FoundersHub Interview: Matt Wheeler from madeby.studio
Continuing with our series of Member Spotlights, we welcome Matt Wheeler from madeby.studio. Matt and his co-founder Sam met at university, having collaborated on a design project together. Having come third place in a business plan competition, they had the validation and motivation to start the company: madeby.studio. Their approach to all projects is to identify a way to ‘sell the benefits, not the features’. It’s advice that Matt lives by through his work and is what has helped madeby.studio win some fantastic clients. Enjoy this Q&A where we get to know Matt and madeby.studio better…
Tell us about yourself and your company. When were you founded? Where did you get the idea for your madeby.studio?
I’m Matt, 25, co-founder of creative design & development studio madeby.studio located in Leeds city centre. madeby.studio launched in April 2019 by myself and Sam Taylor during our final year of university. We decided to form a partnership due to our similar interests and goals in building a successful design studio. The first year of madeby.studio was a ‘discovery year’, allowing us to understand what does and doesn’t work.
Sam and I met during the final year of our graphic & communication degree at The University of Leeds. We planned to set up design studios individually. Although, after successfully collaborating on a final year university brief designing the concept for a vegan fish & chips brand, this changed. People were asking where the new fish & chip shop was, but unfortunately, it wasn’t real! This is when we decided to join forces and establish madeby.studio.
Describe your lightbulb moment at which point you knew your venture might actually become a success.
Our initial lightbulb moment for madeby.studio came from entering The University of Leeds business plan competition. We were delighted to place third in the pre-trading category and we were welcomed to an awards dinner at the university. This gave us the validation that our idea and growth plans were achievable, motivating us to start the company. Following the competition, the first year was a ‘discovery year’ helping us discover who we are and our ambitions for the future.
Since then, we have had a series of lightbulb moments – from pitching at Wembley Stadium to working with international clients with £multi-billion revenues. These experiences have further validated that we are on the right journey and pushing boundaries within our field. Now in our third year of business, our services have pivoted to ‘digital’ and ‘creative’ transformation projects. We work with our clients as digital transformation partners, helping them connect with their clients on a deeper level. These include anything from brand development, video production and animation, up to websites and web applications.
This refined approach is what has enabled us recently to secure projects with two billion turnover companies. As a growing company, this has given the whole team confidence and motivation to grow. We’re excited to see where our journey takes us!
What are you most passionate about in business? How do you continue to challenge yourself?
I’m most passionate about learning and the transfer of knowledge. I always aim to learn something new every day. I’m a big believer in marginal gains which is the theory that small incremental improvements lead to significant improvements when all added together. It helps keep a positive mindset every day when you know that your small improvements will have a big effect in the long term. This coincides with the transfer of knowledge. As I improve my knowledge, I aim to support the growth of other people around me. Knowing that I’m helping support people helps maintain my enjoyment and fulfilment in my role.
I thrive off a challenge, and everyday challenges appear with growing a business and working on client projects. Part of my role at madeby.studio as a technical specialist is gaining a deep understanding of clients’ businesses. Through this, I’m challenged to figure out solutions to improve processes that benefit the client and their customers. This is something I also perform on my own business regularly. My recent focus has been supporting employees by redesigning our internal processes to focus on the fulfilment and wellbeing of our team.
What/who inspired you to start madeby.studio?
From an early age, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. My first ‘business’ was an app called ‘Lucid – Icon Pack”. This was an Android application that reskinned the interface of Android mobile phones which was started up with a friend from school. It ended up in the Top 50 grossing in the UK – although it was a short-lived idea.
From the age of 18, I was freelancing as a graphic designer and self-taught developer. My first ever client was a couple based in Lancashire. They put trust in me to design their brand and build their website to market their car boot. Seven years later, I still manage their website. Their Facebook page has also grown from 0 to 7,500 followers organically while also being one of the highest traffic websites we host. Their trust in me with no experience at 18 is what inspired me to start madeby.studio straight out of the University of Leeds with Sam.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
“Sell the benefits, not the features” – It’s something that’s stuck with me throughout our whole journey of madeby.studio. Every connection, website or brand we work with we always ensure that our solutions sell the benefits. If you’re not selling the benefits, you’re not selling anything.
Who do you most admire and why?
There’s no one individual that I admire the most. I admire a selection of people such as Ben Francis, Karen Brady and Yvon Chouinard as they’re all admirable in their own way.
Another noteworthy mention is my family. As a teenager, I never appreciated their support and drive to help me progress. Although, as I’ve aged I’ve come to realise their support is what has helped me achieve what I have so far. And this same support is what will help me continue growing on both a personal and professional level.
Interview reference: FoundersHub Members Spotlight