Kymberlee Jay is the founder of DoodleDirect www.doodledirect.com an animation production company that creates powerful marketing messaging and stories for brands.
What drove you to start your own business?
I started my own business to allow me to do what I love whilst being able to pay my bills.
I enjoy the challenges that running a business presents… and I was never very good at working for other people/businesses anyway!
I like to move quickly and evolve my business systems constantly to incorporate new technology. I always knew I would end up working for myself eventually – outside of my work in entertainment I’ve been fired from almost every employment position I have ever had, namely for trying to find more efficient ways to do my job (and coming up against prehistoric authority figures who didn’t like change) – I am the ultimate disruptor!
I started DoodleDirect shortly after realising that an affordable high-quality animation production company didn’t exist. With video fast becoming a leading online marketing tool, our job is to produce highly effective and cost-efficient animated content for businesses worldwide to boost their marketing and advertising strategies.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I was a professional dancer and choreographer for 15 years prior to starting DoodleDirect!
I worked on music videos, live shows and in advertising – which actually gave me a great foundation for what my business does now.
As a choreographer, my job was to make dancers look great and give a memorable performance as they move across a screen or stage to music, and now at DoodleDirect we make shapes and text look great as they move across a screen to music.
I have always enjoyed dabbling in animation and video production as a hobby but hadn’t ever considered making it a business until a chance Google search made me aware of just how big the gap in the market was for an animation company like DoodleDirect.
Tell us about the business planning stage.
My planning has happened alongside building the business – and is still happening as we speak. Essentially the business began very quickly and I initially spent around 12 hours building our first website and doing basic planning under the following headings:
- What do we do?
- What should we look like?
- How much should we cost?
- How will we tell people we’re here?
- How will we produce and deliver our products?
- How much money might we spend doing this and how much might it make?
- What could go wrong?
This was my business plan – without the masses of (often unnecessary) detail and the fancy titles. I continue to plan constantly, working on ways to improve specific areas of my business – but I still believe in keeping things simple and efficient, and learning through action.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I plan roughly six months ahead – the digital space changes constantly with the introduction of new applications in technology and I like to make sure my business has the opportunity to adapt quickly if necessary to capitalise on this.
I am also highly competitive, which is what keeps me motivated and keeps us on track. I am working solidly to build this business to be bigger, better, faster, stronger and more innovative than our competition. This will be an on-going task during the life of this company.
What are you working on at the moment and can you describe your typical working day?
At any one time, we can be working on up to 12 separate animation productions. Every day is completely different and I love working with businesses in all types of industry – from health and beauty to cloud computing, from bootstrapping start-ups to global corporations!
My role at DoodleDirect now includes overseeing and guiding our creative processes, supporting our marketing and communications team and keeping a close eye on both business opportunities and our competition. Every day brings something new and happens to be a school day – I learn something new every day that I am in business.
How do you work on making your business grow?
80% of our business comes from repeat orders and referrals. We spend a lot of time building strong and lasting relationships with our existing clients rather than investing in new customer acquisition.
As DoodleDirect is a virtual agency, we work primarily online which allows us to work with clients internationally just as easily as we can work with clients locally. The expansion of our business into the USA, Europe and Asia happened relatively quickly and 65% of our client base is international.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
I am a mum to a very energetic 4-year-old boy and being able to manage my own time is hugely beneficial (though I still tend to end up working 12-14 hours a day!). I also enjoy leading my team, being able to drive my business forward, and experimenting with new ideas.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
A big challenge for me personally has been learning to delegate and not micro-manage. I am a self-confessed control freak but I have since realised that my business runs even more efficiently when I just allow my team to get on with their jobs and I trust them to do what they’re great at.
Another challenge is coping with negative cash flow (clients not paying their invoices on time!) – this can often make or break a small business so it’s important to be firm with your clients and implement systems to ensure that you have at least some money up front before you provide your services.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I am inspired by everyone who is running a business, making a profit and taking a salary that allows them to pay their bills, keep a roof over their head and feed their families. Making a business a work is exceptionally difficult and challenges you mentally, physically and emotionally on a daily basis. Anyone who can handle this and come out of the other end smiling is an inspiration to me!
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
A great piece of advice given to me once was “Despite appearances, no one knows what they are doing”.
The advice came from a business coach who kindly gave me a few minutes of his time to assess my company. He was showing me that even the big business machines in the creative industry whose success I aspire to emulate, do question themselves on a daily basis – contrary to popular belief.
These big businesses will have doubts, insecurities and they’ll make mistakes…and it’s okay because at the end of the day, all businesses, no matter how big and powerful they are, are run by humans…and no one is perfect!
What are the 3 books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
I am an avid reader of Entrepreneur magazine and I often read threads on ukbusinessforums.co.uk.
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I really enjoy fitness and have recently started weightlifting; it’s a great stress reliever!
Kymberlee was a finalist in the 2015 PRECIOUS Awards