Back in 1996, we cooked up the idea of setting up a design agency straight out of University.
So in 1997, with no cash, no clients, no office and a weird company name, we decided to go for it – we figured we were skint anyhow, so couldn’t be any worse off!
Back in those days, agencies didn’t have websites, so we crammed as much decent work as we could into the portfolio and started networking and visiting as many local businesses. We had to persuade them to take a punt and put their creative marketing in the hands of three newbies.
We obviously did something right as the work started to come in; small branding jobs, brochures and marketing materials.
It took some work, but relatively quickly we built up a name for the agency locally (partly down to some of our strange marketing activity), and we picked up larger clients with bigger budgets.
Dave read some books about running a business (and ignored most of it), Chris picked up a suit and Mark started to become the creative art working machine he is today.
Toast officially started working with a kitchen as our office. As the projects came in, we were invited by our local Art School (a client) to set up a studio in the loft of one of their buildings in return for engaging with the design students (we’d only just stopped being students ourselves).
We did that for a while, but you can’t ask clients to climb a ‘health and safety nightmare’ set of stairs to the attic for meetings, so we soon moved on and into a small serviced office in the centre of town.
It stayed like that for a while – always picking up new clients and larger projects. We moved three times in the office building – each time the office getting a bit bigger until we made the leap to our own rented premises.
We were getting busy. We were working too much. We needed staff!!
Moreover, we needed to get more organised, so we took on an Office Administrator. Laila was offered the job after what she calls ‘the weirdest job interview I’ve ever had‘, and she’s still here.
Design help was also desperately needed, so we put the adverts out and Adam (who attended the same college we did) stepped up to fill the role (he’s still here too). Simon (an old college friend) also joined the team as our strategy guru.
We also needed someone that could keep a close watch on the finances, so uber-efficient Janine joined the team as our trusted (and not-to-be-messed-with), bookkeeper.
Over the following years, we developed our service offering, moving into website design and build, branding projects for larger corporates and large print-based projects.
We took on more staff with Charlotte joining us in 2012 to work in the print department, followed by Vaughn in the digital department in 2012, Laurence in 2013 and Andy in 2015. More recent additions to the team are Kelly and Lizzie (at the time of writing, so new she’s not got her page yet).
So from humble beginnings over two decades ago, myself, Chris and Mark have taken what was just an idea at University and turned it into a successful design agency that works with clients internationally.
When we started the business, the plan was to run it unlike others, and we’ve remained faithful to that for over two decades (some may say making it all up as we’ve gone along, others know we’ve secretly had a plan).
As we move into 2017, our staff remain our biggest asset – we’ve managed (part luck, part judgement) to assemble a fantastic team who are passionate about the projects they work on and the designs they create.