ABOUT THE COMPANY
Having worked together on a project at Andy’s previous employment, Andy Jack and Mark Langdale had a very similar approach, attitude and values when it came to business, along with complementary skills and interests. It was this that encouraged a conversation over a fish and chip lunch at the Tetley in Leeds that would see the colleagues start a company together.
As two professionals that had worked in the online learning industry for several years, the discussion quickly turned to a gap in the market that could benefit consultants, training providers and coaching professionals. Taking their experience, Andy and Mark realised that they could provide organisations with an opportunity to sell and deliver their services online, by turning their expertise into digital products. This would help them move towards selling their expertise, rather than simply their time.
Andy comments: “A lot of the focus in online learning is about compliance and the need to develop people within large organisations. There isn’t really much of a focus on helping SMEs to use this as a tool to grow their business. We’ve come across many business owners that want to enter the online space but just don’t know how to do it. What we found was that people have a huge amount of expertise and knowledge in their field but no idea how to package that and turn it into new products and services for their business.”
Just a few short weeks later and Candle Digital launched, a business that would turn expertise into digital products.
Taking something that they passionately believe in, the two business partners wanted to show how companies, particularly those that are owner-managed and run, how they could use digital tools to scale and to achieve their own growth potential.
Primarily targeting training companies, coaching professionals and subject matter experts that would on-sell their services to larger organisations, the business found that the challenges these organisations face are very similar with most requiring new ways to increase sales.
This gave them a target, but it was vast!
With such a huge target market, and no specific sector, it took the team a lot of time to refine their messaging, while also identifying the individuals and organisations that would benefit most from the products they had to offer. This resulted in a lot of trial and error but eventually resulted in them communicating with those that would convert and become long-term customers.
Focusing all their time on sourcing, creating, doing and delivering work for customers meant that Andy and Mark inadvertently ignored their wider business network, something they now recognise as a mistake when starting out.
Mark adds: “Starting a business can be a manic time and it’s all hands-on-deck but this leads you to miss a trick or two. In our case it was networking and getting out of the back bedroom we called our office space. It sounds like an old cliché, but we were spending too much time working in our business rather than on it.”
Realising they had to get out more, the team decided to attend a local exhibition at Production Park in Wakefield, which is where they had an initial introduction to AD:VENTURE Business Advisor, Eric Binns and arranged a follow-up meeting.
During a coffee in the local Sainsbury’s, Eric gave the business partners some advice on contacts that would provide them with the support and guidance they needed. At the same time, he also referred them to Leeds Beckett University who connected them with Mark Copsey, a business mentor.
The team made contact and worked with Mark over several months to get the strategic support they felt was missing from the business.
But the guidance didn’t stop there. With such a positive experience, Andy and Mark took advantage of the additional professional support on offer by attending a series of workshops delivered by AD:VENTURE. This gave the pair more tactical support and tangible changes that they could put into practice providing a balance of strategic thinking with short bursts that would deliver quick-wins.
Since starting out, the business now has a portfolio of clients that it is working with longer-term. In addition, Candle Digital now works with several overseas clients, supporting companies in the US and China.
A further positive step forward, the business has moved from a back-bedroom into an office in the University Business Centre in Halifax, which has had a profound impact on the team. As well as taking the opportunity to put in place a stronger and more professional infrastructure, they also recognised a shift in mindset as they took the next step in their journey.
“Getting through those early days of survival have allowed us to flourish and we now have a blueprint for our business. Our revenues are now at a place where we can look at taking on our first recruits.”
Taking part in a recent trip to Copenhagen, as part of the Interreg scheme supported by Leeds Beckett, Andy and Mark made further connections and contacts that have given the company more ideas and the opportunity to showcase their products to a much wider audience than they would ever have anticipated.
Andy comments: “Because we were so focused on the day to day we were missing the bigger picture, the opportunity to dedicate the time, space and help we needed to think more strategically. Eric’s introduction into Leeds Beckett University was a game-changer for us as he showed us how to think outside of the everyday grind.
“We would never have predicted how far we would have come so quickly and the trip to Copenhagen gave us further evidence of what potential our business has for the future. There is nothing to stop us from becoming a global brand within the next five years.”
Mark concludes: “We can’t recommend AD:VENTURE or Leeds Beckett University enough. The support we have received is far beyond anything we could ever have expected. We would suggest to any start-up or young business that they investigate the advice, guidance and sessions that are on offer and make the most of them.
“Starting and growing a business is bloody hard work and any help you can get is great, but when you are able to access professionals from the highest levels – for free – you would be silly not to! We are very pragmatic, we know that you need to get things wrong and we believe in learning from others. The truth is, everything we need to know is in someone else’s head, having access to that is invaluable.”
Andy comments: “Working with AD:VENTURE and Leeds Beckett University has given us the space and time to grow faster and in a more sustainable way. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support that we have received. We have a stronger understanding of who we are, why we’re doing this and who we should target. Rather than holding us back, the systems and processes that we now have in place have been a real catalyst for growth.