There’s no doubt about it, it’s been a difficult couple of years for economic growth. Globally, big business has been making tough calls, often deciding where to cut staff and how to repurpose and survive. However, one young entrepreneur, Liam Quirk, 24, from Merseyside, UK, is bucking the trend to harness opportunities to thrive for his self-financed SEO agency, ‘Quirky Digital’. He attributes investing in young, hungry staff who share his vision and have nothing to lose as a recipe for its success.
How did the idea for Quirky Digital come into being?
Back in May 2020, loads of digital marketing agencies went bust. It was like a forest fire that destroyed all the dead wood. While others were taking furlough money and laying off staff, I was grinding away. I couldn’t do any networking because everything was closed. So I did everything I could do at that point. I was direct messaging people on Instagram, calling up local businesses, and making the most of what I had to get the business off the ground. Most companies cut their marketing budgets when we went into lockdown. I bet on myself.
As a company, we have defied the challenging economic conditions of starting up in a global pandemic. Quirky was bootstrapped, I put in £4,000 of my own savings; not taking a penny out of the business for the first five months. We now have more than twenty-five retained clients in sectors as varied as accountancy, professional services, healthcare, law, and retail and are on track to turnover £500,000 by mid-year.
What factors helped you get started?
I didn’t have a choice. I’d always considered myself an “underachiever” at school, having left at 16 with three GCSEs and two BTECs. However, my first job was as an apprentice and I’ve been able to find great young people through the Government apprentice scheme, which has helped the business adapt, scale, and grow.”
My first employee, Ben Duffy, grew up on a council estate and told me he is driven by wanting to make something of himself. In Lockdown, he worked in Home & Bargains stacking shelves. His dad passed away during COVID and that was his wake-up call. He applied for the Government apprentice scheme. Now, 18 months later, he is in a senior position within the business.
What were your non-negotiable business values when you started?
Quirky’s values are hungry, innovative, loyal, creative, and direct. These come across when you meet me and my young, motivated team. Staying ahead of the latest SEO strategies so clients don’t have to, ask any of our clients and they’ll tell you we provide “SEO without the BS”.
We also have values we expect from our clients. We love ambitious businesses that want to grow. By sharing this hunger, we know we can do a good job and increase clients’ online visibility, rank them at the top of Google and supercharge their sales revenues.
The agency has gone from a standing start to reaching profitability, having scaled up without external investment and maintaining ownership values and vision.
What advantages have you seen from the UK Government’s apprenticeships scheme when finding talent?
As part of the journey, we wanted to nurture young, diverse talent and took on two Government apprentices. We’ve even moved offices four times to accommodate our expanding team and delivered fantastic results for happy clients. I went down the apprentice route because they’ve got hunger and something to prove. They’re there because they want to work and they want to learn. They’re my kind of people.
SEO isn’t a new concept to businesses but is ever-changing. How do you innovate to adapt to this?
We pride ourselves on always being ahead of the curve in terms of optimizing websites and algorithms. Networking with industry counterparts abroad and learning the latest, newly proven SEO strategies that competitors in the UK haven’t picked up yet is key to our strategy. This allows us to be proactive rather than reactive to Google’s algorithm updates, keeping clients on the front foot.
Unlike competitors, we only work with one business per sector, putting all our energy into getting that one company to the top of Google search.
We also invest heavily in the latest SEO tools and technologies, committing nearly 10% of turnover to enterprise-level software solutions and AI-powered tools.
Looking back over the last two years, what have been the proudest moments on your journey?
For me, it’s being able to create six aspirational jobs for young people in Liverpool during the biggest economic downturn seen since WW2.
I was also shortlisted for the Young Businessperson of the Year by the Echo Regional Business Awards. It was great to take the whole team out and collectively celebrate and recognize our successes.
What makes your business/ you stand out from your competitors?
With an average age of 23, our team’s edge comes from the firepower generated by a workforce determined to succeed, motivated by more than just turning up to a ‘nine to five’.
What are your development plans for the next 12 months?
Since January 1st, 2022, we have taken on thirteen new clients, over half of our client base. We have a wait list of clients that want to start in the next three months. I’m supported by a business coach and Quirky has a business plan in place to grow further and maintain the excellent service levels enjoyed by clients. These plans include: Recruiting another SEO Executive; a turnover target of £500,000 within six months, adding an additional two members of staff to the business and forging strategic B2B partnerships with businesses such as PR agency Tuesday Media and other digital agencies.