About the company
madeby.studio was set up in 2019 by Matt Wheeler and Sam Taylor, who were both in their final year of a Graphic and Communication Design degree at the University of Leeds.
The creative and digital agency offers services from website design and search engine optimisation through to brand development and motion graphics.
Matt and Sam hit the ground running as they had already picked up freelance clients either before or during their time at university, and had secured free office accommodation at the university’s Nexus building.
They came third in a university business competition, and have since been shortlisted in a Santander business entrepreneur award, Leeds Digital Festival Thrive Awards and are regional finalists in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in the Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year category. They were also listed in the Digital Enterprise Top 100 in early 2021.
Matt and Sam are both concerned about climate change, so use renewable energy where possible and support a scheme that offsets their carbon impact, both for the business and the team’s personal emissions.
Matt and Sam approached AD:VENTURE within a few months of setting up because they wanted advice about building a business.
“As soon as we graduated we were thrown in at the deep end and needed to know how do we grow a business, how do we actually make money to survive,” says Matt.
AD:VENTURE introduced them to business mentor Alan Thompson.
“Alan was really helpful for the initial bit of figuring stuff out about where we should take the business. We had both worked in small design agencies in our year in industry. So, we had all the experience in design, but we weren’t knowledgeable about the business side of things, like how do you do marketing, how do you create a sales workflow, how do you gain clients and maintain clients, and how do you work on projects to a budget that is viable?”
As well as being given advice by Alan, the pair went on AD:VENTURE workshops on topics such as the ‘power of the telephone’ and ‘strategic marketing’. They were also accepted onto Accelerate, which is a six-month programme of support run by Leeds Becket University, made up of masterclasses, seminars or webinars and one-to-one support, along with advice on grants and funding.
Matt and Sam also received a grant from AD:VENTURE, which meant the pair could buy new iMacs, needed for a large contract they had just won.
The pair successfully completed the contract using their new iMacs. So far it is the biggest contract they have worked on, but they have two large projects in the pipeline.
madeby.studio tripled turnover during Covid, with profit up a very healthy ten times. In September 2020 they moved into Dock Street Workshops in Leeds, which are run by LCVS Enterprises, a not-for-profit company set up to help small businesses.
Matt and Sam have a paid intern and plan to take on a developer in the near future and a designer; meaning they will have more time to bring in new clients.
“Alan is there if we need him; if we need to just chat through anything, if we are stuck with a plan or we need to bounce an idea off someone.
“He acts as a neutral party. He doesn’t tell us what to do; he won’t give us directions. We’ll say here’s our problem and he’ll outline potential solutions and say you need to figure it out yourself and that is the best way,” says Matt.
“And Accelerate was great for helping us learn new skills from experts and while on the Accelerate course we met people we have gone on to collaborate with, and that’s what AD:VENTURE also does; it helps you build networks across Leeds and the city region.”
Matt adds: “With AD:VENTURE it’s all the different aspects that help. Alan’s advice, the workshops, Accelerate and the funding all work together. Each one was a boost to us. It all really paid-off. I think there’s a correlation there with how much we grew the year after we got this support.”