We now initiate our Bright Interview Series with interviews with our employees, ambassadors, partners and customers.
We start of with Jacqueline Cousins, Logistics Manager at Brightmare Productions in Portugal, letting us follow her day as well as hear her story of her journey from London to Dubai to finally settle in Penedo, Portugal.
Distribution office – Penedo, Portugal
It’s grey today, Jacqueline looks out to her right at the village submerged in a heavy mist. Turning back to the computer, she gives me a smile. This is my colleague, Jacqueline Cousins, the distribution manager of Brightmare Productions, letting me join her virtually from Sweden.
So what are we doing today?
Today is a packing day, we pack on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. We have a big order today, so I’ve got to make sure it’s all complete before FedEx comes at midday and our books will be on their way to our customers.
Is it okay if I ask a couple of questions while you pack?
So how did you start at Brightmare?
I met Barbro a couple of years ago. She is one of the authors of the Creative Riding series and also lives in the little village of Penedo. She had a very big order to process last summer and I offered to help and then she employed me the next day. She states, laughing.
I have worked here for more than a year now and it’s been great. Work is flexible, my commute is very short, I can walk to work and I’ve also learned lots of new skills. It’s been an opportunity to learn all about shipping and logistics. Recently, I’ve also been providing customer support.
What’s your routine, to get you in the zone?
I’m actually from the UK, so I put on a local London chat show. They talk about topical news and things, but it keeps me company while I pack, so that’s good isn’t it? The talk show doesn’t start until 10 and I start work at 9 so I like to start by listening to salsa tunes on Radio Willy from Colombia. Dancing around the office, packing books!
So what’s your best memory at Brightmare?
My best memory at Brightmare? It has to be, taking the delivery of the first book that I helped translate into English – from Swedish to English, which was, “Creative Riding in the Arena”. That was last summer, and I felt very proud to see it in print, my name on the inside cover.
Jacqueline frowns and looks worriedly at the computer screen.
What happened, is something wrong?
I’m going through the orders and I’m processing them now. We changed our shipping partner to FedEx this summer, so it’s all automated now, but occasionally, FedEx doesn’t recognize the shipping address. When this happens, I have to contact the customer and say, “Your shipping address is not recognized by FedEx, can you please carefully check everything is correct. From your postcode, house number, your email, your telephone number, it all has to be correct before your order can be processed.”
What would you recommend to a customer?
When you are placing an order, it’s really important: 1, that you provide the right shipping address. Double check that everything is correct, because of it isn’t, it will cause delays in your order to establish the right address. 2, which is very important, please, choose an address where somebody is going to be around to receive the package. FedEx will try 2-3 times to deliver and if they can’t find the recipient, the book comes back to us. It’s really important that you choose a good address. It might be, you’ve got a friend who is staying at home at the moment, or you’ve got a relative that’s always at home. Find a good solution that works for you.
How has Covid-19 affect the shipping department in Portugal?
I can’t lie, it was a struggle, the lockdown hit Portugal around 10th of March and we were working at the time with the national post courier, CTT, and they use a network of national couriers for countries around the world. Nobody knew what was happening, how long businesses would be closed and how long health and safety measures would be enforced. For instance, the local post office could only have one person there working at a time instead of five, that kind of thing, to keep social distance measures. People were working from home instead of their office and we were sending to offices so books weren’t reaching the customer and were returned to us. We sadly had a few upset customers who were looking forward to the book.
You mentioned earlier that we are now using FedEx, has there been an improvement?
Now we use FedEx. You get a tracking number, at the point that I have processed an order and it has left the building and is on it way in the shipment, the customer gets a notification that the package is on it’s way with an estimate for when it will be delivered. Within Europe, that’s usually within 5 days and the rest of the world 10 days. And if I compare that to previously during this pandemic, it was taking up to a month within Europe and even longer for the rest of the world, so I think that is a massive improvement we have made for our customers.
So what’s the most fun work challenge for you at Brightmare?
