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Where We Work: Black Lab, Otley

Black Lab Yorkshire

Digital marketing specialist Black Lab has been based at Wharfebank Mills since mid 2019.

Wharfebank is a converted mill building, with history dating back to the 1830s when the mill processed textiles. With the decline in the textile industry in the 1980’s, the mill gradually transformed into a home for other businesses.

Now there are around 50 businesses based at the site, with a variety of creative firms. In 2023, Black Lab opted to move into bigger office space in the building to make space for its growing team.

With eight staff working across SEO, Paid, Web design and PPC, we find out what happens at Black Lab’s offices…

James Starkey, Founder of Black Lab, introduces us to the office…

“The Black Lab office is a place to bring the team together. Remote working has its place and forms an important part of the hybrid offer here, but being in the same environment facilitates ideas, learning and helps aid performance.

“Our office is situated in an historic mill in the traditional market town of Otley, a few miles down the road from Leeds and Bradford. Our building is just a few meters from the River Wharfe, which winds its way down from the Yorkshire Dales to the Vale of York.

“Our space is split into three core areas, desks, meeting room and the gallery where the team can work in a variety of environments to suit their needs. We undertook a major redesign of our space in 2023, recognising that the environment that our team works in plays such an important role in their happiness and therefore our client delivery.”

Where is it?

66 – 69 Pegholme, Wharfebank Mills, Ilkley Road, Otley, LS21 3JP

How big is it?

Wharfebank Mills occupies around 10 core buildings with Pegholme, the building we’re based in, being the largest. Black Lab’s offices are on the second floor and covers around 1,600 sq ft. The building fuses old and new, well-worn stone steps feature prominently around the complex, similar in style to those you see in so many historic Yorkshire buildings, like the renowned Salts Mill in Saltaire. 

By navigating the steps and reaching the top floor, visitors will hear the echo of their footsteps on the original herringbone wooden floors, creating a satisfying sense of presence as you march down the long corridor. 

Light and airy, the Black Lab offices received some much-needed colour when we added our branding to the space in 2023. Rustic desks provide work-stations for staff whilst the leather arm chairs make for a comfy retreat for less formal meetings. 

Split into three rooms, we have the space to expand which means as we grow, finding desk space is unlikely to be an issue for the foreseeable future. One stand-out feature is our kudos board: a series of cork tiles are populated with small notes of appreciation from staff members. These range from thank you notes for helping out on a project to celebrating someone’s achievement. We try to capture these little moments and each card is read out to the team during our monthly retros. 

What happens there?

We don’t all work in the office all the time, some of our staff are 95% based at home, coming into the office every few weeks. During these visits we ensure we maximise our time together to get the most amount of value out of our face time. Additionally, most staff members choose to work from home around two days per week, but we still feel there is a lot of value from being together for the core part of the week. 

Our PPC, SEO and web dev services are delivered to a wide range of clients, however, we have focus on automotive and manufacturing, meaning over the years we’ve been able to build up a wealth of knowledge with those client types. 

The office provides a base to host clients, when visiting they can see what we do, chat to our team and get a sense for our culture. 

What sort of work goes on?

Naturally delivery of client work is our main focus. Digital marketing is a broad term and as we specialise in SEO and paid media (paid social, PPC and display), we spend time planning strategies, structuring ad campaigns, writing copy, auditing websites and ensuring our activity is delivering results that matter to our clients. 

Aside from delivering for clients, we are still a young business so spend time developing our processes and working to create a great place to work. It’s a constant learning curve, to see how far we’ve come in just the last year still amazes me. 

Why is the workplace appropriate?

Covid demonstrated to a vast number of businesses that you don’t always need to be in the office. It also showed that staff don’t always have to be local, opening up a whole range of opportunities for employees and employers. 

As time moves on, the days of being in the office 5 days per week seem incredibly alien, yet the time in the office is always really valued, something all the members of our own team appreciate. It’s a time to share ideas, work in an environment where learning is as easy as overhearing a conversation, and also the place where communication can happen in an instant. No waiting for an IM or email response. 

Who works there?

Black Lab employs eight team members. From head of SEO to junior PPC exec we’re carefully building a team around our senior managers to foster a culture of learning and boundary pushing. All of the work we undertake, has the client at the core. 

We don’t lock clients in with long term agreements and contracts, preferring to let our work do the talking. This has led to many long-term established clients that we’ll work with over and over again, whilst building trust between us.

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