Welcome to Residents of Rewired! It’s an occasional series about some of the interesting residents we have nestled in our new Auckland co-working space. We chat to them about their ventures, their passions, some fascinating facts, and what makes them tick.
We chat to Ross Cockton from Limesharp about his 10-year journey in the world of tech and e-commerce.
Tell me a bit about your story
I own a digital agency based in London with my business partner, Ed Bull. We create e-commerce websites for luxury fashion and beauty brands. We’re recognised in industry for both our design and technical capabilities. Our approach to understanding our clients and their customer base to find the perfect digital solution. We work with a wide range of clients, from start-ups to global business, to help tell their story and trade online.
We bought the business about 1o years ago from the previous owner. At the time, Ed was the designer and I was a project manager. After I’d been working there for about a year, the owner decided he wanted to move out of London, and he was going to close the business if we didn’t want to buy it. We basically had to choose between losing our jobs, or buying the business. We were 23 years old, and it was our first job in London out of university, so it was an interesting, if not a daunting offer. We went to the pub and made the decision to buy the business – it only took one pint!
The next step was to get our heads around managing and running an e-commerce agency. We knew we could do the work, but we had a lot to learn about business at the time. The first three or four years were hard, working 12-14 hour days and weekends. Eventually we found our feet and discovered our sweet spot for clients. We like working with brands who want to tell a story in the fashion and beauty industry. We’ve had the privilege of working with some incredibly creative owners, entrepreneurs, and brands such as ME+EM, Jo Loves (by Jo Malone), Grenson Shoes, Nails Inc, Erdem and Heidi Klein.
A roller-coaster journey
Fast-forward ten years, we now have an office in London with client services, design and development teams. We have a developer hub in Buenos Aires, as well as myself in Auckland. We also have a business advisor, who has been invaluable in helping us to focus on our business goals. As a small business owner and ex-CFO, he’s been through it all before and helps to put things in perspective when the going gets tough.
Owning a business is very much like a roller-coaster, with difficult situations to deal with as well as the enjoyable moments, which you really have to take advantage of. With this business we have managed to travel around the world attending or sponsoring events, conferences and even boat parties. We’ve met inspirational business owners and partners, and we have delivered work we are all proud of. Now it’s time to do it all over again in New Zealand.
We’ve always had a tight team in London, so setting up my new life and expanding the business in New Zealand, I knew I needed to find a co-working space with people in the tech industry. This is why I chose Rewired. It’s been great so far – so great that I’ve just become a permanent resident this week. The vibe is exactly what I wanted – what you would expect to find in a creative agency or start up. What I particularly like is that it has an incubator type feel, with lots of talks and opportunities to get business advice and tips from peers. The facilities here are awesome – there are lots of meeting rooms, good vibes and a great culture.
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about being in the tech industry?
Technology is changing almost daily. Every few years, there are major shifts in e-commerce technology. In particular the way consumers are shopping online and the various devices they purchase from. This means we have to really try and anticipate what’s coming, so we can upskill the team. We have to ensure we’re offering the best service so we don’t lose clients by being behind the curve.
We really value research and development, and we encourage our developers to improve their skills through hackathons and coding meetups. We also let them take some risks with our own tech. We throw a lot of time and money into the way we’re building our new headless ecommerce platform, based on Magento and Shopify. A massive part of winning new clients is our ability to keep up and be ahead of the latest advancements in e-commerce technology.
What is the biggest risk you have ever taken that has paid off?
Buying the business at the age of 23. We had no experience of owning a business, so we worked with our friends and family who have their own businesses to help us figure out how we were going to run it. The biggest risk was that the previous owner had left with all his knowledge and he was the relationship owner with the clients. The real pay-off came when we started to receive requests from major London-based fashion and beauty brands who recognised our work and wanted Limesharp to help them achieve better online sales and conversion. Once the site goes live and objectives and targets are hit, it’s a great feeling to know that we have created value for our client.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Take on professional-level business advice. A lot of startup owners have specialist skills particular to their industry. However, they may not have the wide range of business skills needed to move from a 2-3 person company up to 10 or 20 and beyond. Our advisor is an ex-financial director, and he’s turned into a kind of mentor. Advisors have the knowledge and may see the bigger picture more clearly. In addition, we partner with an HR specialist, a legal team, accountants, and technical and delivery consultants; they are like an extended part of Limesharp and we would not be able to function without them.