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Craig Cooper

Friday 6th January 2023


This article was originally published on Work With Shop as part of the "Humans of the Shopify Ecosystem" interview series. Work With Shop was a project I started in 2022 and closed in August 2023. However, I wanted to keep the interviews online and have therefore repurposed them here.

Craig Cooper — Shopify strategist and occasional shoe model!

In this interview I speak to Craig Cooper — Amateur Fencer and Chief Dogsbody at Archer Cooper. Just don't call him a CEO!


General

Q: Where are you right now?

Lancashire — the most beautiful county in England!

Q: Where are you based?

Also, Lancashire, though the business office address is in Manchester. Which used to be in Lancashire but isn't anymore.

Q: When asked, what do you say your job title is?

I'd probably try and say something funny like Chief Dogsbody, but that's really just hiding the fact that it's hard to have a job title that's meaningful in such a small organisation. I put "Founding Partner" on my business cards. I die a little inside when people say “CEO”.

Q: Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?

I always have to walk the dog (except this week because I can't walk from a knee injury — playing football at my age, and with my history of knee injuries, was always ill-advised). It gets me up and gives me a chance to listen to my favourite podcasts.

Once I get home, it's a quick dash to get the kids ready for school and then on with work. I've done the "working from home" thing since well before the pandemic, so I think I'm pretty good at it. I've got a separate office down at the bottom of the garden that allows me to have a bit of work/life balance (ha!).

Work is usually client calls and then doing the things that come off the back of those calls.

Q: How did you get started in the Shopify ecosystem?

I attended a workshop off the back of a conference I was attending. I'd never really looked at Shopify before that, but it did a great job of introducing me to how simple the process of building a theme was. Before that, I was into WordPress and WooCommerce, so Shopify seemed like a delight.


Consultancy

Q: What led you to become a Shopify-focused consultant?

I met Alex O'Byrne at another conference later that year (Beyond Tellerrand). He had already made the decision to go “all-in” on Shopify, and talking to him convinced me to try the same.

Q: Who do you help, and what do you do for your clients?

I help independent brands to win the fight online by giving them the tools and knowledge they need to compete.

Q: What's the biggest challenge your clients face?

In my opinion, finding new customers is the number one challenge for any e-commerce business. It's a hard problem to solve, but getting it solved makes every other problem seem far less important.

Q: How do you go about finding new clients?

I'm very guilty of relying on word of mouth. I do my best to amplify the nice things clients say about me too.

Q: Being a solo consultant can get a bit lonely — what does your support network look like?

I have a three-pronged approach. Firstly – go to as many in-person events as possible to get face time with people who have similar challenges and experiences. Secondly — a Slack group with some of those same people where we can share things more readily. Finally — a weekly call with a trusted friend and mentor who shares some of my challenges and doesn't mind listening to my rants.


Lessons & Learnings

Q: What's the biggest challenge you face in your business/work today?

Balancing being responsive enough for clients who email, message, call and getting the work done that needs deep-dive focused headspace.

Q: How do you get "stuff" done? Are you a proponent of a particular productivity method, or do you prefer a "Post It" note on your monitor?

I'm a proponent of the Getting Things Done methodology. It took me a while and a good few tries to get it. It seems too complicated at first. I use Omnifocus to manage my lists, but it doesn't need fancy software. The main thing is to **have one place **for everything.

Q: What's the one bit of advice you would give someone starting out in the Shopify ecosystem today?

Shopify clients are more sophisticated than some people think, and they need more sophisticated solutions than most people offer. Think about what's not on offer and how you can fill the gap. Just knowing how Shopify works is no longer enough.

The Lego Batmobile still has to make the shelf — maybe in 2023?

Q: How do you approach getting better at your craft, development, leadership etc.?

I act as a generalist for my clients. I can write code, but I'm not trying to be the best coder etc. I try to take as much as possible from a wide range of disciplines, from account management and development to consulting and coaching. The hope is that the mix of all of these things can make me more effective and efficient.

Q: Please share any influential books, blogs, authors etc., that have helped you in your work life.

Definitely all the work of Robert Craven. Also, the work of David C. Baker, Blair Enns and Johnathan Stark has helped to shape how I think about my business.

In terms of influence on my general outlook, Alchemy by Rory Sutherland, How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp & Jenni Romaniuk, and The Advertising Effect by Adam Ferrier have been huge.


Shopify

Q: What's the one missing Shopify feature you wish existed?

Only one? I'll go with the ability to import/export duplicate navigation.

Q: How do you keep up to date on what's new, what's outdated, or those pesky theme updates that just might break your client's storefront?

I have the Shopify changes RSS feed into a slack channel. That helps, but to be honest, it's one of the more frustrating things about Shopify when new features or apps get sprung on you with little or no advance warning.


Let's Get Technical

Q: What does your personal tech stack look like?

I use a couple of Macs, a Macbook Pro 14” and a Mac Mini. I'm all in on Apple, so iPhone too.

Q: What's in your menubar? Please share 3-5 utilities that you use on a daily basis.

I don't really geek out on little extras, but Text Sniper, Magnet and Hazel are always usually running.

Q: What about apps that you can't live without?

Omnifocus does my GTD stuff. Calendar tells me what to do when. Notes is where everything goes that doesn't go anywhere else.

Q: Do you have any funky/cool hardware you'd recommend?

I use an Elgato Facecam, and two Elgato Key Light Airs for the many video calls I do each week. I feel like it's an investment worth making since we don't do as many in-person meetings anymore.


And Finally

Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?

I recently started Fencing and enjoy both épée and sabre weapons. My oldest daughter comes with me, so it's nice to have that time together.

Q: What's your favourite album/book/magazine/event of 2022?

I hugely enjoyed Shopify Unite 2022 in London. It was fantastic to see so many of my favourite people again as well as meet some new faces.

Definitely listen to Little Simz — Sometimes I Might Be Introvert if you haven't already.

Q: Share three of your favourite Shopify stores (if you have one, please include it)

  • I love Seven Yays because it is such a fun concept and introduced some genuinely unique challenges. The family team behind it are the best too.
  • Sandras Online is a lesson in how to find a market and sell to it rather than trying to be fancy or glamorous.
  • Omybag because they've got a great culture, a great team and a great purpose — everything I think a business should be and exactly who I want to work with.

Q: Where can people find out more about you?

I'm on Twitter (craigcooperxyz) where I rant about football, politics, marketing and sometimes e-commerce. I'm on LinkedIn but don't really jive with the atmos over there. Then there's my website archercooper.co.uk.


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