About the company
Intellistart is a specialist digital marketing agency for law firms, set up by law student Joel Cortez.
Joel, who came to the UK from the Philippines when he was seven years old, set up the company when he was a final-year student at Leeds Becket University. He runs the company with his partner Ewelina Radziewicz, who came from Poland when she was 15.
It was while on placement at law firms in 2018 that Joel saw a gap in the market when he realised the average marketing agency does not understand the needs of solicitors – or understand the regulations surrounding the profession.
Having started as a summer intern, Joel ended up working full-time in marketing and deferring his studies. He worked with several legal firms and others in professional services, looking at their branding, website, online paid advertising, email marketing and video marketing.
“Many of the companies I approached initially said they had tried marketing and got no results. This often happens with generic marketing agencies who don’t understand the sector,” says Joel.
“But the way we approach it worked and led to brand awareness, because we really do understand the sector.”
From this success Joel decided to launch Intellistart in his final year at university.
Joel realised he needed some formal business support to help him with Intellistart. He had benefited from informal support from mentors, but knew he needed more.
“I was trying to find a different perspective to help me with the business. After all I was still in my twenties and still a student,” says Joel.
“We have ambitious targets for the business. Our mission and vision is to double the size of 10,000 businesses in the next five years. If we achieve this goal, we will be adding hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds to the economy. This mission is important to us, and it’s one we’re committed to.
“But in order to achieve this goal, I knew I needed help to focus and fine-tune Intellistart as a results and data driven marketing agency for law firms and businesses.”
Joel was put in touch with AD:VENTURE by the university’s business centre, and accepted onto ACCELERATE, a programme of support which brings together pre-recorded masterclasses, weekly live webinars and one-to-one support, along with advice on grants and funding.
ACCELERATE, an AD:VENTURE programme which is run by Leeds Becket University , also features guided learning tasks and access to learning resources and wider support.
Joel says the support from AD:VENTURE was pivotal in growing the business. As well as employing his partner, he has immediate plans to take on two new members of staff, and possibly one more by the end of 2021. He is also considering moving into an office.
“The ACCELERATE programme really highlighted some of the issues that were starting to show themselves and would be a problem later down the line. One of those was capacity. It got me thinking about taking on more people and building a team,” says Joel.
His AD:VENTURE business mentor Stephanie Dawson helped Joel with issues like business values, operations, HR and financial forecasting.
He was also successful in applying for a grant from AD:VENTURE to pay for new laptops for staff, improved CRM, software upgrades and video/ audio equipment.
Intellistart is working with about 15 legal firms in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and further south.
One company that started paying for one online campaign was so impressed they are now paying several thousand pounds a month for 18 campaigns.
“The grant was a big help and the workshops are really good. For me the most impactful bit was the business advice and the sessions with Stephanie, who would really make me think from a business perspective.
“Being on the ACCELERATE programme also made me realise the importance of branding, and was the reason for the application and successful registration of Intellistart as a Trade Mark.
“Overall working with AD:VENTURE has made me a lot more focused. It’s great to have another view, to have an outsider’s view. Even with things I thought I knew, it was good to have a fresh eye,” says Joel.