Stephen Brown is the Director of Bug Graphics, one of the coolest graphic design agencies to hail from the west of Scotland, an area famed for it's creativity. As part of our Entrepreneur Stories series we caught up with Stephen to hear his story.
So grab a cuppa, take some time out and enjoy the story of one small businesses journey from box room to Donald Trump's golf course.
Where did Bug Graphics come from?
Bug Graphics was formed after a lot of blood, sweat, tears and the occasional all-nighter.
I began my design career working for someone else; my aim was always to be my own boss I just did not expect that to become a reality quite so quickly.
I began taking on small freelance jobs and working on them on evenings and weekends out of the small box room in the flat my wife and I were living. Before long the work load was increasing and the small jobs were becoming bigger and I was gradually building a client base. This gave me the impetus and the belief that perhaps I could become my own boss. I decided to cut down my hours in my full time job as the workload was getting increasingly harder and I knew I needed to focus on my business if it was ever to become a full time reality.
What was the trickiest thing about making the decision to leave a secure job?
Due to the fact I had not planned for the work to come in so thick and fast I had not prepared myself for the realities of starting up my own business, I had not saved any money and unfortunately I had not considered investment, this meant very long hours as I had to maintain my main source of income whilst working on the business.
However, after a lot of consideration I decided that if I was to start my own company I would just need to take the plunge and thus I took the next step.
We love the name, where did that come from?
Perhaps I should invent some fascinating story as I get asked this question a lot and unfortunately my answer is rather dull.
Deciding on a name for my company proved to be a lot harder than I ever would have thought. I played around with lots of different options, most of them far too cheesy to mention! Actually I don’t completely remember how I decided on Bug Graphics, I don’t have a clever or charming reason behind Bug Graphics, I simply thought it sounded good and was really easy to remember.
How long have you been in business now?
I started doing some freelance in 2009, I finally went on my own in 2010 but I was still working from home.
I would say it had to be early 2011 when I first found an office to run Bug Graphics from. That’s probably when it started to feel like I had my own business.
How did you choose your location?
It was pretty easy to choose where to locate Bug Graphics. Glasgow is probably Scotland’s most fashionable and artistic city, it’s renowned for its creative culture. I am a Paisley boy so I knew that Glasgow is where I wanted Bug Graphics to be based.
With Glasgow being Scotland’s largest city, it is very easy to commute to the likes of Edinburgh, Dundee Stirling, Aberdeen it seemed the perfect option.
In your industry do you have to consider local competition?
Glasgow is such a creative city which results in a lot of competition and many designers are competing for the same jobs. This only pushes me to strive further and ensure that I am giving the best service that I possibly can.
What is the most difficult thing about running a graphic design business?
Running your own business you can be faced with a number of difficulties but perhaps the most challenging for me is managing yourself as well as your team who, in this industry, are also in most cases self -employed.
As the director of Bug Graphics I play many roles, this can be stretching and can also result in less time being spent actually designing which is my passion.
I have to ensure I am very organised and plan what is happening on a day to day basis so that things run smoothly and I am not spending the day chasing my tail. I’d say this is something that now comes naturally to me but getting yourself into these routines in the beginning can be rather hard when you’re completely self-employed.
How do you market yourself?
I have been rather lucky with regards to this as most of my business has come from word of mouth. Thus far I have not spent much on PR or Marketing, I have considered this for 2015 and will be investing in some marketing in order to grow Bug Graphics to the next level.
I believe there is only so far you can get through recommendations and will be spending more on these tools as I feel you can only get so far on recommendations.
How do you feel about digital marketing and its growth, is it bad or good for your business?
We do try to keep on top of our social medial and update our website with new projects at least once a week, although this can prove difficult if you’ve got a lot of work on. This is another reason I have to plan my time meticulously as I know how important it is to include these jobs in the day to day running of Bug Graphics.
I think as long as you know what you’re doing and you have a good message digital marketing is definitely a good thing. You just have to make sure you’re not pestering your followers. I’m the first to unfollow someone if they’re trying to spam or if they’re posting up nonsense because they feel they have to post something.
As a young entrepreneur what did you find were the biggest challenges when it came to understanding tax and business planning?
The dreaded tax! In my first year of business I wanted to bury my head in the sand and ask someone else to do everything for me, basically it was a disaster. All year I’d been working so hard and putting all my energy and focus into gaining new business and growing Bug Graphics that I completely neglected the accounts side of the business…..BIG MISTAKE!
When it came to getting my accounts in order it was a nightmare and I swore I would never do it again. I now account for everything and take care of my accounts once a week. I also use a programme called Fresh Books to keep track of all my finances, invoicing and expenses… It’s saved me a lot of time and fingernails since year one!
What’s your best Bug Graphics story?
I have a plethora of tales, working in the service industry can be rather funny at times. I come across all types of people and I am sure if I had time I could sit and write a book however people will be reading this so I will tell you of our best accolade to date instead.
Last year Bug Graphics won an award for best Scottish letting website, we were unaware we had even been nominated so that was a great surprise and really makes you feel like what you are doing is worthwhile. There is no better feeling than watching something you have created grow from strength to strength.
What’s been the best project you’ve worked on?
This year especially Bug Graphics has been working with some pretty big names and winning some really interesting contracts like the RSPB and Savills.
Last year we did some work for Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen and we were lucky enough to be given the chance to play the course, as a golfer myself that was pretty special and definitely one of the perks of the job.
I am always coming up with new business ideas and really enjoy working on them. They probably wouldn’t impress too many people but I get a real kick out of starting something new and watching it develop into something exciting.