Matt Wheeler and Sam Taylor University of Leeds Graphic & Communication Design graduates founded madeby.studio in 2019, a creative and digital design studio based in Leeds city centre- with the help of Spark, the University’s business start up support team.
Under lockdown we hear how Matt and Sam made the change to working effectively from the comfort of their own homes.
We became good friends during a final year brief for our degree, Graphic & Communication Design at the University of Leeds. With joint aspirations of combining digital design practice with strong business values, madeby.studio was born.
We now collaborate in a range of sectors from healthcare to construction, delivering progressive digital design solutions to help businesses thrive on an international scale.
Help from Spark
With the help from the University’s Spark team, we’ve been able to access business mentors, funding and facilities which have given us an incredible platform to build on. Spark has given us a great pool of contacts, from direct mentors to everyday friendships, which have been pivotal in the start-up phase of the business.
When people discuss overcoming hurdles in your first year of business, a global pandemic doesn’t often get coverage. However, one year on and in the midst of Covid-19, the studio is still steadily growing, taking on new clients and seeking remote employees.
Going into lockdown
When the news struck that we were going into lockdown there was initial panic, as expected. From the beginning of the company, the infrastructure of madeby.studio was set-up to work remotely if needed. Our filesystem runs off a central server which syncs to all computers connected to our network.
This allows every employee of madeby.studio to have the same working files, with every drive also acting as a backup. This made the transition seamless, the only task was to move our computer set-ups to our home offices – and we were good to go.
A big shift was in our approach to working with and gaining new clients. With reduced networking opportunities we quickly pivoted our marketing efforts to purely digital letting clients know we’re still operating.
We identified markets of potential opportunities in the current circumstances, such as the e-learning/digital applications markets and began producing content directly targeted to them. These marketing efforts have helped us greatly in gaining new contracts and allowing us to continue above our projected growth plans.
Working with clients became more relaxed, as everyone became comfortable and laid back due to working from home. This saved us a huge amount of time, as there was no need to travel back and forth for meetings.
Something that took us by surprise was the need to take on our first member of staff. Recruiting and briefing them was unusual due to the circumstances, but as we had been working from home for so long it felt almost natural.
With no commute to get you into the working mode, it can sometimes be difficult to get into the right mindset. Exercising before starting work helps to get your mind active and energised. Getting ready for the working day as normal and creating your at-home commute really helps you get into the mindset.
The sudden shift is daunting at first, but once you get into the swing of things, it’s nice avoiding 2 hours of commute a day. Once you’ve finished work, you’re already home and ready to relax which is a great feeling.
Working through a global pandemic has given us the confidence that madeby.studio can work effectively remotely. As government restrictions begin to be relaxed, we are going to continue allowing employees of madeby.studio to work remotely. Having the trust and flexibility is part of the ethos we’re trying to cultivate within madeby.studio.
We understand it to have great benefits on mental health, which we actively support through our fundraising efforts for Mind Charity.
The one thing that we really miss? Our Friday social – reflecting on the week’s work, and discussing what the weekend entails over a drink.
Spark for University of Leeds students and graduates
Starting a business is a challenge, with many unexpected twists and turns to make every day a little different. It’s been one of our greatest challenges, although these challenges could not have been faced without the help of Spark.
They have provided an amazing opportunity to us allowing us to incubate within Nexus, a state of the art office building off the edge of The University of Leeds. We were also lucky enough to have received initial funding from placing 3rd in The University of Leeds Business Plan competition, as well as submitting our proof of concept.
The opportunities offered by Spark for early-stage businesses are greatly supportive, and we could not have reached this point without the ongoing support they provide.
We hope everyone remains safe and well during these times!
If you are a University of Leeds student or graduate, do you:
- have a business idea?
- want to start your own business/go freelance?
- know you want to start a business but have no ideas?
- want to explore enterprise/start up as part of your career plans?
- need to gain ‘enterprising skills’?
find out how Spark can help you