Work Hard

5 Minutes with… Amy Mooney

From co-founder of a creative agency to...gas heating, we spoke to Amy about what inspired her move into the family business, and what it's really like working with your partner.

Written by High Life North
Published 14.07.2020

Tell us about the move and how you came to the decision to sell your half of your creative communications agency.

I set up my previous company with a close friend and former colleague. It really was a dream come true to start-up, and grow my own successful agency alongside my best friend. However, after nearly 20 years in the industry I began to re-evaluate what I wanted, from work and from life. After having my second child it was clear my priorities were starting to change and I struggled to re-ignite my passion for agency life.

It was when I was at an awards dinner with work, that I met representatives from other heating and engineering companies. Because my husband had his own gas heating company, Gas Angel, I was intrigued to chat to them. My initial thought was to strike up a conversation that may lead on to how my company might help them with their strategic brand and marketing work given I had a personal interest in the sector. However, it was suggested that, if I’m doing great work and seeing great results for other companies, would it not make sense to turn the focus inwards, toward the family business?

I’d flirted loosely with the idea in the past but never with any intention, but something just clicked that night. The thought terrified me yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it – I really wanted the change and the chance to help my husband David to really turn this great little business in to what I know it can become. Eventually, after lots of deliberation, soul searching and a few tears, I took the plunge and went into partnership with David.

What’s it like working full time with your husband?

It’s challenging, but rewarding too! I can find it difficult to switch off and shut up about work, but David doesn’t have that problem. This is a slippery slope so I often have to remind myself to be present and put work down. I’m learning on the job, we’ve by no means got it all figured out but we’re making progress. Clear rules around when we’re on work time and when we’re on family time helps and our ‘no work talk after 8pm or at the dinner table’ was hard at first but we’re happier as a result. If I want to work on a night, that’s fine but I shouldn’t expect David to do the same thing. I think it’s really important to remember that before you were in business together, you are two different people with different wants, needs and importantly work ethics. There’s no right or wrong.

Overall, the rewards are absolutely worth the challenge. Working towards the same goals and building a business around our shared values makes celebrating the successes feel so good. We understand what the other is thinking when we’ve got good stuff going on, or when something doesn’t quite feel right, which makes it easy to make decisions based on what is best for the business and our family too. There is room for improvement, as I say we’re learning as we go, but one of the biggest benefits of a strong husband and wife business partnership is the unique sense of trust and support which I love.

Gas heating is a big change – how are you finding it?

The stigma around the sector was the biggest issue – people assumed my previous business partner and I must have fallen out because they couldn’t understand why I would leave the agency world for the heating world! There were also a few derogatory comments about boilers and me being a plumber, as though I’d dropped down the business-class system. In truth, it is down to a lack of understanding as to what goes on in the industry. It’s a highly-skilled, highly regulated sector, and it helps to keep people safe and happy at home. The impact we have on anyone whose hot water goes off or whose heating fails in winter is significant. So it’s really rewarding to play a part in something that affects so many people in the North East. And I’ve been able to use my skills to take a strategic brand approach to business development, which I think is fairly unique in our sector from an SME point of view.

You’ve pledged to plant a forest – tell us more about this.

I remember my little boy coming home from school and talking all about climate change and it really made me think about how we all have a responsibility and how, if we don’t act quickly, it will negatively affect the lives of our children and our children’s children. Gas heating generates CO2, but, until new environmentally-friendly innovations become accessible to most homes, its how the majority of the population heat their homes and water.

With that in mind, I wanted to do something now to make a difference, rather than to sit back and wait until gas boilers were replaced with something new. Scientists have said that planting a trillion trees could save the planet, and there’s a fabulous organisation called JUST ONE Tree that enables individuals and companies to do their bit.

So, when we launched our new Gas Angel boiler cover products, we decided to plant two trees for every customer that signs up. Before we even formally launched the product we had planted 80 trees, so we hope to see many thousands – of Gas Angel trees planted as our boiler cover grows in popularity.

North East favourites

Beauty salon

Gallery 108 on Gosforth High Street is my favourite place in the world (not just favourite salon). They are hair and beauty and I love them for two reasons…

1. Becky the owner has the highest standards. All her staff have that blow-drying-arm-roll thing off to a T. Even their apprentices know how to tame my unruly frizzy hair! I’ve been to many hairdressers over the years and had to redo my hair as soon as I got home. Gallery 108 get it right every time.

2. I leave feeling the best version of myself. I know most people go to the hairdressers and relax, but I find it a great place to work. I book weekday appointments, take my laptop and get loads done without interruption. I leave looking a hell of a lot better and feeling super productive too. The place is a mini-miracle worker.

Coffee shop

Naked Deli, also on Gosforth High Street – their coffees are gorgeously strong and the food delicious too. Whether I’m there with the kids, meeting a friend for a catch-up, or working and need a change of scenery, the vibe is laid back and the service consistently high.

Book shop

The Seven Stories bookshop on the Ouseburn. I buy my own books online or download on Audible, but always buy in person when it comes to children’s books. Seven Stories is the National Centre for Children’s Books – we have an annual pass so go a few times a year. Its fab, they take well-known kids books and bring to life through exhibitions and live story-times. Their book shop is the perfect way to end the day – we normally cosy up in a corner, read a couple of stories before the kids choose a book each to take home. 

Arts venue

The BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. I love making a day of it with the kids on a Sunday – bargain hunting on the quayside market, followed by a stroll over the Millennium bridge for a coffee and loo stop at Baltic Kitchen. Then up the fast lifts to take in views of the Tyne, before wandering the galleries and arguing with my husband about whether he really could ‘have don’t that himself’. Our kids always seem that little bit more feral when I’m with them in the BALTIC but it’s a great day out, plus it’s free.

Outdoor attraction/location

I Love Gibside. It is only 15 minutes drive from where I live but is still a full day out. The views are stunning, there are ruins to explore, loads of woodland walks with lots of wildlife to spot, great picnic spots and their Strawberry Castle play area is one of best adventure playgrounds we’ve been to. I have two sons and two stepsons, aged between 2-15. Gibside gets us all off our screens, it’s great.
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