Published December 3rd, 2018
by Steven Clark

Lately I’ve been wondering if succumbing to the big black homogenous mass of business hustle culture might be more profitable, at least in the short term. Obviously I’m not deluded enough to think that a small blog full of continuous dissenting opinion could have made any kind of impact beyond allowing me and a few other like-minded people to occasionally camp out on a little island of sanity in the ocean of warm piss that is digital. But watching and hearing about the continued success and adulation of the elites and hacks who we apparently consider to be our greatest minds and leaders makes me wonder if – with the right series of insipid vlogs and in front of the right group of middle-aged purse holders – I couldn’t try to Better Call Saul this bitch and reinvent myself.

I’m occasionally asked why I care about the Gary Vee wannabes and the great howling maw of charlatans that traffic in hustle, disruption and superficial gestures towards popular social movements now that they’re widely accepted. Besides my own general entertainment, it’s because it doesn’t have to be this way. Some professionals in this industry, of varying disciplines, have spent the better part of two decades trying to convince people that websites, marketing and apps are magic and there seems to be no shortage of boomer technophobes and email-virus-downloaders in positions of power or influence willing to believe them.

computer virus
Someone important’s computer

With all of that in mind, it’s time to look at some more failure. Our last anthology post touched on Neil Patel, a minor celebrity and major egotist in the field of digital marketing, and his misguided quest to prove that anyone could make £100k a year simply by blogging, selling fish oil and abusing a writer. With perhaps characteristic predictability, I’d like to discuss someone more local, less famous but potentially more infamous: Scottish businesswoman and self-styled “original international internet entrepreneur” Jacqueline Doherty.

I’ll start by saying that on the surface I don’t think Doherty’s career is overly distinct from many other digital entrepreneurs, particularly those that started in the mid 90s. I mean if this series existed to profile everyone of some prominence from that period who’s ever been involved in a very messy and public business failure (or more than one, spoiler), then we’d soon run out of server space. But as anyone with half a brain, a big enough bank account and a few LinkedIn pulse articles has been continuously attesting to over the last few years: failure equals success. This phrase was coined to succinctly explain how experiencing failure can prepare you for future challenges but is instead often deliberately misinterpreted and used to justify the wasting of time and resources on bad decisions and companies with no inherent profitability.

But Jackie apparently did make a profit. A personal one. Once. And after reading up on her history that’s all I can state with any certainty. In her own words:

“I am one of the first internet designers, internet agency owners and technology investors as such I have gathered over 22 years digital experience on a local and international level. My first internet business which I co founded sold for £35 million in 2001, only 3 years after I left Art school.”

It was a bit difficult to find anything about this sale and the details surrounding it but the broad strokes of what she’s said appear to be true. After working for Caledonian Newspapers throughout the mid to late 90s, she was apparently invited by millionaire entrepreneur Chris Gorman to be part of a sort of dot com ecommerce company called Reality Creative Design and/or Reality Group, which was then sold for £35 million roughly 18 months later. Every member of staff got a slice of the money brought by the sale with Jackie reportedly receiving around £3 million, presumably a higher amount than most other 70 staff due to her early involvement with the company. The listing for Reality Group Limited – which I assume now also contains information about the larger group of organisations that acquired it in 2001 – has Chris Gorman named under Officers but no Jacqueline Doherty, which I guess doesn’t exactly mean she didn’t co-found the company, it just makes it seem less official. There’s also this article about Tom Hunter (now Sir Tom Hunter) and Chris Gorman which somehow fails to mention Jackie’s apparently significant contribution to this effort:

“Hunter, a founding shareholder in e-commerce solutions and logistics company, where Gorman holds the new age title of Chief Entrepreneur, played a key role along with Gorman in the sale of the business to retail and home shopping giant GUS for 35m earlier this year. The sale of that business, set up less than 18 months previously with just a handful of staff, marked the pinnacle of Gorman’s business achievements, increased his personal fortune to a tidy 30m and brought him a host of accolades, including being crowned Ernst & Young UK e-Entrepreneur of the Year.”

But to believe that she might have somewhat overstated her involvement with the inception of this company and its sale, and was instead maybe mostly in the right place at the right time, you’d have to accept the idea that The Herald, The Scotsman (more recently) and The Drum failed to adequately fact check the background she provided for various puff pieces. Which I refuse to do, quite frankly. Whatever the case, Jackie, flush with this early success, had a reasonably large sum of money in the bank when it came time to found her own digital agency, 2Fluid.

old timey journalist
Hot scoop: millionaire runs business

Things seemed to be going pretty well for 2Fluid in 2003, as noted farting arse brand magazine The Drum has Jackie listed in their Emerging 100 from that year, projecting a £1 million turnover for her agency. In 2007, she was part of their panel to name the Top 50 Scottish Women of that year, which unfortunately is no longer available to read (as I’m not entirely convinced she wouldn’t have put herself on it), and as late as 2008 2Fluid were reportedly on a big recruitment drive hoping to treble their turnover. As if you needed further proof that the The Drum’s articles mostly consist of regurgitated press releases, just over a year later they reported that 2Fluid Creative had been liquidated and replaced with 2Fluid Digital after “some financial difficulties”. 2Fluid Digital would then go on to be replaced by Matador Digital which The Drum would report was also liquidated less than a year later. This is presumably the point at which The Drum stopped caring or returning Jackie’s calls.

