Starting a design business

 3 February 2011

Damian Cranney started up the Belfast consultancy Frank Design on his own. He spoke about what it takes start, and sustain, a creative business.

Starting your own design business

"I think psychologically once I dealt with the biggest fear, which was failure, and realised that the worst that could happen was that I try it, it doesn't work out. I knew that I had enough experience and was smart enough and canny enough to probably get myself a job somewhere in Northern Ireland. So if it didn't work out, that was fine.

"Somewhere in my subconscious I always knew at some point that I would run my own business. That was always the plan."

"I finished work on the 31st October 2004. Frank became incorporated on the 2nd November 2004. It was myself and a mobile phone and a big empty desk and that was it.

"I spoke to the bank, secured an overdraft facility and a loan of £10,000, I did put £10,000 of my own money into it, which I'd saved. So it was about £20,000 startup cost.

"On the day that the company started up, we had a live project which was a small website, and an open-ended discussion with two other potential clients. And really 'nothing' opportunities that we jumped all over at the time, and spent 40 hours servicing three small clients (they were well taken care of!).

"We noticed momentum being injected into the business quite early, and we reached a point quite early on, maybe after six months, that the phone just started ringing and people came to us with enquiries.

"We didn't stop to think how lucky we were or why is this happening. We just kept working hard and trying to develop systems and grow the business."

Sustaining the success of a creative business

"At any given time we might have between 20 and 40 projects running through the studio, of different sizes.

"But always try to keep a fairly even balance, and not be doing too much of one thing. That's really just about being in a situation where we have eight full-time employees, and committing to the skill set, and knowing that if we have too much of one thing, someone is idle and we need to hire.

"Things are actually quite good at the moment, I'm delighted to say. The last three months we've seen encouraging signs of recovery, but what the downturn has taught us is to be really frugal and to really tighten up our ship a little bit."

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