Graphic designer Laline Hay and architect Alice Taylor set up Bolter Design in September 2015.
Before starting the business, Laline had spent a number of years working as a freelance graphic designer steadily building a client base, while Alice built her experience working full time in architecture studios. In joining forces, they have been able to take on larger scale projects and combine their expertise to deliver multi-disciplinary services – with design skills across the board.
Landing office space was a happy and rather lucky coincidence, says Laline. Like many start‑ups, the pair were running their business from a sitting room. It was sheer chance that led them to meet a member of a local co-working space in a bar one Saturday evening, who invited them to the space for a meeting. Alice showed a keen interest and soon after, they moved in. The move was a natural extension of their business growth, and while it came sooner than they perhaps intended, both have described it as the best business decision they have made to date.
“It is really important to maneuver yourself into a productive environment. We have definitely worked better from here.”
Not only has the pair been able to utilise other expertise within the building and take on work for fellow members, they have also supported a number of start-ups themselves by designing logos and offering ad-hoc advice from their own experiences. The support they have received from within the building, including quarterly meetings with the team running the workspace and taking advantage of free sessions on accountancy and other business support advice, has really helped them to focus on their company to refine their pitch, see where they have come, and where they want to go in the future.
Peer support and a growing network of freelancers that Laline and Alice can call upon have been vital to the growth of Bolter Design. The pair told us how building a strong network is key, but warned to exercise caution when looking for new expertise as reaching out to bigger networks, such as through social media, does not always result in finding the right people with the right skills and shared vision. Laline says that for them, the best contacts have come through word of mouth and utilising their existing network to make new links.
They also champion the idea of finding a business mentor, and are on the lookout for one themselves. They told us that, for any start-up, to have a mentor would be an immense help as it offers the ability to check-in with someone who has years of experience running a business and can reaffirm your ideas, help you look at choices objectively and potentially open up their network of contacts to support you.
The pair are self-confessed ‘yes people’ and attribute their growing network to their attitude to taking on new opportunities wherever possible, but take care not to compromise on the quality of their output. Their key advice to any new business is to talk to people and take each opportunity as a chance to hone your pitch; it all helps to build your support network and client base. Also, to find a workspace that you feel at home in, as it provides a great opportunity for collaboration and the sharing of ideas.
Almost a year down the line, Laline and Alice feel comfortable in their own space and have a clear idea of where they want to take their business, but for those just starting out, they say that support is invaluable; be it general advice, subsidised office space or business mentoring:
“When you are starting out you are really keen to take any opportunity, so if someone can help you, signpost you in the right direction, that is invaluable.”