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Don’t you just love a business story that starts at a dining room table?

I particularly enjoy the dining-table-to-two-office-moves-inside-a-year versions.

I got exactly this tale from Mike Scott at social media agency Hydrogen this week. I’d noticed he’d posted about another office move on LinkedIn so gave him a call to hear about what was going on.

“We reached the point where we had to take the risk and make the commitment to a three year lease and two new staff,” he told me, explaining the goal was always to create an agency.

Not bad for a company which registered little over a year ago and started its first client project in December.

“Yeah it was scary,” he laughed. “It was all my own money, a redundancy package. I had discussions with my wife – I said ‘I’m going to take all this money and gamble it on a business’. She agreed but I felt huge pressure on me to make it work.”

He thought the money would last four months, but in the end, after purchasing computer equipment and paying startup costs, it was gone in six weeks.

“There was a point near the start where I had £213 in the bank account and a week to get all our invoices paid so I could meet £11,000 of staff costs,” he said.

“What other option is there but to crack on?”

One client from his previous employer followed him to Hydrogen and provided the much-needed case study to attract other big names – like Club Med and Marvel. He’s hoping to sign a household name in the next week (and I ain’t jinxing it by identifying them!)

“I always thought I could fill a gap in the market for a specialist social media agency,” he explained. “Now there are seven of us, soon to be eight in a few weeks.”

He didn’t seek help from any of the usual startup agencies, but realises now a mentor would be a very useful resource.

“I have friends who run their own businesses, and they’re great support, but someone to give me the cold hard truth and help me with difficult decisions would be great,” he admitted.

As the father of a two year old, he values balance and has tried to build a culture of working smart, though he does wonder how to keep the startup mentality as the company grows.

“We’re now at the stage where a lot of our work comes from referrals, which is great,” he said. “It’s been a crazy first year, but we’re in a good place.”

How was your first year in business? Drop me a line

Kim McAllister is a Journalist & Communications Consultant and director of Impact Online


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