Some of you have been involved in my journey throughout the past few years. This was a journey in which I began a small design and marketing business in Durban with a very good friend. It was journey during which we've learned a staggering amount about business, marketing, professionalism and the stresses involved in all of it.
This journey was certainly not without failures. We failed multiple times, made several bad decisions and often thought we knew more than we actually did. Each year, we look back on the Red Giant of yesteryear and think to ourselves, "what were we thinking?!" We look at things like our first website and realise just how far it is we've actually come. My word, we were bad. We lost a few clients due to our mistakes and we loathed ourselves for it. Heck, we even came close to closing up shop and heading in a different direction. Fortunately, and thanks in part to the contributions by members of this very forum, we didn't.
Despite all the adversity, we never seemed to doubt our own ability and never stopped believing that we could make money out of this business and that we had what it took to start and run our own small digital agency. I don't think we ever thought when we started out in Matric that in just a few years we'd be designing and developing major e-commerce sites and running full-fledged online marketing campaigns for some really notable brands.
Boy, has it all been worth it. We've learned so, so much in the time that we've run this business. Sure, we've made our money. But the most important thing to me is that we (two noobs right out of high school) managed to build a brand with a reputation - a reputation that has allowed us to run a business for the past two years without any advertising whatsoever. In fact, the only advertising we've done is to advertise for new employees to join our team who are struggling with all the demand. Every hour we've spent analysing ourselves, improving our process and figuring out what our clients want and need has been worth it because of the response we've received. I'm not sure there's any better feeling in business than to receive a testimonial of this nature: http://www.theforumsa.co.za/forums/s...son?highlight=
It's been even more rewarding considering that we've done this all while studying. My partner, Justin, finished his degree (in graphic design) and I mine (in Accounting) while we ran the business part time. We then turned the business into a full-time venture after some tough decisions had to be made and I've been working full time and studying my Honours course at night.
To me, it's obvious that we made the right choices. In 2012, our first year running full time, we more than quadrupled our revenue and profits from the previous year. In the first 6 months of this year, we've already increased the same figures for the same period of last year by 60%. We've started taking on international clients. We hired our first full time employee and we're about to hire another one, if not two.
All the while we've learned a booming business is not all that it's cut out to be. We've lost clients because we've been too busy for them. We've been swamped from all angles by old clients & new clients who all need something done, all while we've been desperately been searching for more creative minds to join our team and help us manage the demand. If I'm honest, the success of Red Giant has possibly been the source of the most stress in my life - even more so than studying one of the more difficult Honours courses around. It has been so difficult to keep everyone happy while maintaining some semblance of normal working hours. (Forced by the fact that I've been studying)
This stress has been amplified by the fact that my time at Red Giant is now over. Over the last couple weeks, I've essentially left my day-to-day role at Red Giant as I get ready to write my final exams, after which I will be writing my Board exam and moving on to do my articles with PwC. While I'll still be involved in a strategic capacity, I've had to leave an already struggling team to manage many of my responsibilities. As somewhat of a control freak and a perfectionist, it breaks my heart to hand over the reigns almost entirely in what is currently a flourishing business. My only hope is that, with some luck (and dedication from my partner + team) it stays this way and only continues to grow.
On one hand, I'm extremely excited to start a new chapter in my life. Moving from a creative world into a world into one that is is the epitome of professionalism, an industry without any barriers into an industry that is heavily regulated, is going to be a rather fascinating experience, I hope. Doing my articles is going to teach me even more about my passion (growing businesses) and from different angles than what my past few years have already. On the other hand, I have a business and a team that I've really enjoyed working with, that I now have to trust to grow almost on their own for the next 3 years.
At the moment, I'm not sure what to think about the entire situation as thinking about the million different eventualities tends to result in a major headache. Right now, all I can do is concentrate on studying for my exams and hope that I get through those. If I don't, PwC are going to be knocking at my door asking for a lot of bursary money back.
I guess with this post I just wanted to update everybody on how things have progressed, as well as extend a huge THANK YOU to each and every person who's been at the ready with an answer to each of my many questions and who has helped me/us navigate our way through many difficult situations. At only 22 years old, I feel like I'm about ready to retire already. Seriously, it's as if I've managed to pack a lifetime's worth of experience into just a few years after school. TFSA really is a wonderful community and is extremely rewarding for the people who partake in a constructive manner. I've been helped countless times on this forum and I hope that I've been able to help just as many people out in turn.
Apologies for the essay - I feel that when one's thoughts are so scattered, it's often helpful to try writing them down. Also, who better to share those thoughts with than the same community that has participated in the journey, from start to finish.
It's onto a new chapter in life for me... Hopefully one that's just as rewarding as the last one has been. The last thing I want to do is live life with any regrets.