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Creative Scale Up – Visuable

Fish wrapped in paper with the word Visuable below
Image credit: Visuable

Lidia Drzewiecka is the Founder and a Creative Director of global brand agency Visuable. The idea for Visuable was born in 2015, with a goal to not only embrace Lidia's creative and entrepreneurial passions, but to also create jobs for creative graduates, who were struggling to find jobs in the competitive marketplace.

Visuable were part of the first cohort of creative businesses on the Creative Scale Up programme in 2019.

How has your business grown or developed since joining the programme?

When joining the Creative Scale Up programme in May 2019, we were already an established small brand agency with a growing portfolio of work, and an in-demand creative service range. We were a team of three and had just gone remote hoping to serve a global audience. Since then, our team has doubled and our number of active projects more than quadrupled.

Our key challenge lay in our ability to deliver the large number of projects that we’ve had. At the time, we didn’t have streamlined systems and processes in place, our team was too small to be able to deliver the work we’ve been bringing in, there was no management structure in place and there were many bottlenecks to overcome.

I therefore knew that I wanted to work with a mentor who can help us achieve operational excellence. My key goals were set around reviewing our service range to see where we can streamline how we do things, recording and automating repeatable procedures, developing workflows, setting-up project management and team collaboration tools, and training the team on how to use all of the above. Further, I wanted to hire more designers, and elevate my existing team members to line managers, while personally stepping-up into the role of a Creative Director.

I choose Jessi Frey as my mentor, as I knew the above goals were her specialities. We’ve worked together over the course of a full year, meeting bi-weekly to review progress from the week before, get things done, and set new goals for the coming weeks.

I feel that I benefitted from the 1:1 mentorship in so many ways. Most importantly, from an overwhelmed entrepreneur, I transitioned into a capable manager, and eventually a confident leader of a high performing team, and an agency with clearly defined procedures for everyone to follow, so that we run a smooth daily operation, and delight our customers.

Which elements of the programme have you been involved in and what has that support meant to you?

I have been involved in all the elements of the programme – from 1:1 mentorship, through peer to peer sessions and trainings, to business support grants and I benefitted from all of them tremendously. Peer to Peer sessions were a great way of keeping up with the programme, as we would meet as a whole group and share experiences, the good and the bad. Training Sessions helped with strategic business planning and were a great way to discover new tools and approaches on how to do that.

I was awarded two business grants; the Creative Scale Up £2,000 business grant which I used to buy on-line industry specific training courses to help grow mine and my team’s expertise within our sector. As a result, we were able to develop new services that are now contributing to the overall growth of the company revenue.

More recently, I was also awarded a £6,000 Business Growth grant which I used to develop the GoDigital Guide, a handbook manual for those who want to digitally transform their business, implement up-to-date systems, and develop digital products that will open up new streams of online revenue that won’t be affected even if another lockdown happens.

What challenges does your business face and what support are you getting from the Creative Scale Up programme to help you to overcome these challenges?

I joined the Creative Scale Up programme in May 2019, when I was in the process of transitioning my company from a localised, Bristol-based agency, to a location independent global venture that was beginning to grow rapidly across all continents. This meant that we had to re-develop all our systems, processes and workflows, and reposition the brand, while also continuing to advocate for benefits of working with an online agency. Many of our customers at the time insisted that if we don’t serve them face-to-face, they would go elsewhere, because they didn’t believe we could provide them with the same quality of product and service as we did when we worked face-to-face.

This was something very difficult to overcome, and many times I doubted my decision of transitioning to a remote global brand, because I feared that I would loose all of my customers. Yet, deep inside I knew that I needed to keep going towards my vision, and that it will all work out well in the end.

Jessi, my mentor was instrumental in helping me with the operations of my agency, empowering me to keep a cool head under pressure and stay afloat while both myself and the team were building our ship and steering it through the storm.

Today, we have all the systems, processes and team members in place and our customers love working with us online! We’re focusing of creating fun and inspiring experiences for them during their virtual meetings, and they advocate for us, and as a result, attract new clients our way.

What is the most valuable aspect of the Creative Scale Up programme for your business?

The 1:1 mentoring was very valuable to me. It was a key aspect of the programme that helped me transition into becoming a more confident leader for my team, and as a result, we were able to stir the company towards steady waters.

Why are programmes like Creative Scale Up so valuable to businesses like yours?

The programme is so valuable in so many ways. The 1:1 mentoring grows your mindset, skills and expertise allowing you to grow as a Leader within a true supportive environment. The financial support allows for Research and Development that leads to innovation, job creation and increase in revenues so you can try new things without feeling as though you’re at a total loss. The business training helps build strategic and practical business knowledge, and peer to peer support expands your network of contacts and keeps you in check.

I was also able to have my key team members join the Creative Scale Up training calls, which helped them grow as leaders and learn from pros in the industry. It also gave the team a chance to interact with other small businesses in a similar situation and learn from them.

Now that I graduated from the programme, I was also asked to become a Creative Scale Up mentor, and support new creatives that join future cohorts, which is an exciting opportunity for me!

Honestly, the Creative Scale Up programme was one of the best business support programmes that I’ve attended to date.

What’s next for your business?

Wow - what a great question! What’s next for Visuable?

It’s to continue making brands brilliant for entrepreneurs globally and to continue to expand the team’s knowledge. This year, we’ve expanded our service range to also offer digital platforms and systems that help our clients streamline the way in which they operate, enable new income streams, scale their revenues, and keep them going no matter what, and no matter where from.

When it comes to expanding the team’s knowledge, I truly believe that we are never done educating ourselves. We will continue to train and research new ways that we can help our clients, while also enhancing our expertise, so that we can offer the best customer experiences and become even better experts in our industry.

What are your business’ aspirations/ambitions for the future?

