Edge45: Colin Docherty

The founder tells us how a company break-up pushed him to finally follow his dream and why he hopes his start-up will be a champion for small businesses

Name: Colin Docherty
Company name: Edge45 
Location: Yorkshire and the Humber 
Date launched: 01/07/15 
Website: edge45.co.uk 

Tell us what your business does:

Edge45 is a digital marketing agency based in York that helps small businesses grow their online presence and profitability by providing expert analysis and actionable insights into how their website can work harder. We use a variety of complementary digital platforms to deliver on that commitment.

Most small businesses either don’t have a website or if they do, don’t use it to its full potential but start-ups also don’t have the resources to invest into using a marketing agency. Often the business owner attempts to wear the marketing hat in addition to everything else they have to do whilst establishing their businesses. This is where we would like to help. We specifically work with small businesses to help grow them to the next stage.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Having worked in large Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) agencies as an account manager for a number of years, it became clear that SEO was a rich man’s game that smaller companies didn’t have a chance of competing against. Additionally, the number of small companies unfairly targeted by SEO agencies promising SEO as a miracle cure for instant business growth had begun to wear thin.

Digital marketing requires a holistic approach in order for a business to do well online but SEO is regularly touted as the only thing a business needs when often, the reality can be quite different. Other channels such as email marketing, Conversion Rate Optimisation, Pay Per Click advertising and affiliate marketing to name just a few can be just as effective and often more appropriate to the client’s needs.

Edge45 was the idea to offer the holistic digital marketing approach and service without the associated costs and commitment.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Working for a large SEO agency, my client’s often employed different agencies for different services; one agency for email marketing, another for PPC marketing and so forth. The amount of time wasted in duplication of efforts, mis-communication and client’s complaining of the expense incurred from ‘all these different agencies’ left me wondering why no-one was offering it all under one roof.

Additionally, I watched small companies struggling to grow who had a great product. I didn’t know there was a definite market for it, but I thought there was enough of a need for it to take the risk and start the business.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was working as an SEO account manager and although SEO was my day to day job, I was spending increasing amounts of time learning about the other areas of digital marketing through reading, attending seminars etc.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

It’s something that has floated around in the back of my mind as far as I can remember but not something I ever thought I would be capable for doing. More of a dream than something I ever thought would be reality! Funnily enough, the trigger that made me jump was when the business I worked for split up.

My choice was to go with the director who instigated the break-up and take a lot of risk personally for his new business venture or assume the same level of risk for my own.

How did you raise the money?

Thankfully, as a service-based industry, capital to start the business has been relatively small and so all money so far has come out of my own pocket.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We provide consultancy on how a client can improve their website. From there, we often get their buy in as they have seen the value in the work that we have done and so they decide to work with us on an ongoing basis.

We firmly believe in not tying people into lengthy contracts, something common in the SEO industry. We make a point of speaking with our client’s everyday and we find this level of transparency to be stronger than any contract.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

The main challenge already is resourcing and we are in a difficult ‘middle ground’ where there is too much work for two people but not enough to employ a third. So the challenge is to scale the business to meet our client needs.

So far we are overcoming them by being selective in the client’s we bring on as well as building relationships with freelance experts we have, met, know and trust. However, we do plan to bring on more full time staff once our turnover permits it.

What was your first big breakthrough? 

Before officially starting Edge45, I was offering these services in my spare time.

I was tasked with increasing traffic to their website and in six months, it grew steadily and then suddenly, in the sixth month, it just exploded as we increased the client’s traffic by 2075% in just a few months. At that point, combined with my employer breaking up the company, I knew there would never be a better chance to try starting a business.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Do it. You can always get another job if it doesn’t work out and the experience and insights you will gain from trying to set up for yourself will strengthen your ability and be an asset in itself if you do ever need to find full time employment again.

Fear of failure held me back and being comfortable in a full time job. Only when that was taken away from me did I have the guts to give it a go, and now that I have, it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. It is hard work though!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time

To be still able to afford to work for myself! But in all seriousness, I’d like to be running a small team of 10 to 20 people with a national reputation for helping start-ups grow their online presence quickly.

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