I left my job exactly one year ago to start my own business. It was a job I'd been in for almost 10 years and I had an incredible team of smart, passionate product people around me. It felt scary to leave but I was hungry to create something of my own. After a short stint consulting (shout out to the friendly folks at &us!) the wonderful Brett Thornton and I founded a new strategy and technology consultancy, Loomery. Six months in, it's time for a quick reflection on how things are going. What have been the highs and lows - and what have I learned along the way?
1. Launching in a pandemic has presented challenges and opportunities
Loomery is a strategy and technology consultancy; our business comes from helping organisations create digital products and services. The pandemic has meant that some companies in the hardest-hit sectors (particularly travel, retail, arts, entertainment and restaurants) are being cautious with their spending and investment, technology included. Many companies, however, have pivoted and rethought how they do things, embracing technology as their fastest route to recovery. We wrote about our favourites at the end of last year. The vast majority of Loomery's work has been helping organisations react quickly to changes brought about by COVID, from a digital guide for the University of Exeter's new cohort of students, to a community app for business leaders who can no longer meet in person. Whilst the pandemic has undoubtedly closed down some conversations for us, it's accelerated others.
2. ‘Sales’ is tough
We're working for more businesses than I would have guessed at this stage. That said, business development has been the most challenging and time-consuming part of our growth. We've spent days shaping and refining Loomery's proposition, finessing how we talk about ourselves, and we've taken 50+ intro calls. I'm pretty confident we offer something genuinely valuable to companies: we make it easier and faster to build great digital products. Getting the right people to hear it is the time-consuming bit. Fortunately the pitch wins have outnumbered the rejections - but the rejections have been tough. Not winning a piece of work you know you'd nail never gets easier, and when it's your company, you really feel it. But that makes the wins taste even sweeter!
3. We lost something in going fully remote
The brilliant Joni Mortimore joined Loomery as our Design Lead at the start of the year. An exciting moment, made slightly less exciting by the welcome being on Zoom. I'd certainly imagined being in a co-working space or shared office by this stage but the pandemic had other plans. Of course, we adapted to fully remote working pretty quickly and embraced the benefits that working from home brings, with digital tooling like Mural filling the whiteboard-shaped hole in our lives. But, if I'm being honest, we have lost something from not being in the same room. Innovation, origination, concepting, co-design and other types of creative collaboration are all slightly harder over video chat, as is delivering training, and kicking off a new project with a client. This might not be the expected thing for a founder of a digital consultancy to say but, together with the bosses of the big banks, I'm not convinced fully remote working is the 'new normal' - I'm betting on a blended, flexible model and look forward to the day we're all sitting around the same desk at the start of each week.
4. Friends and colleagues have been hugely generous with their time and support
The best thing about starting a business is how much people want you to succeed. I'm heartened by and immensely thankful for the offers of help and support over the last six months: from introductions, to business advice. Loomery is a bootstrapped business: we've built the company from the ground up with personal savings, the cash coming in from early sales, and, perhaps most importantly, the gifted time of friends and ex-colleagues. There are tonnes of people to thank so I won't mention everyone here but I did want to give a particular shout out to Sam Wilkinson for answering our endless accounting questions in exchange for beer. I promise we'll get a 'real accountant' soon ;-)
5. Learning new things has been immensely gratifying
Our current 'bet' at Loomery is the latest generation of 'low-code' and 'no-code' tooling will help people create digital products significantly faster than was previously possible. In anticipation of that, we've set ourselves the challenge of mastering the low-code universe. We've put dozens of platforms through their paces: low-code app accelerators like Bubble and Adalo; voice UI tools like Voiceflow, eCommerce platforms like Shopify; automation engines like Zapier and Parabola, workflow services like Airtable and AppSheet; no-code content management systems like Contentful and CRM platforms like Hubspot. We've become experts in creating responsive websites on Webflow. Every project for our clients has been accelerated by one or multiple low-code tools. The best part about all of that, for me, has been the learning; jumping into a new tool each week and getting to grips with how it can be used to create great digital products and services. Learning a new world is immensely gratifying.
6. We are doing what we set out to achieve: shipping stuff fast
Would I like Loomery to be growing faster? Of course, because I'm impatient to prove we can help people. But if I pause and reflect, 6 months in, am I pleased with what we've achieved? Absolutely. As a product person, I get satisfaction from crafting and shipping great software which helps those who use it; from delivering products I know will make a difference. That's exactly what we're doing at Loomery. Even better, we're doing it at pace - and that's what we set out to achieve. So, lastly, a big thank you to the clients who've put their faith in Loomery so far, you've all been a joy to work with and I'm proud of what we've created together. For anyone reading this who wants to make it easier and faster to build great digital products, get in touch, we’d love to help.