Radix: The First Six Years

Last month Radix reached a big milestone in its growth. Founder and managing director Fiona Campbell-Howes reflects on how far the company has come since 2007.

A little over six years ago, I arrived in Cornwall with no plans other than a) I was going to move in with this handsome scriptwriter I’d met on the internet and b) I was going to support myself financially in the only way I know how: writing marketing copy for big technology companies.

Today, the handsome scriptwriter and I are married, we share our house with two kids and a cat, and the copywriting business I started in a spare room has just passed a huge milestone. Between December 2007, when I set up shop as Radix Communications, and December 2013, the company has generated one million pounds in income.

That may not sound a lot. The big Asda store up the road takes that much in a week.  Six years is a long time in comparison.  But there are a lot of things about this milestone that make me immensely proud and happy.  If you’ll allow me to be horribly self-indulgent just for one blog post, I’ll list them:

1) It shows geography isn’t a barrier. All of our fee income comes from clients based outside Cornwall, from B2B marketing agencies in London and the Thames Valley, and from technology companies near and far: software companies in the Netherlands and Malta; branches of global IT vendors in London, Reading and Geneva; and thriving tech businesses closer to home, like GOSS Interactive in Plymouth and Spirent Communications in Paignton. Thanks to Cornwall’s high-quality broadband infrastructure, it’s never been a problem to work with an international clientele from our office in Penryn, which is a good thing all round.

2) We’ve been able to create some great jobs. Radix has been growing steadily in numbers since 2008, and this month we welcomed our 10th team member, our project co-ordinator Bridget. Our team are all doing skilled, in-demand jobs with great career prospects in the global digital economy. Our content team Matt, Kieran, John, Steve, George and I work on projects for some of the world’s biggest enterprise tech brands, including Dell, Fujitsu, IBM, Oracle, Tata and Wipro. Our operations team Sophie and Bridget work with the account teams at some of the UK’s top B2B marketing agencies, like Volume, Velocity Partners and Marketing Options International. Our marketing executive Emily gets to build podcast forts and write about vampires and Iron Man. (Poor Sarah just gets to chase overdue invoices and enter stuff into our accounts system, but at least she gets to do it with a nice view of the river.)

3) The money stays here (part 1). We work with a great network of local partners and suppliers, including associate writers David McGuire, Lindsay Clark, Mark Nicholson and Becky Wass; graphic designer Tim Hendy at THStudio, the video production team at Pixel Rain; the localisation professionals at Lexidoc; web designer Zander Grinfeld at Venn Creative (responsible for this very site); go-to IT guy Chris O’Brien; photographer Toby Weller; and part-time FD Jeremy Kirk. The creative business community in Cornwall is growing daily – thanks in part to the excellent writing, media and design degrees offered by Falmouth University – and it’s exciting to have so many talented, creative people on our doorstep to forge partnerships with.

4) The money stays here (part 2). A good chunk of our team’s earnings finds its way into the tills of the many independent businesses that abound in Falmouth and Penryn. It gets spent on lunch, cake and coffee at Miss Peapod’s; on coffee and chocolate-coated brazil nuts at Earth & Water; on yet more coffee at Espressini and the Courtyard Deli; on beer and books (why had no one thought of this before?) at the awesome Beerwolf Books; on actual vinyl records (and, I suspect, more coffee) at Jam Records; on cocktails and retro gaming at the 8-Bit Gaming Bar; and on weekend breakfasts at the Gylly Beach Café and the Harbour View Café, among many others.

5) We’ve had a lot of help. There’s no way we would ever have made it to the size of company we are today (tiny by many people’s standards, but terrifyingly enormous by mine) without the help of some of the fantastic, Convergence-funded business support initiatives in Cornwall.

Without the encouragement of Bev Hurley and Eileen Lennon at YTKO, I’m pretty sure Matt and I would never have taken the vital step of recruiting a complete stranger to work with us; a Rubicon-crossing event that gave us the confidence to move into a proper office and hire even more complete strangers. Without the excellent advice of David Bone at Partner to Succeed, we would have made lots of terrible mistakes and gone off in all kinds of wrong directions. Without the graduate-placement team at Unlocking Potential, we would have no Kieran, Steve or George, the office would be tragically devoid of puns, hats and samurai jokes, and our award shelf would be empty. And without the support and guidance of our mentors Alan Street and Martin Smith at Grow Cornwall, I for one would be a quivering wreck by now.

6) We’re ready for the next million. The last six years haven’t all been plain sailing: there was the time I thought I’d sunk the entire business when BT tried to charge us several thousand pounds to get out of a contract (thankfully they later relented). There was the time last year when for four or five weeks the flow of work simply – and sickeningly – stopped, only to restart again as if nothing had happened.  There are perennial issues with late-paying clients; the bane of many a small business. But we’ve made it through all that, and we’re ready for the next million, which – all being well – should take a lot less time to arrive.

More importantly, if we can do it, so can you. Cornwall is an excellent place to start and grow a creative business, and it’s getting better every day.  And if you’re a copywriter locally but don’t fancy starting your own agency, send us your portfolio – it’s always good to know who else is out there!

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