I Bootstrapped My One-Man-Present Branding Company To $1.2M/Yr

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Howdy! Who’re you and what enterprise did you begin?

Hey guys, I’m Lewis Jenkins, Principal, and Founding father of Percept Model Design, a branding, design, and artistic company in Sydney, Australia.


Percept is a artistic company specializing in Branding, Packaging Design, Visible Communication, and Digital Design. We assist good manufacturers develop into nice with our strategic artistic work.

I’m not a multi-millionaire however have a self-sufficient enterprise that improves different companies. I’m wealthy by way of high quality of life as a result of I’ve constructed my enterprise to thrive with out an excessive amount of of my time.

When it comes to numbers, the enterprise turns over approx. $1.5M/yr, employs 10 workers and has labored with high-profile purchasers equivalent to Unilever, Dulux, Toyota, Sennheiser, and The Australian Authorities. This stuff are all nice and sure, I’m pleased with them, however what satisfies me most is that enterprise doesn’t run my life and that has been by design.


What’s your backstory and the way did you provide you with the thought?

24 years in the past, I used to be a fearless and naive 20-year-old who wished independence and one thing of my very own in my chosen profession of design. Since then, not a lot has modified, apart from my age, and I’m glad I made that courageous choice initially after I had nothing to lose and all the things to achieve.

In a service-based business, your persons are the important thing. Their abilities, capabilities, attitudes, and personalities will make or break your online business.

My thought wasn’t an invention or an app or a gadget, it was a choice primarily based on life-style and how much future I wished for myself. I knew I wished to be a designer, it simply felt proper for me. I used to be extremely inexperienced (though I believed I knew far more than I did), however had skilled success throughout a number of roles in a comparatively brief interval of a few years within the business, after being fortunate sufficient to be provided a possibility early on that allowed me to bypass tertiary schooling. So principally, I used to be at all times youthful than my friends and this helped construct my can-do perspective and the self-belief that’s required to make any imaginative and prescient come to fruition.

Take us via the method of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

In 1997, I overtly walked into my native financial institution and requested for a $20k private mortgage to purchase a automobile. I had no intention to interchange the Mini I used to be driving on the time, however I knew nobody would approve a mortgage for a 20-year-old in saggy pants and bleached hair to start out up their very own enterprise!

Per week later, the mortgage was authorized and I went straight out and acquired all the things I wanted to kick off my design studio. An Apple Mac, laser printer, scanner, software program, instruments, books, workplace provides, furnishings, and so on., and arrange within the spare bed room of the unit I used to be renting with my now spouse, Fiona. For some unknown purpose, I overestimated the variety of staples required for a start-up, as a result of there are nonetheless a number of containers left in our present studio from that first provide buy!

I hated the thought of cold-calling and I didn’t need to pound the pavement. The considered attending occasions for networking functions additionally made me cringe.

The principle concept that drove me to need to do issues my approach was to construct an company the place unpaid extra time was not the norm because it had been in locations I’d labored and the artistic business as a complete. I wished to have management over my actual life exterior of labor and hoped that this could be interesting for workers too as my enterprise would develop.

Moreover, putting much less significance on the place we had been bodily allowed for extra productiveness. I’m positive the truth that we weren’t primarily based within the metropolis as anticipated value us reputation-wise, however that was compensated for by not having to commute. This maximized work time in addition to household and social time. So I assume the choice to start out up was extra targeted on inner firm tradition slightly than making an attempt to alter the exterior service providing.

Describe the method of launching the enterprise.

In order that was it, a self-employed, sole dealer began the design studio, EyeScream, which has since gone on to rebrand to a extra mature, Percept – Model Design, rising and studying as a enterprise on the identical pace as I’ve developed as knowledgeable.

There was no formal plan or launch technique, I simply knew I wanted purchasers. I initially used my social community (verbally, as a result of there have been no social media again then) and relied on phrase of mouth to construct my shopper base as mates of mates would convey their initiatives to EyeScream via suggestions or referrals.

As most individuals do, I hated the thought of cold-calling and I didn’t need to pound the pavement. The considered attending occasions for networking functions additionally made me cringe. I wished to work with individuals who wished to work with me. This concept of mutual respect and rising organically via fame was idealistic and maybe pig-headed, however I knew I wished to do it my approach, constructing slowly and with integrity.

In consequence, within the first few months, instances had been lean, so toast was eaten for a lot of meals, and my shopper work wanted to be supplemented with freelance initiatives that I used to be fortunate sufficient to be given from a earlier employer who had extra on than they might deal with.

I didn’t have an internet site, there was no Google, it was simply extra a case of who you understand slightly than what you understand, however this led to purchasers equivalent to SMP Clothes and Wakakirri. The principle breakthrough that obtained me established with these purchasers initially, was private relationships. One direct with the proprietor of the corporate I knew as an acquaintance and we obtained speaking in an elevator (my first elevator pitch – actually!). And the opposite was a buddy of the IT man I purchased my pc via when setting issues up initially.

From small alternatives, greater issues developed and that has been the theme of our evolution since.


Since launch, what has labored to draw and retain clients?

Within the early days, when a brand new shopper got here alongside, all the things was accomplished to impress them. This meant underquoting and over-delivering. An important deal for them, and on the time I believed it was good for my enterprise too as a result of as phrase obtained round, the shopper base was constructing, the initiatives had been flooding in, clients had been comfortable and a great fame was constructed.

Though after some time it grew to become laborious to maintain. There was just one of me, I used to be working lengthy hours with out nice monetary compensation. To fulfill demand, I took on an worker, after which one other, which meant I needed to lease an workplace. We obtained extra work, even many initiatives from Toyota, that means extra workers and an even bigger studio.

