How did I start my first business?
It’s still so very strange as I start to write this that I have been running my second business with my business partner for 6 months already. Feel very fortunate.
Now that I am 6 months into my second business, I thought it would be nice to sit down and write about how I started my very first business. It was no easy route and it had never occurred to me that I would run my own business – let alone two. Something that seems natural today.
The pre-amble to the business
In my opinion, every good business needs a reason to exist. For me, the ‘reason’ was that I helped my brother start his business which is still going strong today.
So… back in the summer of my third year at University (2011) my brother quit his job working for a clearance company and decided to set up his own house clearance business with just £50 in his pocket, a 0800 number connected to a mobile phone, and a van rented by the hour.
He had no idea how to bring in people but he was determined to graft until he got work in. One of his first tasks was that he built his own Vistaprint website and designed a logo. The website and the logo were bad. Really bad.
I decided, with no experience either of websites or logos, to have a crack at fixing his website and logo.
First I decided to try to fix his website which was an uphill struggle. Website builders are not easy to use. After hours of plugging away at WYSIWYG editor, I managed to get something that was not horrendous. No masterpiece but not horrendous.
Next, I turned my attention to the logo. I decided to look around at his competitors and they all looked identical. Blue and green. Nothing stood out to me. One easy win was to have a colour that would stand out from the pack.
Purple. I chose a vibrant, royal purple.
My design skills aren’t great so the colour helped to give an edge to a very standard logo. A small half black, half purple house icon next to a purple and black logotype.
It was simple and it stood out.
How does that lead on to your own business?
After the logo and website were ok. I tried to help my brother bring in some work. Which is tough when you have no idea about marketing or how customers even find a company like his.
I did some research and stumbled upon Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Cue important lightbulb moment.
This was back in 2011 so it was still the easy days of SEO and I decided to have a crack at optimising the Vistaprint website. Luckily for me, I got a couple of leads and my brother got his first organically grown job in.
Thing were still very slow and Vistaprint was a nightmare to use.
So, I then started to have a look around for how to build a simple website. I found WordPress. That lead me on to find Tsohost. That then lead me on to learn some basics of web design.
I purchased my brother a WordPress theme and customised it myself. I then got stuck into trying to bring him in new leads from SEO.
From there it snowballs. His business grew and grew.
At this point, it’s roughly around the middle of my fourth year of University. I helped my brother over the summer do some jobs and it was clear to me that I would have to figure out what the heck I was going to do when I left University.
I had overdrafts, credit cards, debt, no savings, and was about to get a degree that was almost worthless.
University was tough for me and I couldn’t rely on any more support once I got that degree certificate – the real world doesn’t have a safety net like University.
It was real panic mode.
Then I thought. What about web design, SEO, and all of that which I did for my brother. I seemed to have a knack for it.
So at that point, I started to learn some of the skills I needed (in a roundabout way). I managed to do a few portfolio piece websites for some friends and got my first website job for £100. Plus I continued to redo, revise, and rework my brother’s website as I learnt more about online marketing and web design.
So you then set-up your business?
Unfortunately not. University finished and I got a graduate intern placement at a very small, 3-person golf equipment company helping them do online marketing with some of the skills I had learned. Very rough set of skills but still useful to a company with zero budget.
While on this placement I decided to start my own blog (which this site is today). From this site, I learned affiliate marketing (which is a whole new eye-opener for another blog post).
Anyways, back to the story. I was doing well at the golf equipment company, bringing in huge amounts of sales for my very small wages.
My contract with the golf company was only 6 weeks but they wanted me to still do work for them. So they became my first proper client. Everything was looking up until nobody was replying to my messages. Then I got a text message saying that the boss was liquidating the company.
I was shocked. Especially as I was owed about a grand from my last invoice. I was never to see that money ever again. Well, actually I got about £80 back after the liquidation process but that’s another story. Let alone the story of my theory why the company was liquidated by its Owner (and I will have to watch my wording in that story).
Then did you set up your own business?
It was at this point that I was very determined not to be treated like a chump by a second company that I set up on my own as a soletrader / self-employed web designer and online marketing consultant.
From 2011 all the way to 2016 was a very tough learning experience. I did not like being self-employed and working by myself.
It so happened that I was talking again to one of my best friends – who I lost touch with while at University – he was also learning how to do web design and web development.
He was learning more coding and I thought: here is an opportunity.
My online marketing and web design skills plus his complementary coding skills could be the basis for a decent business.
After a small chat we decided to launch our first business. Codesauce – a web design and online marketing company which helps soletraders, start-ups, and small business (just like my brother’s business) bring in new leads and grow online.
At this point I merged all my clients into the new business and we got to work trying to figure out how to run and grow a Limited company.
That’s how I started my first business.