Andrew Styles & Andy White - Squidge Media
Since graduating in 2007, Andrew Styles and his business partner Andy White have set up Squidge Media, a design company specialising in web design and branding.
“Me and Andy knew each other through Uni and lived in the same halls. I did Journalism and wanted to get into design, so I spent half of my time at Uni teaching myself to use design programs, and occasionally freelanced as well”, Andrew explains. “After Uni, Andy took over his dad’s web design company and we saw an opportunity to do something together, as I’m quite good with the creative side of it and Andy’s quite good with the business side.”
Initially working out of Andy’s mum’s house, the guys had a novel way of promoting the business.
“One of the best things we did early on was we gave away a campervan”, Andrew explains. “We made a PDF campervan in the Squidge style, and posted on our website saying we had a free campervan. You basically clicked through, downloaded it and printed it out, and made this little campervan model. My brother posted it on the MoneySavingExpert forum, saying we had a free caravan, and we had about 5,000 hits in a day. We got quite a lot of interest from that.”
In their early days, Andrew and Andy turned to Student Enterprise for advice and support. “We had some meetings and chats with Student Enterprise. They told us about sources of funding, and we passed that information on to our clients”, Andrew explains. Student Enterprise also helped them to secure free office space in Cardiff Business Technology Centre, which Andrew says “is really good for us – it’s cheap for what it is, and it’s a good location and very useful.”
The business has grown rapidly since its inception in 2008, with the guys even taking on freelancers to help manage the workload. “We’ve got quite a few regular clients now”, says Andrew. “We’ve got a lot better at what we do, and I think the quality of what we produce now is really, really good. We’ve done a lot of sites for high profile names, like Blur’s website.”
It was while working on a website for singer Marti Pellow that Andrew feels the pair faced their biggest challenge yet. “The site was my own concept so I’ve only got myself to blame, but it was really complicated in terms of its structure. I said I’d not only design it but build it as well, so I had to teach myself to do all this ridiculously complicated coding which was far beyond any coding I had done before. Andy was working on competition sites for Justin Bieber and Robbie Williams at the time so we both had three though months, pulling 14 hour days. At that point we realised that we had taken on too much, but we wanted to try and test ourselves.”
Andrew feels that it is this desire for the pair to push themselves that has been key to the business’ success.
“It’s all about wanting to be better than anyone else”, Andrew explains. “Because it‘s such a small team - just me and Andy, essentially - you get a feeling of ‘it’s us against the world’. So you want to beat everyone and be the best you can, and I think that spurred us on a lot. I think also our personalities have helped. We’re just quite nice people and I think people like to work with us. We’re quite personable. If anyone’s got any problems with anything they often give us a call and we try and give as much advice as we can. You get a service that you don’t often get with other companies.”
At the moment, the guys are trying to work remotely for six months, with Andrew based in London, and Andy in New York. “It’s going ok actually, but the time difference can get a little bit confusing”, admits Andrew. “The nature of the business is that we can work anywhere. I could be in Thailand and I’d still be able to do my work on a computer. We’re trying to make new connections in different parts of the world.”
When asked what his biggest success has been, Andrew admits that he is “just proud of the whole thing. We turned over a reasonable amount of money last year, and it was all from me and Andy working hard. The whole thing has been quite a challenge, but it’s one I’m glad I took. It’s just been a really good experience all round – I’ve really enjoyed it.”
As for the future of Squidge Media, Andrew already has a few ideas. “There are lots of directions we could go in. That’s the advantage of working for yourself – if you want to get into something else, you can”, he explains. “I’d quite like to look into doing book sleeve/cover designs and package design. We can look into other aspects but it depends on what we want to do, how much we want to do, how much money we want to make. Money has never been our priority. If it was I don’t think we’d be designers.”
More information on Squidge can be found at: www.squidgemedia.com