Present Day, December 2020
It is December 2020 and I am currently a proud member of the Web Ink team.
I now serve in the roles of; 50% shareholder, company director, senior web developer, developer advocate & mentor. I spend my days researching and developing applications with the latest technology, keeping Web Ink at the forefront of industry.
To date our business has a total of 5 employees, we tripled our turnover this year (2020) and I think it is safe to say that we are on an accelerating growth curve. All the hard work is paying off and I am close to calling myself a true entrepreneur.
I will leave it to each member of the team to tell their own story but this is mine.
To give some context to this journey, let me give you some background. I had decided to become a web designer in October 2008 during my time as an English teacher, teaching basic English and business English to adults at a school in Braamfontein.
The epiphany I had was that I really enjoyed the teaching itself but English as content was not very stimulating for me. I had always been interested in IT and so I decided to become an IT trainer. The only obstacle being that I had no real teachable knowledge in IT and so began the steady climb to becoming a working professional to gain the skills in order to one day teach!
A Passion for Programming
As a kid, I never went out on weekends and rather stayed at home on my dad’s laptop learning Turbo Pascal and DOS programming for the pure fun of it – I could not get enough of the learning, a passion which is still with me today. (The partying came much later on! 😉)
Web Ink is born!
I started Web Ink, officially, on the 1st May 2010, the day I stepped out of a 3 month stay in rehab (*a story for another day). Knowing absolutely nothing about web design or development, in fact I had only built my first HTML web page using Dreamweaver in 2009.
This speaks to my nature which is clearly very stubborn, impulsive, reckless… and passionate, when I find something I love.
The first 3 years were very tough, I mostly lived on Jungle oats and was mostly broke. I took any opportunity to build a website for anyone who would have me and for really cheap. Having zero business schooling either, I was really just winging it, taking each day as it came and intuitively navigating my way along.
With no real plan, I have stayed on survival mode right up until around 2015, which is when I started to actually think about what I am doing with Web Ink and this was sparked by the realisation that I was getting tired of just churning out one project after the next with no growth. The lesson here being that you will get what you aim for.
Having shut our company down and going right back to square-one in terms of infrastructure, the theme for me in 2017 was re-inventing the brand, getting back to basics and rebuilding my identity on both personal and business levels.
Being at Impello really lit a fire under this process, giving me access to other professionals and entrepreneurs in my immediate environment (some more, some less experienced than me and all with a different story).
I was bombarded with the intensity of the entrepreneur jargon and clichés… attending many talks, events and other networking events with an overload of exposure to industry professionals. As a result of this, I was left with an incredible amount of pressure to be successful, find my ‘why’ and basically wake up to my vision and mission and if I didn’t have one to find one real quick!
The Trouble with ‘Why?’
The result and sum of 2017 for me was the long-awaited revelation of my ‘elevator pitch’ which I basically woke up to last Friday, the 19th January, 2018:
“We emphasise strategy and planning in building sustainable solutions to empower progressive businesses.”
The feeling of release when I received the statement above was immense – bathed in ecstasy, in that instant, everything became clear to me. I now have a very clear vision and mission of my brand, who it is and what it does.
The clear irony of this was that the concept of finding and maintaining ‘my why’ became a burden later on. The fact is that I started as a web designer because I enjoyed working with computers and I needed to make money. I was not successful in landing a permanent job so the only route left to me was pushing forth as a freelancer. Nonetheless, that feeling of release at least gave me a direction and I had had the opportunity to do some more exploration into what it is that makes me tick!
Growing Up and Maturing
Now, at the beginning of 2018, with our political climate looking up and the dollar at under R12 I am filled with a new hope and inspiration for the future. My theme for this year is to scale, build, grow – I have found the seed and now I am going to find the sunshine and water the fuck out of it. For Web Ink, 2018 is about growing up and maturing.
My immediate financial goal is to turn over R60 000 per month from April; This will give me the capital I need to try again at hiring my first employee. The business priorities right now are:
- Income – Need income to fuel growth
- Sustainability – Employ people to work in the business; and build those employees
- Optimise – Constantly invent and refine the way we do things to offer more value and be more efficient
Partnership – Enter Liam
Liam came on gradually but his value became apparent very quickly and very soon I was excited to hand over the role of CEO and gave him equal share in the company.
His amazing sales ability and ‘architectural’ style of project management complements my technical ability and it is this partnership that finally allowed Web Ink to leave the tarmac!
End of Part 1. In Part 2, I will share more of some of my key takeaways as well as the exciting years of real growth and building a team in 2019 and 2020.