The Stella Women Series: Chiquita King, Founder of Cocogun

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Advertising is a notoriously difficult industry to crack. For many women, finding a seat at the decision-making table is tough, especially with so many big personalities in the room. 

Hoping to leave the politics of the big agency world behind, Chiquita King (CK for short)  founded Sydney-based creative agency, Cocogun. Her goal was to create an agency that prioritised its employees and fostered a collaborative workplace that let its people thrive, all while creating content that made a big impact.

Alongside her co-founder Ant Melder, CK launched Cocogun in 2019. Together they brought to the table decades’ worth of experience in team building and a long list of client partnerships to back them. 

Four years on and CK has seen her vision come to life, with the agency having worked on some powerful content that’s resonated deeply with their desire to do good in the world. From projects for Anti-Slavery Australia and MissingSchool, the organisation that helps sick kids stay connected to their school community, to launching the Cocogun Scholarship For Indigenous Students at UTS, the provocative ‘Unapologetically For Women’ campaign for Stella, and work for, the medtech company using AI to change the face of healthcare. It’s safe to say that Cocogun’s impact has been wide-felt in the marketing landscape – and beyond.

We had the pleasure of chatting with CK to find out more about the big life moments that shaped her world views, how she balances being a founder and a mother, and how she developed her human-first philosophy and implemented it in the business she’s built. 

You’ve worked in advertising for over two decades for some of the biggest agencies in the world. What motivated you to go out on your own and co-found Cocogun?

“Creating a people-first agency that stayed true to its mission was a big motivator, and as a result, our people can pour all their energy into solving problems for our clients. I believe that, above all else, being good to people will drive profitable outcomes. 

Companies often talk about how important a  good culture is and then proceed to do things that contradict that philosophy.  The other key motivator for me to start the agency was our belief that creativity can be used as a tool for growth and a tool to leave the world better off.  We want to put creative firepower behind brands and people who are moving the world forward.”

What has your experience been like working in a male-dominated industry, like advertising? 

“I’ve had varied experiences, from men who have dismissed and underestimated me to men who have seen my potential and encouraged me at every turn. I’ve never really perceived this industry as male-dominant, but maybe that’s just because I genuinely worked tirelessly to earn my seat at the table and, most importantly, always ignored or refused to indulge in politics. 

Every challenge has only made me more determined. I’ve had some seriously awesome female role models and mentors surround me, so I’ve always known that it is possible to succeed. I hope that I can continue to pay it forward for females wanting to pursue a career in creative fields.”

You’re a leader and a parent. How have you managed the juggle of life, family and career? 

“I’ve learned over time that life is all about flexibility. Sometimes your family is your focus and priority, and sometimes it’s your career. I make those calls on a daily basis, but at the end of the day, I always make time for family, especially when work has been particularly crazy. 

I’ve always found that my family fills my cup and I get energised by spending time with my children. I like to live my life by taking it one day at a time, keeping one eye on the horizon, noting the things I have to work towards, but ultimately knowing  we  only have today. 

When I live in the moment, I find that I get a lot more out of life as a result.  Regardless, everyone needs help sometimes, so having a supportive network is what makes it feasible.”

What are some of the biggest opportunities, moments and events that have shaped who you are today? 

“There are a few life events I can really pinpoint. I went to boarding school at the age of eight, which made me fiercely independent. As a result, it taught me the most valuable lesson I have learned to date, which is that you can make a family wherever you find yourself. 

Then, when I was a teenager, I spent 10 days volunteering in a refugee camp. The effects of that experience have stayed with me and I’ve adopted the perspective that I have so much to be grateful for. 

Lastly, the death of my sister before her 30th birthday was another profound event in my life that caused me to reappraise everything. I’m yet to make sense of her untimely passing but the notion that life is short feels all too true and therefore it makes sense to choose to spend the time we have wisely. This governs my decision-making and helps me stay present: in the moment, in the day, and in life.”

What’s next for you in 2023? 

“For the first time in four years, I’ve exhaled. 

Building an agency from the ground up has taught me so much and it demanded a level of commitment that was simply unforgiving. I’m excited that we’re at a point where I can refine our ambition and dream again. 

I’m clearer on the type of legacy we want to leave. Looking back on the girl I was at 18,  never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that in my forties, I would be the founder of an agency. One that exists to propel brands that are solving big issues into the minds of consumers, generate demand for products that make a positive impact, and influence culture in a way that accelerates adoption. 

Looking to the future, most of all, I want to be someone that girls and young women can look to and say, “I can do that.”

Stay up to date with CK on LinkedIn and find out more about Cocogun on their website.


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