So what was the situation like as Matador Digital struggled to keep itself afloat? Here’s what a former member of senior staff said, speaking anonymously:

“We helped run Matador with Jaq for around a year until we came to the conclusion that the company would not have enough money to pay the staff at the end of the month. We weren’t happy asking people to work another 3 weeks with no likelihood of being paid, so we advised her that she should cease trading unless she could show us where the money would come from to pay the staff. We were then fired and escorted from the building. Which was interesting.”

This group of senior staff would ultimately end up taking Jackie to court to recover wages they were owed working at Matador:

“As the company now had no senior staff to pay (and along with a number of other employees leaving) the company managed to keep going for a while. We eventually got paid our salary after winning a judgement in small claims court and sending a sheriff officer to enforce payment.”

Howdy lil missy, I got me this here court order

Before I continue, researching this article has been particularly difficult because of the variety of potential names that Jackie could use professionally. Jacqueline Doherty could be shortened to Jackie Doherty, Jacqui Doherty or Jaq Doherty, not to mention an article may accidentally spell her surname Docherty with any of those first names, and then add to that the fact that she registered some of her businesses under her usual name and two companies under her full name including middle names – Jacqueline Mary Doherty. There’s also this example of two different companies with more or less the same name, where in the latter she has no stated ownership but the same official address is listed with an extraneous “J Doherty” bolted on.

My point is, it’s near impossible to know just how many companies Doherty has had control of, considering she’s gone out of her way to register them with multiple variations of her name as well as potentially roping in friends, family or passing well-wishers to register businesses on her behalf. Combining the records on Companies House with news articles featuring statements from her representatives and search results, over the last two decades, she’s ran or been heavily involved with 2Fluid Creative, 2Fluid Digital, 2Fluid Products, 2BeFree Limited, Diablo Agency, Matador Digital, Matador Creative, Matador Group, Plan18, Plan18Media, Viva268, 26Agency and my personal favourite Internet Digital Ltd. It’s worth noting that not all of these company names constitute an entirely new organisation, some are just new names for existing businesses. In addition to the tribunal I mentioned earlier, this might go some way to explain why she’s currently disqualified from owning any other businesses by court order

As you might expect, running so many failed businesses has earned her the ire of some former employees, who seemed to have established a lasting bond based on their collective negative experiences working for her. Spend long enough meeting people in Glasgow’s digital scene and complaining about your boss and it’s not long before you’ll encounter someone with a story about Jackie to tell, usually putting your grievances somewhat into perspective. Someone has set up fake accounts for one of her businesses complaining about not being paid and linking to a now non-existent insolvency profile while someone else has created an Urban Dictionary term using her old Twitter handle @jaqmdor (now @jaqdoc for obvious reasons) defining it as:

“1. A person defining their notoriety by outlandish claims of popularity or social connections of which cannot conform to location or stature.
2. A person or entity of unprecedented overbearing pride evidenced by an unwarranted superior manner toward inferiors.
3. A comment made of which is inherently inexplicable and cannot be maintained by citation, plausibility or docility yet should be classed as fact.”

A cursory search of both her Twitter handles turns up ex-employees wondering when they’ll be paid, folk referencing her apparent bankruptcy and others confused that her company website is down, presumably trying to notify her in good faith. To round this off, someone that I got in touch with was nice enough to share with me this photo of a document naming her as the Respondent in the aforementioned employment tribunal where senior staff from Matador Creative Ltd were seeking the wages they were owed. I heard quite a few stories from former employees about disillusioned and exasperated staff leaving to found their own businesses that are now still running to this day. Whatever her faults, it seems she managed to attract talented and competent people who have gone on to become successes in their own right, most notably the directors of design agency Everyone, Dino and Colin.

Speaking as someone who has their own little post agency job support group where our experiences cemented someone as our own personal Jackie, an individual whose conduct resulted in our collective come-to-Jesus moment about the state of creative industries and our positions therein, this is all very interesting to me. I started my career in 2012, after 2Fluid and Matador’s troubles, and thankfully missed out on an opportunity to see any of this firsthand. Researching this post, I was surprised to learn about people I’d heard of, already met or even worked with who had been her long term employees and how much their lives had been impacted as a result. What perhaps amazes me most about all this is that in a industry like digital with almost no long term memory or notions of accountability, Doherty is the only person I’ve heard of to suffer any lasting consequences for this kind of conduct, arguably in part because some of it was too heinous to easily ignore. It’s almost sad to think that just two decades ago she was “shrink[ing] in embarrassment” at the idea of making such a large amount of money and is now writing CAPS LOCK filled LinkedIn pulse articles complaining about hackers trying to steal her contacts. A more magnanimous person than I could probably sympathetically argue that she is a victim of her own success, if she didn’t herself already have what seems like a pretty sizeable group of actual victims.

