Like so many interesting companies, Bozboz started in a bedroom – in this case, aspiring DJ Mike Hollingbery spent evenings coding websites in his bedroom.
Today the Brighton-based company is a full-service web design and creative digital agency employing 30 people, with clients ranging from Coca-Cola and Universal Music Group to fastjet, Africa’s largest low-cost airline.
His other clients include Jeremy Paxman, artist Dan Baldwin, musician Goldie and Andy C, a DJ, producer and co-founder of RAM Records.
“I started out wanting to be a DJ and built a website for our local club night,” explained Hollingbery. “It really helped to create a brand and a space for a community to form and was quite successful. Before I knew it other DJs and club nights were coming to me asking me to help with their sites. I quickly realised that there was a great opportunity to be creative and work with interesting people, and it kind of snowballed from there.”
DJing and coding might seem to require very different personalities. Aren’t coders geeks? “It’s never a good idea to put people in boxes,” said Hollingbery. “Part of the ethos of the company is that everyone, no matter what department, has the opportunity to get involved across the whole agency. I’ve always been a creative person and I feel like being a developer or a designer or an entrepreneur very much comes from that place of creativity – you’re creating structures every day.
“There are geeks and introverts no matter which area of the industry you fall within. The key is to never underestimate someone based upon what they are doing now, at one point I was a tea boy and now I have my own company, partly as I saw opportunities for myself, and partly as others saw things in me that I didn’t yet know.”
As a teenager he worked in a small shop that sold computer games. “I learnt so much from him about how to be proactive and innovative,” remembered Hollingbery. “My first experience of actually running a company myself was when I set up Bozboz and it has certainly been a roller coaster ride.”
As Bozboz, which is named after its founder’s DJing monicker, has grown, Hollingbery has had to learn how to be organised at scale and implement rigorous processes that don’t stifle creativity and collaboration but. “There’s a lot of information flying about in our business, joining the dots and keeping people connected is a constant challenge and a secret of our success,” he explained. “Being a leader you have to put your own ego aside too, you can’t be irreverent all the time or think about things only from your own perspective.”
The company is completely self-funded. “I’ve never accepted any investment from outside sources because I’m passionate about keeping the company independent,” he added. “I think this is what makes Bozboz unique. It’s kind of like a collective – the people who work here help form how the company evolves, not VCs or board members.”
Last year Bozboz won the award for Brighton’s most creative agency and it was featured as the most fused agency in the Brighton Fuse report, a two-year research and development project which mapped, measured and assisted the town’s creative, digital and IT cluster.
The company has been working on Jeremy Paxman’s new website for several months. “It hasn’t gone live yet so I can’t tell you too much, but I can tell you that it’s going to be one of a kind,” revealed Hollingbery, teasingly.
Does it help to have such big names on board? “The best clients always come through word of mouth and a recommendation from any happy customer is incredibly satisfying,” he said. “Celebrities are just regular people who are normally very dynamic individuals, cast into the limelight, and who demand high levels of service.”
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He is keen not to ring fence the well-known names he works for. “Whether you have celebrity clients or not, the best advice is just to treat them well and look after them well,” he advised. “Happy clients are great for marketing and growing your business, and if you do a good job, the right people will come to you. You need to create a ‘pull’ for your company – hanging around a red carpet and collecting celebrities won’t do anything by itself.”