Design Brothers is 25 years old this month! I registered Design Brothers Limited at Companies House on 30 September 1996.
We didn't start out as a web company. At the time I was doing a degree in graphic design and working in restaurants in the evening. My course work made great examples for clients and vice versa. Sometimes I would skip a day at Croydon College to meet clients. Some would even meet me in the college and thought I worked there. There were no in/out barriers in them days, just smoking rooms and floppy drive computers!
This was followed by a course in business studies and whilst this was extremely interesting, I learned the most about business in the real world whilst in the restaurant industry. Fed up with cooking food, I took on a day job as an office administrator, which included meeting directors of FTSE 100 companies. I studied computer programming, Perl, VB, ASP, Java and C#, which opened my eyes to the world of coding and web development.
Five years later I had enough website clients to support myself full-time, and as our number of clients grew, we were able to take on freelancers. Some of them later become full-time members of staff and the business continued to grow.
We worked from home for many years, sometimes from pubs and cafes, before finding our first office at No 3 High Street right next to Bromley South train station. We joined the Chamber of Commerce and went to networking meetings all over London.
Around 12 years ago, we took on a contract for a British Society, which was almost full time on-site in the city, this now meant I had to leave the office and team. We were soon introduced to other charities and the UCL which also led to private healthcare clients.
When our Bromley office building closed we moved to Beckenham, before settling in our current office on Station Road, South Norwood. This was handy as it was now closer to where most of us lived in South London, and we were now able to walk to work. Being situated next to Norwood Junction was also useful as we could be at a clients in the city in 15 minutes or Croydon in 5, if needed. This saved us many hours of travelling time, to and from work and to clients.
As the demand for high quality and accessible websites grew, our clients started to become more diverse - plumbers, solicitors, builders, accountants and architects. Using the skills and techniques we had learned from public sector, we were able to pass these on to private sector companies.
25 years on we now employ five staff and a similar number of freelancers, and we are proud to have created a total of over 200 logos and 500 websites. Some of the websites we designed and built over 10 years ago were timeless, a few are still live today, run rings around most modern websites and are still top in Google.
The majority of our clients are still with us today and some of the oldest from 25 years ago have each had an average of five new websites as their businesses grew and evolved.
We faced a new challenge during the pandemic. We had always had a pretty open house approach to our office, with clients dropping in when they were passing for a chat and a coffee.
On 23 March 2020, like many other businesses in the UK, we closed our office and made the shift towards working from home, crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
We are now back in the office and although we did lose some revenue from a couple of clients who had to deal with dire circumstances, particularly in the hospitality sector, many start-ups called us for advise, some of whom subsequently have become new clients.
Some clients have said they like the personal service we provide. We don’t hide behind a phone on a 4th floor office half way across the country, locking clients into one or two year contracts, only returning a call if or when it suits us.
We have met every one of our clients, even if we have had to drive many miles to meet them, some pop in when they are passing, even if only to say hi or go for lunch.
We are truly grateful for so many amazing clients and businesses who have helped us start up, evolve, grow and become the family-like business we are today.
We have great fun planning our end of year Christmas parties as a team, inviting partners and clients. This usually includes a West End show, restaurant and an interesting pub crawl, for those who wish to take part.
We are in the process of planning our 25 year anniversary party and if you are one of our clients we look forward to you joining us. Here’s to the next 25 years!
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