My family and friends thought I used to be very profitable. So did I. However the extra I considered why I began, which was to have independence and a great work/life stability, the extra I noticed that success was not achieved but.

How are you doing as we speak and what does the long run seem like?

We designed our first web site in 1999, after 2 years in enterprise, and had our mates Ben and Dave (who went on to very large success with their firm Marketing campaign Monitor) develop the location for us in a service-swap contra-deal.

Though all issues web had been new at the moment, we recognized early on that having a very good web site is one of the simplest ways to showcase your work to potential purchasers. And having these potential purchasers be capable to discover your web site is much more necessary. That approach you’re seen to these searching for the providers you present and basically all of your web site must do is convert the nice and cozy lead that comes via a Google search.

Quick-forward a few many years and our NBD methodology stays the identical, however lots of different issues have modified. Now referred to as Percept – Model Design, we’re a totally built-in branding, design, and artistic company. Our purchasers embody Unilever, DuluxGroup, Rio Tinto, and the Australian Authorities, in addition to many lesser-known names that worth strategic design and permit us to provide good work as a result of they belief our recommendation.

So what modified at the moment? A lot. It actually wasn’t an in a single day transformation, it’s taken a very long time to get the place we are actually as a enterprise and for me as a person, however I’ve lastly achieved that get the wealthy plan I had initially, wealthy in time and high quality of life. I personal my enterprise, it doesn’t personal me!

Probably the most notable shifts that allowed this was our change within the pricing construction. We obtained to a tipping level the place we had the runs on the board and it was time for a courageous transfer to comprehend our company’s profitability potential. We elevated our typical mission worth 10-fold and tripled the time we’d spent on that exact job. Successfully tripling the standard of labor we had been delivering and tripling our time billing charge on the identical time.


We’ve grown in some ways. Angle, positioning, providing, headcount, fame, and worth that we provide.

The most important change has been getting the correct individuals in the correct roles. To take action we needed to work laborious, put on varied hats and do a bit of pretend it till we made it. However all this can be a approach of incomes the correct to develop into what you got down to develop into. Our pricing construction change enabled us to make use of higher workers as we had been in a position to provide aggressive wage packages that attracted the business’s finest expertise.

This, in flip, raised the requirements of labor we had been in a position to produce, which in flip, attracted the next caliber shopper with bigger mission budgets. This cycle continues to snowball to at the present time, with our momentum ever-increasing.

Our whole existence has morphed from a graphic design as a commodity, to a consulting company that improves the efficiency of bigger companies. Those that worth strategic design and importantly, have the finances to do issues correctly.

This occurred in incremental shifts via classes realized. To be trustworthy, we couldn’t have moved to any subsequent stage with out having skilled the earlier stage. That’s the way you progress and that’s how a enterprise develops, properly my enterprise no less than. I assume each story is completely different.

The transition from a design studio that carried out buyer requests, to a artistic company companion that helps rework organizations with strategic recommendation and problem-solving with design considering has been our journey. This transition from adolescence right into a extra mature enterprise mannequin has solely taken place over the previous few years. It has moved our market place from being one of many 1000’s of design studios providing aesthetic deliverables, to one among a handful of rivals with the much more refined providing of really enhancing the companies we work with.

Via beginning the enterprise, have you ever realized something notably useful or advantageous?

I’ve been taught numerous classes over time, and typically, I’ve needed to study the laborious approach, however my important takeaways are:

Get your online business mannequin proper. Know why you began and attempt to construct backward from there.

In a service-based business, your persons are the important thing. Their abilities, capabilities, attitudes, and personalities will make or break your online business. Using the individuals you understand would be the distinction, even in case you can’t fairly afford them. Good performers are good investments.

Repute is all the things.


What platform/instruments do you employ for your online business?

Google for us is king by way of advertising. It’s the place individuals go once they’re prepared to purchase. No one likes cold-calling or the laborious promote. We put our efforts into being outstanding with search engine optimisation and put the finances into GoogleAds in addition to LinkedIn for a extra certified audience.

Social media platforms are additionally part of our advertising efforts as of late. We use Fb, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These avenues are used to faucet into a wide range of audiences. For instance, we put up about our wholesome company tradition to draw new expertise, we put up function work to reveal our talents to potential purchasers, and we put up in regards to the awards we’ve gained to boost consciousness inside the business. All these examples enhance our fame amongst sub-groups and complement our conventional advertising push.

People are higher than software program or apps. Know-how is just the software, you want thinkers and drawback solvers to get probably the most out of their instruments. For the file, we use Adobe Inventive Cloud as our weapons of alternative.

An open-plan studio is most necessary to our enterprise. It allows readability of communication, consciousness, collaboration, and perspective in our work.

What have been probably the most influential books, podcasts, or different assets?

To be trustworthy, I’ve by no means been a giant reader. I used to be given The E-Fable early on in my solo enterprise and put a few of these rules into follow in my approach. Nevertheless, I really feel the perfect assets for studying are the experiences of your self and others.

Understanding comes via trial and error and talking with others in a wide range of conditions helps cross-pollination in my view. Not solely in your business or the enterprise realm however even issues like sport or social learnings can be utilized to your online business.

Recommendation for different entrepreneurs who need to get began or are simply beginning out?

Do it.

It is going to be laborious, don’t make the error of considering it will likely be straightforward or fast. In case you are ready to do no matter it takes and have the eagerness to comply with it via, you may be rewarded in the long term.

Are you seeking to rent for sure positions proper now?

Even after we’re not promoting particular roles, we’re at all times looking out for gifted people that may assist Percept be the perfect artistic company doable. Go to the Careers web page of percept.com.au to submit your data for consideration in your required position.

The place can we go to study extra?

If in case you have any questions or feedback, drop a remark beneath!


Lewis Jenkins
Founding father of Percept

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