I’ll mention at this point that I don’t just think Jackie is worth discussing because she’s a woman. I’m sure a handful of her male contemporaries have done similar things and potentially faced less criticism as a result. The problem here is that I haven’t heard of them but I have heard of her, for reasons that are about to become self-evident.

So if my little paragraph at the start of this blog is right and she’s more or less just like any digital entrepreneur from the mid 90s, albeit a more extreme example, then why am I even bothering to write about her? Well, Jackie has taken a few stabs at becoming a celebrity, most notably appearing on a BBC3 reality TV show called The Last Millionaire alongside James Watt, one of BrewDog’s co-founders.

We’ve discussed BrewDog in the past, arguing that their whole punk rebel thing is for lame dads and that if they think raising cash is so Faustian then they should maybe stop accepting free handouts from the Scottish government, but it turns out not even the co-founder of one of Scotland’s edgiest brands is down with Jackie’s way of doing business, as he states in this Daily Record article:

“She was so heavy-handed when negotiating, like a bull in a china shop. I didn’t want her to jeopardise the deal so, when she was away, I negotiated a better deal. She went mental, but the deal I negotiated was 12.5 per cent better than hers. The fact that I’d dared to negotiate a better deal without her permission was like committing a criminal offence. A few times she said she hoped my business back home would go down the tubes. She didn’t do herself too many favours.”

A surprisingly diplomatic statement from the dude that’s so punk he brews beer for weird smelling men but, don’t worry, Jackie wasn’t about to take this kind of abuse lying down:

“I think the dispute between me and James is not something I have a big focus on. James has a completely different personality from me. James is a younger guy and is younger in business as well. I don’t know if he was intimidated by me. I am a female, an entrepreneur and successful.”

The Last Millionaire seems to have been billed as some kind of reverse Apprentice so it’s fitting they’d find someone as entertaining (and excruciating, personally) to watch as Jackie is in that short clip. The more I think about it the more she seems like a good candidate for a sort of alternate universe version of Apprentice star Katie Hopkins – not cartoonishly racist perhaps, at least as far as I know, but no less notorious or capable of personal bankruptcy.

At some point before or during the late 2Fluid/Matador days, Jackie started some kind of relationship with Neil Lennon. Again, this is all I can state with any certainty – the nature of this relationship could be business only or something else entirely, but it’s hard to tell. In 2012, she reportedly spearheaded an attempt to launch a website with merchandise including t-shirts featuring his face, calendars and mugs. Celtic shut the shop down the day it launched, citing image rights as the reason, clarifying that they owned Lennon’s image and he would need their permission to sell merchandise like this, even if he was going to “donate the proceeds to charity”. Of course you were, Neil.

Unfortunately, as we’ve already alluded to, Doherty declared bankruptcy in 2012 with debts of over £1.8 million. She seems to have spent the majority of the intervening years between then and now doing marketing and design odd jobs for football related media. This includes a rather suspect contest for Rangers offering a £1 million prize where the terms and conditions mention a company that doesn’t actually exist as well as an online merchandise store for PLZ Soccer run by noted red-faced large football dads, Peter and Roughie.

But what’s Jackie been up to more recently? Well, at time of writing, Arran Aromatics – the Scottish fragrance and cosmetics company – happens to be front and centre of her most recent portfolio. She claims to have done pretty much everything for them – branding, design, ecommerce management, web development, SEO, PPC, social media and marketing. An impressive list, evidently Jackie’s spent the last few years building up her skills in preparation for a comeback. She’s even featured the brand on her new agency site which I’m sure is good exposure. It just so happens that a friend of a friend works for Arran Aromatics and I’m reliably informed that Jackie was there for one month as a temp before being let go. Almost unbelievable to think that she managed all of that in just one month!

If you have an eye for detail you may have picked up that Jackie’s court order I referenced earlier forbidding her from registering new companies expires in around 6 months. She’ll soon find herself newly unrestrained in an industry that’s ripe for her particular brand of saleswomanship and business acumen, judging by many of her would-be competitors. Despite her little bankruptcy hiccough and her ongoing career hiatus, reading her one page blog reveals that she’s been keeping abreast of all the latest movements regarding famous influencers like herself, praising Gary Vee for “bellow[ing] his established authority”:

“The loud immigrant New Yorker taking the web by storm and creating new global agencies, with his huge following. He learned from trial and error, by a wine business channel online. Brilliant. […] I watch all his material, and will launch my own when the time is right, with my own flavour of Scottish style and Jacqueline Doherty know how. Be brillant [sic]. Be directional, inspire and motivate.”

I think it’s safe to say this isn’t the last we’ll see of Jacqueline Doherty. If it’s true that failure equals success, then she’s probably the most successful agency owner you’ve ever heard of.

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Steven Clark

by Steven Clark

Steven is a designer/developer and wannabe intellectual with an obsessive personality and too much spare time. Don’t follow him on Twitter.

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