Our adventure began…
Although our business officially began in the summer of 2018, it had been in the making since 2014 while studying Product Design at the University of Gloucestershire. Our time at the university allowed us to gain crucial skills in design that laid the foundations for working in the design industry.
During our second year, we began to contact companies and apply for placement opportunities as our course was a four-year sandwich degree that included a year in industry. Unfortunately, none of us were able to secure a placement as the opportunities available were few and far between. This was the first indication that the industry we were looking to join was not as we expected.
When life gives you lemons, start your own business
Although we did not get a placement with a company in industry, hope was not lost and we crafted an idea that might just work. During our placement year, we and one other member of our course set out to create our own design agency with the aim to help local businesses with a free consultation and design work. This would be in exchange for building our portfolios with the work that we completed, gaining real-world design experience, and industry exposure.
D14: The Student Founded, Owned, and Run Product Design Consultancy was formed. The best decision we made in D14 was connecting with the Growth Hub, they helped us to understand how to frame what we were trying to do as a business.
We developed the business and worked on projects with a range of clients including AirBOSS, The Vanilla Pod Bakery and Versarien PLC. These projects allowed us to develop our design skills further, understand client expectations of a project, and create systems for consulting, as well as learning the ropes of business etiquette.
As the year progressed, we realised that design consulting was what we loved doing and owning our own studio was the only way forward. From that point onward we began working towards this goal for post-graduation. At the end of our placement year, we handed D14 down to the year below us, and they have in turn run and handed the baton on to the year below them. This was, in essence, a prototype business that allowed us to test the idea with limited risk and find out if this business model was viable.
The road to New Designers
We had made it to the final hurdle of our degree and had accumulated all the skills necessary to have the best final year possible. This was the all important sprint at the end of the marathon that culminated in exhibiting the best products produced in final year at New Designers; the UK’s largest annual most prestigious student design exhibition of the year located in London. This would be the first year that the University of Gloucestershire would exhibit so the Phoenix team took on the responsibility of managing and designing the stand. And it was a huge success!
Before our university journey was over, we put in place the groundwork for the business by attending the START course from Start and Grow Enterprise where we learned essential information for starting a business. It enabled us to learn in a room with other entrepreneurs looking to start businesses and from a business professional who had faced and overcame many problems that new businesses face.
Taking the entrepreneurial leap
New Designers was over, and without hesitation, we registered the business and took the entrepreneurial leap into business ownership. We began to create the website, promotional material and registered on Google to develop our public business presence. We then attended the GROW course; the next step in the Start and Grow Enterprise support program. During this course, we developed our unique selling point and business personality.
This was a great networking opportunity and we made some good connections as well as being awarded a £1,000 grant that we used to purchase business insurance and our 3D printer. Once the business was established we began sourcing clients, starting with reconnecting with our previous clients and contacts from our prototype business: D14. Because our business provides a wide range of services, we turned our focus toward refining the business into four key packages that make it easy for potential clients to understand what we do. These packages include: Idea to I.P, Build Your Brand, Advance Your Product, and Your Product Ecosystem. These are each designed to support businesses on their journey of developing an idea to market.
From small acorns, Design Consultancies grow
When starting this journey we could never have imagined ever getting this far. The path that we took has been a winding one, however, it has made us who we are today. We thank Start and Grow Enterprise and everyone else who has supported us and believed in what we are trying to create. We look forward to finding out where our business will take us and who we will support along the way.
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