SPECIAL FEATURE PART ONE: Up Close With .... Leon Millard, founder of Trowbridge-based Webcreationuk and his rags to riches rise into a global enterprise

  Posted: 26.11.20 at 15:31 by The Editor

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WOULDN'T we all like to turn a little bit of work on the side into a global business? Seems like fiction?

Well, one Trowbridge man did just that, starting from scratch and making a million pounds turnover for the business in just ONE YEAR!

And the company, WebcreationUK, could have gone anywhere to some plush offices in London, Bristol or Bath as the business expanded with a 'family' – they don't like to call them 'workers' – employed remotely in America, India, the Phillipines and soon to be in Australia as well as across the UK.

All of this from an office base in Trowbridge town centre.

Trowbridge Nub News has had a long chat with WebcreationUK founder Leon Millard, a local guy, about how he went from being debt-ridden with a child, working for a low wage at another company, into a website tycoon.

So, in the first part of our special Up Close With … series, Leon, aged 41, tells of his journey from nowhere to the success he enjoys today.

The Trowbridge office of Webcreationuk at work

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WHAT would we be worth today if we had thought up a social media internet platform like Facebook, an idea for how people shop and buy online and get goods delivered to the door like Amazon, or how anyone could put something they did not need on a website and sell it, like eBay?

These ideas come around very rarely and, if you have get on the ground floor of them and they take off, the world becomes your oyster.

Such was the experience of Trowbridge web designer Leon Millard. At twenty years of age, Leon took the bull by the horns to get a few extra pounds while working with someone else for, as he says, not much money.

His idea to do some website designing in his time away from work and advertise it on the internet has lead to an amazing journey.

Webcreationuk host a Trowbridge business group at their headquarters in town

Today, he tells us how it all happened and shows how anybody can succeed as he did with a little bit of thought, courage and resilience.

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Leon said: “Webcreationuk started 15 years ago now. I was actually working for a local web design firm in Trowbridge. This is probably twenty years ago when I was working for those guys.

"It was pretty much when the internet was in its' infancy and it there was certainly not the demand that there is now.

“My life has been a roller-coaster, to be honest. The last ten years – short of getting married – I have done pretty much everything you would do in a life! I am married now.

“I had a child when I was very young with my partner at the time so I was only twenty and we were basically struggling to get by. I was on a fairly low wage as a web designer and my partner was working part-time.

“Things were tough and we managed to rack up a lot of debt and it got quite stressful. Thankfully, it never affected the relationship with my child – he is twenty now.

“I remember having tens of thousands of pounds of debts on credit cards and I thought to myself that 'I am pretty sure there is more to life than this' and I am capable of doing more than just plodding along, which is what I was essentially doing.

“Obviously the industry I knew was IT. I had studied IT at Wiltshire College and worked for Nestle as an IT support technician in Staverton and the internet and technical is what I knew.

“So I thought to myself that maybe I will start doing some freelance work whilst I am still working for this other company. I remember someone asking me have you thought about starting your own company? I was only young and knew nothing about starting a company. Limited company, BACS transfer, PAYE – it meant nothing to me.

“I just thought I would do a little bit of work on the side. I did some research and realised that, in our industry, especially back then, it was very fluffy and smoke-and-mirrors. There was no honest and upfront pricing structure.

“I didn't like having meetings with people and I thought wouldn't it be great to just build a website over the phone or by email without actually having to meet somebody. Back then, there was no-one doing it and we were genuinely the first people I knew of, at least, who could do that.

“I put together 'Webcreation' but the domain name 'Webcreation.com' was not available so I stuck 'uk' on the end of it and that is how the name was formed.

“A lot of other companies were called 'Pink Sheep' or 'Fluffy Rhino' and strange names like that. It was all very arty and bohemian and I thought 'Let's keep it simple for small businesses who are looking to get a website created'. Webcreation – perfect. I bought the domain name and built my own website.

“I started researching and knew of Google Adwords, the pay-per-click system that Google uses, and I thought I would look into using it as a way to promote the site, because I had to get traffic to it. That was a massive delivery vehicle for it. I was borderline broke, and I had a budget of £30 a month to spend on the advertising.

“I set up a phone number – an 08 phone number which hid my mobile phone number but was linked to it – put an advert on line and I remember getting my first lead coming while I was still working in this office at the other company.

“I could see the 08 number and knew it was from this advert I had done. So I quickly ran out of the office, went into the town centre and pretty much hid under a bridge or somewhere with my mobile phone to take this sales call.

“I made the sale – selling is something which came quite naturally to me. It is not that I was particularly confident, it was just I knew what I was talking about. The sale was about six hundred pounds and I felt rich.

“I thought 'This is great' so I built the website for the customer, re-invested all the money back into advertising and, extremely quickly, the company went from being just me running it from my bedroom in Longfield, where I was living at the time in Trowbridge, to turning over one million pounds in our first 12 months.

“It was a very rapid, slightly scary at times, an explosion of growth. As it happened, I had quite a few friends who were also into similar things as me so I managed to get a guy to come on (board) and help with the web design and things.

“We actually became a global company from the start because an Indian development company made contact with me – or a guy, actually, in India – and I was looking for some freelance support. I never even considered outsourcing.

“Pretty much, given my price to start with, he was affordable. We were offering a low-cost product so your margins were important. I used this guy a few times and the work was great. We built a rapport and a good connection. He still works for the company today but he has fifty people working for him now. That is off the back of that arrangement.

“We moved into our first office about a year after the company started. We moved into Fore Street in Trowbridge, so our office was opposite Costa Coffee until very recently. It was all hands to the pump (to get it together).

"My now finance director and I were in the office with sanding machines sanding the floors, doing the decorating and bringing it all up to speed until we started making a few more hires. I think we probably had a team of around ten to 12 people in the first 12 months and we had a lot of guys overseas as well.

"Now we have moved into our new headquarters in Court Hall (just by Market Street and Castle Street). The vibe and the culture of the company is a huge part of what we do. We always call our team members 'family' as opposed to 'staff' or 'workers'.

"It is a very family environment. People come to me with anything and everything, whether it is work-related or not. We have a very flat hierarchy and lots of fun things in the office with Xboxes laying around, a pool table, a beer garden area, bar and very laid-back culture.

“Work hard, play harder is our kind of mantra. It can mean anything. It is about getting the most out of life. We all put time into work and our career but it is about that work-life balance and, actually, if you can get that right, that is good. Playing harder for me now can be spending time with the children or watching a film at the weekend. That is my reward for the amount of work I put in.”

* Next, the secrets of how to grow an online business, the growth of Webcreationsuk around the world and why they are still based in Trowbridge!

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