I do really enjoy the translations, understanding how to communicate the horse’s movements and where his hoof is going next. Translate it in a way that the readers can understand. It was great to do the online project this year to offer the online courses for the people who prefer to watch video rather than read a big book.
So who are you, Jacqueline?
Where do I start?
How did you end up in Portugal?
A long and winding road, I’m from the UK, I worked in several cities there, the last one was London, which I loved. About 21 years ago, I met a guy, an office romance. The boss didn’t like this so he sent the guy to Dubai. He said, “why don’t you join me, it’s only for 6 months”. Sixteen years later, we were still there! Jacqueline laughs
But on arriving in Dubai, I managed to get a job at an advertising agency, a British advertising agency, very similar to the job I had left in London. I had been working with an online advertising agency so I could bring my online skills to this agency. And this was back in 1999, we were one of the pioneering agencies who would do online advertising and e-commerce websites. There was no Facebook or Instagram back in the day.
It was a time of great growth and obviously, Dubai in 1999 was just sand and by the time I left it was a massive skyscraper city and I was involved with advertising and promoting Dubai and Emirates Airline. So an incredibly intense, busy time in my life.
After 16 years, we didn’t want to work so hard so we looked at the world and my now husband, had been to Portugal in a camper van 30 years ago he said “why don’t we try Portugal, it’s cheap and it’s a nice way of life?” so we came to visit.
The first time, we came to visit six years before we actually moved here, and I didn’t know then that I would be living here today. We were on the first flight with Emirates to Lisbon, and I fell in love with Lisbon – the energy of the city, the beauty of the city, the friendlessness of the people. I think I knew that I could live there, but we still had to work three more years before we could afford to give up working. Which I obviously haven’t given up now.
We both had enough of Dubai and working so hard and so we took the leap in 2015 and we moved over. We had nowhere to live and we had no idea how we would live, but we wanted a new adventure, so we moved here and tried a few places in Portugal and then ended up in this tiny little village called Penado and it’s wonderful. It’s got a little community theatre, it’s got one bar where we all meet, a mix of Portuguese and several other nationalities and it’s super friendly. And it’s only one kilometre from the beach and to the forest. So we’ve got the forest, we’ve got the beach, we’ve got a very chic Cascais seaside town which is 20 minutes away and Lisbon is only 45 minutes away.
For the first time in my adult life I have a house with a garden and so for the past four years I’ve started gardening. I dug up the lawn that was here and have planted a wild-flower garden and watch all the bees and butterflies buzz around. I grow my own veg and doubled the size of my vegetable patch because of the lockdown. I’ve always hated cats but I have now got two cats in my life which is wonderful. I always thought we would have a dog when we came here but this little stray cat walked into our life.
I spent three years navel-gazing and making things before working for Barbro.
So the first three years in Portugal, I learned the language, we bought a house that needed renovating, so I had to organize all the building, materials and everything. I joined a hiking group and went on long hikes in the forest and on the coast. All the time I was in Dubai I didn’t have time to make anything and that’s what I really like doing. I started knitting again because I couldn’t knit in Dubai, it was too hot and I started making mosaics again. I just had three years of being really creative but I was very poor. She laughs
and I realized that I could not really retire at the age of 48 and I had bills to pay, but I ended up in a great flexible job here at Brightmare, I love it!
To finish off, would you like to say to any of our Bright Ambassador applicants?
Well I love that we have customers all around the world so I want a brand ambassador in every corner of the world. It really delighted me this week that we sent a book to Nicaragua, I think that’s fantastic! I know we have a fan I Ecuador, he sent us a lovely postcard so I want build that creative riding community around the world. Anyone that’s love riding and loves training with creative ideas, come and be a brand ambassador!
Do you have any final words to our readers?
Buy more books! There is a new one coming this autumn – Creative Riding in Nature. Which really chimes with the times and spirit to be outdoors and be safe, fresh air, one with nature.