Whilst a lot of businesses are born out of an innate desire that comes out over many years of experience as an employee, Sockmonkey was founded by two people who recognised that having no mortgage to worry about, and no kids to feed, could make it the perfect time for them to start up. They tell BQ their startup story.
Bob Makin & Darren Cuthbert founded Sockmonkey in February 2013 to develop games and work with others to bring new ideas and apps to life.
“We were working on a Facebook game for a big IP for two years solid at a big UK studio and knew we wanted to do something different when it was released,” Bob tells us.
“There were a few different job offers on the table, but the opportunity to create SockMonkey was also there.
"The thought of running our own business and be able to put our own stamp on the industry was a huge appeal, as was the idea of being our own bosses and doing things our way.”
Financing their move to self-employment was supported by the DigitalCity Fellowship Scheme. “Both Darren and I graduated from Teesside University, in 2007 & 2009 respectively.
"Whilst there I learned about the Digital City Fellowship programme, how they fund and support start-ups.
"We had help with living costs during the first 6 months of the studios life, which helped to link moving from paid jobs to financial insecurity! With the Fellowship grant, I don’t think we could have risked it.”
It’s impossible to know everything about business, though, and both Bob and Darren acknowledged that there was a limit to how much they could achieve if they were too insular.
“After we’d successfully navigated our first year and had begun to pay ourselves off our own backs, we decided to bring someone with a bit of knowledge and experience on board,” Bob said.
“We took our time in recruiting, but eventually brought on a non-executive director to the company who helped advise and point us in the right direction.”
So, with a successful and growing business under their belt, what still gives them headaches and keeps them up at night?
“The biggest challenge is balancing paying work with staff numbers. Different contracts require different skills and we’re very cautious not to overload ourselves with too many staff members.
"We’ve managed this so far by keeping the core team of staff numbers low and utilising local freelancers to help out when we need them,” Bob tell us. “The worst thing is probably the uncertainty of the cash flow and the responsibility of having staff.
"It’s a lot of pressure to have people’s lives and well being resting in your hands, but it keeps us on our toes and pushes us to do beyond the best we can.”
But it seems that success comes quite easily for these two entrepreneurs, and it’s keeping them focussed on the tasks ahead.
“The best thing is having the freedom to do things your own way; creating and working in a relaxed, fun environment and being able to meet great people from brilliant companies that we would probably never have got the chance to if we weren’t going solo.
"We tripled our turn over from year 1 to year 2 and we’re on target to repeat that for year 3.
"We also aim to get our second own IP out within the next year and continue to be able to grow the core team. We’re always completely honest with our clients and aim to add that spin of personality to everything we do for them.“
So if you could have any customer walk through the door, so to speak, who would your ideal customer be? “We’d love to work with someone who has had a big impact on our lives like Nintendo or Disney.
"We’d also love to do a mobile game / app for a trendy business that has fun marketing campaigns like Yorkshire Tea, Cravendale or Carlsberg.”
As for why they are the Sockmonkeys? Well, you’ll have to ask them...