Over the past two years, we have been experiencing a rapid growth. In early 2019, we started growing our in-house team and expanding globally. In 2020, we doubled our team, while also expanding our service range. This was a lot to take on for myself personally, as well as for the team. Therefore, in 2021 we are focusing on consolidating what we’ve achieved within the last two years.

Visuable’s aspirations have always been to stay at the cutting edge of visual branding and digital ventures. To that end, we are currently investing time into upskilling our team within branding, design, copywriting, and SEO so that we can stay ahead of the game and continue innovating for the future. As a virtual agency, it’s important for us to have a great internal culture so that everyone feels connected with their teammates while working from home. This is what inspired us to invest more into initiatives such as wellness talks, online fitness classes, team-wide challenges, and fun themed experiences with the aim to bring the team together in new and exciting ways.

My ambition for the future is to continue growing the team so that we can offer opportunities to even more graduates who are struggling to find jobs.  It is my personal mission to help those in similar situation to mine in the past and give them a chance in life and a platform to thrive.

I also would like to continue being an advocate for female as well as young entrepreneurship, especially in countries that don’t have as many opportunities as the UK. I would like to partner with female and also youth entrepreneurship organisations and help its members develop their personal brands and launch their dream businesses, so that they can create purposeful careers and lives.

As a founder, my personal motto is: happy team, happy clients, delivering greatness and this is the ambition I hope to live by for many years to come.

What makes the West of England region a great place for creative businesses?

The West of England, specifically Bristol, is considered by many as the creative capital of UK while UWE Bristol is the place to go if you want to study media, digital design, or creative arts. As a result, Bristol is a place with many creative freelancers and independent creative agencies (such as ours) serving the local business community.

There are many business support initiatives available, such as Creative Scale Up Programme, and also universities provide match funding opportunities if you are interested to take on an intern for your business. This local ecosystem and creative-business culture is exactly what helped me to start growing my #visuabledreamteam

What do you think is unique or special about the Creative sector in the West of England?

Bristol's art, film, digital, and music scene bursts with creativity – Bristol and the wider West of England region is the creative birthplace of lots of great artists such as Banksy, Massive Attack, Portishead, James May, Maisie Williams, J.K. Rowling and many other locally known names. We have our own independent film festival called Encounters (run by a fellow Creative Scale Up colleague Rich Warren) the Pervasive Media Centre developing new technologies, Engine Shed supporting new tech start-ups, Watershed and Arnolfini offering help to artists and creatives alike through hosting exceptional exhibitions, film nights and gigs. People of Bristol are excited to experience life size, conceptual art installations such us the Park Street slide or the moon over the Harbourside created by the local artist (as well as fellow Creative Scale Up programme colleague) Luke Jerram.

Bristol is like our own creative universe. You can really dream big and have your own Bristol dream come true, if you have an idea, and enough courage to make it happen.

Describe the creative sector in the West of England in three words?

Independent, Experimental, Quirky.

How important is it that we get people from different backgrounds working in the creative industries?

It’s very important. Cultural diversity is what drives new ideas and initiatives. When people from different backgrounds come together, they are able to draw on a variety of experiences, upbringing styles, cultures, stories, customs and so on. All this helps develop new ideas that would not have been thought of otherwise.

At Visuable, we are proud of the fact that each member of our team comes from a different country. We don’t believe that hiring should be limited by borders, age or cultural differences it’s actually what makes us stronger, more creative, and limitless.

Why would you recommend this region to other businesses in your sector?

The South West region has a lot to offer in terms of both creative education, as well as creative business opportunities. Visuable started life in Bristol, thanks to local entrepreneurial community who’s members saw what I was doing with my photography and design services as a stepping stone to their own success.

As a fresh Media and Cultural Studies graduate from UWE, I was able to launch Visuable with no plan and zero budget by simply accessing help through the very first business support programme I attended, which was run by Outset. I learned the basics of setting-up a company, and eventually created my own personal brand website and started connecting with people on LinkedIn. I then started posting my photos, tips and advice about how to visually market your business and positioned myself as a Brand Expert. Before I knew it, I was attracting all sorts of freelancers, consultants and experts

Within four months, I was fully-booked for brand photo-shoots and websites and couldn’t keep up with demand. Six years later, I am a leader of a creative team of six, running a global agency serving hundreds of customers all around the world. It all happened very fast. If I could make my business dream happen in Bristol, everyone can!

How has the region helped your business to thrive?

If it wasn’t for the support I received from organisations such as Creative Scale Up programme, as well as earlier support programmes that I attended from Outset, Entrepreneurial Spark, NatWest, and Business West I don’t think my business would even still be here. I used all the help that the region had to offer to turn my dream into a vision, and the vision into reality. The above programmes helped me build my practical business skills, grown my mindset, and inspired me to THINK BIGGER!

To start building my team, I used match funded internship schemes offered by UWE, Bath and Cardiff universities. Most students that I had through the internship programs are still with me today, developing their skills and careers at Visuable. I also got a masters MBA programme funded through an apprenticeship levy and UWE business apprenticeship scheme. I am about to complete my master’s degree in business leadership and gain a Chartered Manager status with CMI in 2022. I am really looking forward to reaching this milestone!

I am so grateful to all Bristol and Bath organisations that helped get me and my company to where it is today.

"I feel that I benefitted from the 1:1 mentorship in so many ways. Most importantly, from an overwhelmed entrepreneur, I transitioned into a capable manager, and eventually a confident leader of a high performing team, and an agency with clearly defined procedures for everyone to follow, so that we run a smooth daily operation, and delight our customers."

Lidia Drzewiecka, CEO & Creative Director

Want more information?

To find out more about the support we offer for the creative sector, please visit our West of England Growth Hub website - Growth Hub website