Ds brochure web design has been around for 5 years now but has only really taken off in the last few years. This has been due to a number of factors that I will set out below. This is my story.
After leaving school in 1999 I went to Southampton Solent University (Southampton Institute as was) to study BSc. Business Information Technology. This is where I started to get interested in website design. During a placement year I got the opportunity to create a couple of websites for the company I was working for. There were basic intranet sites but it whetted my appetite for web design.
After my degree I went to work at Stansted Airport. It was something I had always wanted to do and even though it was only a check in agent position I was hopeful it would lead to something bigger in the future. Unfortunately the airport does not seem to work like that and it is who you know and not what you know so, after moving to a few different companies in Gatwick and Stansted Airports, I moved to what is still my current position as a Highways Agency Traffic Officer at the Dartford Tunnel and the M25. (This is why you will rarely here me say a bad word about the crossing! but if you ever need traffic info I am your man)
It was during my time at the tunnel when I started to think about doing something that used what I had learnt at university, as working shifts meant I had a lot of spare time (although the arrival of my daughter used a lot of that time up!) I started to read books on Web design to increase my knowledge in preparation for possibly launching my own business. A work colleague was very supportive of my efforts and pushed a few bits of work my way to help me get started. One of these was an anniversary programme for Dartford FC (and one of the reasons why I have branched out into Brochure design as well)
One day I was working at the tunnel I had to turn back a lorry from the tolls as we needed to measure it because it was too high for one of the tunnels. I noticed that the lorry had just come from the touring car meeting at Brands Hatch as a team from the support race series. I struck up a conversation with them and they invited me along to the next race at Donington Park. In the mean time I researched the team and noticed that they did not have a website. This was the opportunity that I needed. I went along to the next round and had a chat with the team principle Colin Stancombe and put forward a proposal to create them a website. They agreed and in the coming months I met with the team (as they are based 10miles from me) and the site took shape. Just before the site launched the team asked where my website was this is when DS Brochure Web design was born (1st September 2009).
Initially I just focused on my website, Stancombe Vehicle Engineering’s site and building up my web design knowledge as I have taught myself.
In a year or so after I launched the business I just took on a few small projects including an online shop and a small business website, not wanting to run before I can walk.
As my daughter was now at school and my wife works full time as well I felt I could increase the number of sites I was taking on. I was introduced to Maria Bellhouse (angelmazz) by Stacey Renphrey staceysadminsolutions.co.uk, who I had already designed a website for, we discussed a website for her personalised jewellery business. It was a big challenge as it was my first large website and it took a lot of planning but it was launched successfully and allowed her to move her business online instead of having to do manual invoices and take orders herself.
This website was to prove to be the stepping stone to allow my business to take off. Maria really helped promote my business through her website and recommended me to a lot people, including her husband!, in the space of a year I had gone from 4 sites online to 20+ and this number is increasing every year.
Around this time last year I noticed a tweet from Dartford living asking for volunteers to help with various bits of the magazine. I offered to re vamp their website. I did this because I was looking for ways to get my business noticed around my local area and also to work with local businesses as I like to use local businesses as much as I can.
While developing the site I thought about other ways to involve local business. This is when I thought of starting up Dartford hour on twitter where local businesses can tweet using the hashtag dartfordhour between 8.30 and 9.30pm every Thursday to publicise their business, network with other local businesses and to promote events in the local area. This has had some success with a regular number of businesses taking part with others dipping in as and when they can. I am always looking to get more businesses involved in this as, done properly and well supported, I believe we can build a local network of businesses that can be mutually beneficial.
During one Dartfordhour I was offered the use of a suite at Brands Hatch to hold a dartfordhour meet up. We have held two of these now with an increase in attendees over the first one and also the attendance of the mayor of Dartford. More are being planned with a slight change in format that will hopefully really boost the numbers.
Back to DSBW and it is going from strength to strength. I have created the site for a local company selling diabetes awareness products and insulin pump holders and pouches. This has spawned 3 different sites that regularly get 10000 visitors a month I am also working on a number of sites for local companies, which I am very pleased about as my business is started to get noticed in the local area and not just through word of mouth on twitter. As you can see from my website my customers are very pleased with the work that I have done for them.
I know I will never be able to compete with design agencies with lots of staff but I am able to offer a cost effective way to allowing smaller businesses to get online, which was what I was aiming for when I setup the business. Who know what the future holds for DSBW but I am very pleased with how it has gone so far.