Profits up tenfold at Leeds digital agency

Matt Wheeler and Sam Taylor

A creative and digital agency, with a green conscience, launched by two Leeds university students saw profits boom tenfold during lockdown.

madeby.studio was set up in 2019 by Matt Wheeler and Sam Taylor in their final year of a Graphic and Communication Design degree at the University of Leeds. By September 2020 the pair, who offer services from website design and search engine optimisation through to brand development and motion graphics, had moved into new offices at Dock Street in the city and taken on a paid intern.

Matt said: “The growth of the company has been phenomenal, but perhaps that is not surprising as a good online presence has become even more important for businesses during lockdown.”

The company, which has been given help by AD:VENTURE, a support programme for new businesses in North and West Yorkshire, saw turnover triple during lockdown, with profit increasing nearly ten times.

Matt and Sam literally hit the ground running. Before they had finished their degrees they came third in a pre-trading business competition and were offered a place at the university’s Nexus business hub, where they stayed for a year after graduation.

They have since moved into the new offices and have been listed in the Digital Enterprise Top 100; they are regional finalists in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in the Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year category, they have been shortlisted in a Santander business entrepreneur award and the Leeds Digital Festival Thrive Awards.

Because of their concerns about climate change, the pair, have committed to the agency being carbon negative, with support for schemes that offset carbon for the office and for the team’s emissions outside work. Within a month they offset enough carbon to cover two long-haul flights.

“We’re very proud of our efforts to be a climate positive workforce. Climate change is no longer something we should be thinking about in years to come. We need to tackle this right now,” said Matt.

Their success has been helped by AD:VENTURE, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and supports businesses that are pre-start or less than three years old.

The pair were given a business mentor, the chance to attend online workshops and a grant to help buy new iMacs. They were also accepted onto Accelerate, a six-month programme of support run for AD:VENTURE by Leeds Beckett University.

Matt said: “With AD:VENTURE it’s all the different aspects that help. The business mentor’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.”

Cllr Jonathan Pryor, deputy leader and executive member for economy, culture and education at Leeds City Council, said: “The growth of this agency has been amazing. It’s obviously down to their hard work, but it is also very pleasing to see that they acknowledge the support from AD:VENTURE has played a part.

“This is a great example of how the public sector can play a role in helping companies survive and thrive, and create much needed prosperity and jobs for the region.”

AD:VENTURE, which has helped thousands of businesses since its launch in 2017, has funding and delivery partners across the Leeds City region. As well as Leeds Beckett University, they include Leeds Trinity University, the Prince’s Trust and the nine local authorities.

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