This post, is the first of many as we emerge from a year of planning and strategic change to Scaffold Digital – a new name, renewed focus and vision to Tepee, the name you will be more familiar with (for now at least).
I’m a big believer in giving a clear context in any scenario where key decisions are made, so this is my attempt at telling you the story of how we came to the point of transitioning to Scaffold Digital.
With no background in business, I founded Tepee in 2008 with services limited to graphic and website design. Initially, I had no plan or direction for the business, but it gained traction through referrals and word of mouth. Through self-learning I specialised in web development and over the next few years gained clients easily thanks to a high level of service, solid work ethic and competitive prices. I quickly realised there was an opportunity in the wider marketplace to offer contract development (white label) services to other agencies. With time invested in building relationships to encourage contract development services Tepee began to flourish. At this point I called upon a network of freelancers to help with the volume of work and to put the foundations in place for Tepee to become more than a single pair of hands.
Between 2010 and 2012 I focussed our efforts on developing on the open source platform ‘Wordpress’, over the years Tepee has produced hundreds of WordPress websites covering everything from brochure sites through to e-commerce solutions and developing bespoke plugins and themes. This investment allowed us to be one of a small number of studios that truly knew how to get the best out of WordPress and understood what was possible.
Tepee began offering mobile app development in 2012 and had success in securing the development of the first council-wide app roll-out for Craigavon Borough Council through a partnership with Queen’s University and BNL Productions. This became a milestone achievement for us and it introduced hybrid development as a concept to the business as well as management system development.
With the dynamic nature of the business we have gone on to adopt Ionic mobile app development (a progression of the initial hybrid approach) and secured Premium Partner status with the US-based team in September 2016 thanks to the advances in our specialist app development knowledge. We are proudly one of only four companies in Europe who have this accreditation.
This has allowed us to focus heavily on app development and move forward with this as one of our core service offerings. Through app development we have been lucky enough to get involved in some of the following sectors:
During this time, we also became skilled and experienced within the ‘Internet of Things’ area, communicating with next-generation Bluetooth enabled devices.
In 2013 Tepee moved into its first offices based in Lurgan, Craigavon. Here we introduced several long-term contractors into the business to help increase the delivery speed and quality of services we offer. Within a year we had outgrown our small office in Lurgan and transitioned to Lisburn-based office space in 2014 as we added more members to the team to help service demand.
It was at this time when Tepee started to work with clients listed in the Belfast Telegraph Top 100 list.
In late 2014, I had a realisation…
My real ambition was to grow the team. However, a typical web and app-design studio would only ever have a handful of staff and that’s not what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to build a company that provides jobs for a lot of people who are focussed on helping transform businesses with digital solutions. After quite a lot of thinking and exploring ideas I made a conscious decision to pivot towards the offering of a software studio.
We were already building software solutions, we just didn’t realise it!
The idea was to establish Tepee as a ‘go-to’ for small to medium companies for all things software related. We wanted to bring something new to the market, something different from the standard web and app development studios and making sure we had the best clients possible. So, as we moved forward it was something the whole team took on board with their individual roles and responsibilities.
Since starting Tepee back in 2008 I operated it as a sole-trader and on the 3rd March 2015 Tepee Design Ltd was incorporated, representing the confidence in the future and where we were going with it.
2017 – The cocoon
At the beginning of 2017 I was at an Invest NI workshop designed to prepare businesses for export, as the workshop went on it became more and more apparent that we didn’t have the fundamentals right yet. With the way the business grew we didn’t have a clear strategic plan, didn’t know what we wanted to achieve or even what success looked like.
What I did understand, was that I needed to step back from the day to day operations to focus on creating, leading and ultimately putting the foundations in place to allow the wider team to move forward with a new strategy.
The first step was to recruit a project manager, someone who could take a lot of the day-to-day operational tasks associated with the business away from me. This was a pivotal moment for me and as we had hoped everything seemed to be working in our favour. It was a breath of fresh air, finally it seemed like things were getting somewhere.
Although this was a successful and smooth transition, it presented its own list of problems for us as a business. These were problems that we needed to address quickly to ensure we stayed on track with where we wanted to be. It felt like one step forward, two hundred steps back, but with sheer determination and stubbornness together we all dug deep to sort out the problems and got ourselves back on track.
First up was a discussion surrounding how we presented ourselves…
I had toiled with the Tepee brand for years and other than using a plain typeface felt like I had already exhausted ways to use it professionally.
After a meeting with everyone in the team we took the decision to have an external consultant review our brand. This was a foreign concept to me. I was very much the person who would come in and re-imagine the design collateral for businesses. It was frustrating to have to rely on outside help. Quickly, I realised that we needed to commission someone to create a new visual identity for Tepee, we were just too close to it and I couldn’t help but throw out the fact that we could look at renaming as well to really make the whole process worthwhile.
By July we had commissioned Ian Bennington & the team @ Part Two to come up with some ideas for us. Our brief to the team gave a pretty concise breakdown of who we were, how we help clients and the long-term ambition.
After some anxious waiting we got the call to go and see the results. This was the day that we truly shifted our headspace into Scaffold Digital and the story behind it.
The name has several core messages that match to who we are:
- We come alongside a client and support them through digital projects by using modular services in the same way scaffold is built in sections.
- We are here to support each other as much as the projects we work on, this ties really well to the concept of the supporting beams.
- We want to grow along with our clients, this ties well to the fact that scaffolding grows to the height needed for work to be completed.
- When scaffolding goes up, you know that development is going on and when it comes down the new building is revealed, this ties well to how we build a new digital solution and then launch it.
- The clincher for me personally was the fact that scaffolding wraps around a building as needed, changing direction and ‘pivoting’ where necessary.
For us, this hit the nail on the head, as a business we have pivoted and changed our direction over the years all in pursuit of helping to improve businesses with a strong belief in delivering solutions that really make a measurable difference. The idea that the new brand had that principle built in to begin with really connected with me, the team and our visions for the future.
Alongside planning around the brand we have put in place plans to increase our head count out to 20 people by 2021. That presented a very real issue – space!
By this stage, we had been in our 8-person office for around 2 years, we didn’t have a staff area or private meeting room, but it was a brilliant space at the time and clients were always impressed when they came to visit.
After a lot of back and forth looking at various properties we eventually settled on staying put in the same complex in Lisburn. A big element of that being that we had an opportunity to configure a brand-new studio exactly how we wanted it by taking over a shell unit. So, we set the wheels in motion to move from an 800sq.ft unit to a 1500 sq.ft unit. It was really exciting to watch it all come together and at the end of August we began the process of moving a few units along from our old office and settled into our new home.
It’s taken us quite a while, but finally we are able to reveal the last year’s worth of work and strategic decisions. At the end of it all we have come through the 12 month process with a new identity that has deep seated ties to who we are, a visual language ready for us to roll out, a beautiful new office and most of all a real sense of togetherness as a close knit team ready for the challenges that lie ahead as we commit to our plans to grow.
As a team we are excited about what the future holds. We can’t wait to serve our client base under the new identity.
We hope you can join us on our journey as we seek to “Deliver digital solutions that empower businesses” and strive for excellence in everything we do.