Digital marketing agency Hedgehog say “Attitude is Everything”. Owner Alan embraces his tag line in his attitude to driving his business forward with an open mind. Even with many years of success under his belt he still has things to learn and support from the Growth and Skills Hub has taken him from strength to strength.
Alan started the business in 2006 from his hometown in Bedford, opening an office in Hayle 18 months ago. A common story, he says, having a Cornish wife – her plan was to raise the kids back home so they can enjoy growing up near the beach.
Moving to Cornwall and spending a lot of time online, as you might expect from a digital agency, he came across the Growth and Skills Hub and got in touch to find connections for his new office.
“I was looking for help with improving what we are doing and make some ground. Christina came to see us, she asked lots of questions and got an understanding of where we are. It was pointing me in the direction of where we can get some support in various different areas. She has been really helpful.”
So why the name and the brand Hedgehog? The legend is from a Native American story of the hedgehog and the coldest winter. Hedgehogs led all the other animals in surviving a very cold winter. Hedgehogs are independent but also work in a team, they are very intelligent with high morals and are known for planning ahead. These virtues all fit in with what Alan wanted to create in a company.
In the office hedgehogs are everywhere! From mugs and books to garden ornaments. Alan explains that customers buy them for him as a thank you, but all these happy clients have got a bit carried away and he is looking to phase out the cuddly toys!
From Cornwall to Brazil
Cornwall is just one arm of the business. While they still have a base in Bedford, this year it is expanding to Brazil, linking up with a former employee now based in Sao Paulo.
To support this exciting development, The Growth Hub put him in touch with the Department of Trade. Alan describes how he didn’t have any understanding of how you would export a service, thinking of trade as a product you would ship overseas. The Department of Trade helped him understand how to do business with the other side of the world. Looking at the best ways to establish a presence in Brazil and putting him in touch with their equivalent in Sao Paulo.
Developing the team
Running a team of eight people in Cornwall alone; Alan also booked in for a free skill review with the Skills Hub, to see what training was available for his team.
“We have 8 people working out of the Cornwall office. Julia came along and did a skills review of the types of training opportunities that might be useful. I encourage my team to get involved in training, you are always going to learn something. In the digital industry it is very fast moving so we do a lot of internal and online training which keeps the team at the edge of what we are doing. But there are lots more general opportunities for staff development like project management, customer service and sales training which can bolster your skills.”
“There is a lot more support down here in Cornwall, I am genuinely so grateful to be able to tap into it.”
Alan’s success didn’t start with Hedgehog. In his previous roles, he was selling mobile phones and software but his entrepreneurial career really started at primary school.
Alan recalls, “The village hall would run a school disco, it was the highlight of our month! I was about 10 years old and I decided to book a hall and a DJ. I would sell the tickets at school and then sell snacks and drinks on the night. That taught me about making a profit, managing your outlays and buying stock. My Dad was self-employed, so I never felt that running my business was anything to be scared of, I thought it was the norm. Starting my own business was always going to happen.”
So, running enterprises since childhood, what could business support teach him? Alan explains that it is actually quite a lot. “If I was still in Bedford I don’t think I would have taken this step, I have learnt so much in the last year – an incredible amount. You can take so much from every single piece of advice. I am like a sponge, open to any support now because I know it can help you move forward.”
Hedgehog’s website asks you to “See the beauty in the struggle, on the road to your success. Opportunities to be had and business to be made.”
Alan has certainly been true to his words and embraced the opportunities that Cornwall has offered through business support to take his business from Bedford, to Hayle and now worldwide.