep the clients, trying to figure out what kind of a company I was actually trying to develop,’ Steve says.
‘I was sleep deprived, I was coming home to pick the kids up early from daycare and I was just a one man band. That’s why I liked going to Crave to work—I felt like I was part of a bigger thing.’
Things are different now. Steve has figured out what his business is. This Side Up now has seven staff and has shifted to shared space offices in Eden Terrace. What began as a one-man band SEO operation has expanded to become a fully-fledged digital marketing agency, utilising the advertising tools available to businesses online as well as strategic use of creative content, particularly stories. Steve is someone who well understands the power of a good story.
‘If you don’t have a good story, your campaign will fail,’ he says. ‘There’s so much noise out there in the digital world. Anyone can slap out some pretty average creative and not bother telling a story—and you’re not going to get the good results. You’ve got to get the human connection and emotion. If you can get that right, then your advertising will start to fall into place.’
Steve’s own story begins in Taranaki. New Plymouth born and bred. He describes his university years in Otago as an ‘escape’ from a life that was essentially ‘sport, sport, sport’.
‘There was a sense of I’ve got to get out of here. I felt like I had really outgrown the school environment. I needed to move on and meet new people and get more cultural.’
Otago University was about more than an education. Steve found different walks of life, people who had different upbringings, different cultures among international students, many of whom he’s still friends with.
‘I think the greatest thing was you naturally find people like you. You grow up in Taranaki and you go to school with people you are forced to be with. Thirty kids in the class and by default you are friends, but you go to Otago and there are thousands of people there. You start to find yourself really.’
Steve did a degree in physiotherapy. His dream was to be the Black Caps’ physio and travel the world with the team. But that turned out to be a pipe dream and Steve realised physio wasn’t for him. He practised for six months after graduating then gave it up. But it wasn’t wasted. He says his four years of having to connect with people and learning how to listen to them helps him to this day—helps him actually care for his clients.
‘I went to the UK and I decided I didn’t want to do anything with physiotherapy. I applied for a couple of jobs at the hospitals and I was sort of in the management department. And then I got exposed to setting up an intranet at the hospital.
‘When I came back to NZ there was something called the internet.’ After a bit of a pivot, Steve ended up running NZ’s biggest stag party business, and only recently turned off the website. Then in 2010 he began This Side Up.
While his work space is in Eden Terrace, Steve is back in the hood. He’s a member of a local gym and is back working at Crave, burrowing away on his laptop. No longer sleep deprived, but happy to reconnect with people and faces he recognises from years ago.