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10 years of Wibble

Wibble outline logo on dark blue backgroud
By Paudie Fearon 18 October, 20236 MIN READ
All the Wibbler's we have today at Wibble

This is an exceptionally personal blog post from me. I am the founder and managing director of Wibble and reaching ten years in business is not something that I thought we would reach, at the start. I am quite tough on myself and self-deprecating but there is a bubbling of pride in me as I write this post celebrating this milestone. Below are a few key moments in the last ten years of Wibble.

start of the journey

I had lived in New Zealand for a number of years with my now wife and worked for an amazing strategic communications agency called SweeneyVesty – the studio was very busy but it was hugely enjoyable and I learned tons. I certainly owe a debt of gratitude to Brian Sweeney, Jane Vesty and my then manager, Carla Hofler – they all demonstrated an approach to client management that was truly second to none. Working for a global agency, like SweeneyVesty , with huge clients all across the world was a huge learning opportunity for me and certainly instilled in me a desire to produce work to this level and to look after clients in this way, should I ever go out on my own.

On returning to Ireland to get married, I decided to try my hand at freelance with little hope of making a success of it but I thought it was “worth a punt”. The early days were tough and I mean tough and I have nobody to blame but myself as I did everything that you should not do when starting a business – I had no business plan, no marketing plan, no savings, no fallback plan, my pricing was wrong, my messaging was wrong, my target customer was the wrong choice, my chosen tech stack was wrong, I overstretched in my services – you name a mistake an early business can make and I made it.

In the early days I was busy but barely making minimum wage and working 6 or 7 days a week to try and get the business off the ground but I, truthfully, had no idea what I was doing and how I would turn it around.

Turning point

I remember the exact day, I knew something had to change. It was in 2016 and myself and my wife, who was pregnant with our first child, went to Newcastle for the day. We decided to get dinner there and I said I would go to the ATM to get cash out but unknown to me a licence for gravity forms had been renewed overnight and it had taken about £100 out of my account (I was using my personal account as my sole trader account as another example of not knowing what I was doing) and I got the dreaded “Insufficient funds” alert. I was so embarrassed and angry with myself but that was the day I decided to do something about it. I started to look for business support or coaching, basically, anything that could help me turn this around – I still thought there were the bones of a good business there but the fundamentals were wrong.

Business accelerator hub

Our shared office space in the business hub, Belfast
Our shared office space in the business hub, Belfast

I was exceptionally lucky to discover and get accepted to the Entrepreneurial Spark Programme now known as Ulster Bank Accelerator. With that program, I got help, support and mentorship from the Team – John Ferris, Gabi Burnside and Matthew Teague. With some proper mentorship and guidance along with networking and an environment for entrepreneurship, I started to make fundamental changes to the business and also to myself. Simply put, if it wasn’t for the hub, Wibble would have closed a long time ago.

Wibblers

I have a great sense of pride in employing people – it’s not something I had set out to do, I was adamant I would never employ people, but over time it became clear that if I wanted the business to be as good and take on the scale of projects I wanted to, I would have to employ people. We now have a team of web designers, web developers, project managers and support agents and they are, really a great bunch of people that I’d be lost without. I’d like to thank our current team and past Wibblers for all their efforts in getting Wibble to where we are today.

The Wibblers 5 Years ago
The Wibblers 5 Years ago
All the Wibbler's we have today at Wibble
All the Wibblers we have today at Wibble

Growth and our own space

I’m not going to bore you all with marketing plans and different things I put in place to improve the business, but over time and with fundamental changes to almost every facet of the business, it started to turn around and, finally, we were profitable with a good pipeline of work lined up.

Our new Wibble HQ - a web design firm in Belfast
Our studio space in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

In late 2019, I was lucky enough to find a studio space in the fantastic Cathedral Quarter section of Belfast. We are slap bang in the middle of the bustling creative and cultural heart of Belfast and I think the area was the correct place for us to set up shop. We made significant investments in improving and developing the space to make it a studio that the Wibblers want to work in and this is continuing.

Making Wibble Better

I am determined to make Wibble the best web design studio in Ireland and a big part of that is the initiative I have introduced called “Making Wibble Better” – it’s a series of changes I have made and continue to make to the overall business to improve us in many different ways. You can learn about it on our Making Wibble Better blog post.

Future plans

I can’t look to the future without first thanking everyone who helped me, in any way at all, to move Wibble forward and for it to be recognised as one of the best web design studios in Belfast while we’re developing a reputation as a leading studio across the island of Ireland.

I am exceptionally driven to take Wibble to the next level, we are already picking up clients that I never would have dreamed of even a number of years ago and we have plans in place to move more into the Dublin, London and USA market. Wibble have carried out some amazing work and I am obsessed with improving the work we do with every passing project – a constant system of reviewing and improving as we strive for progress.

The team are more than capable of making us global leaders in WordPress design and development and I am excited to see this and exceptionally proud of them all.

I wrote a similar blog post when Wibble made it to 5 years: Five Years of Wibble and my future plans then were deliberately vague as I wasn’t sure what the future would bring. I’m much more confident in our abilities to deliver and we have the team to put my plans in place. One nice thing I noticed is the three team members I had in the 5 year blog post are all still working with Wibble, another thing I am proud of.

Finally, I’d like to say thanks to the support from my wife, Aisling. We have two kids who were born after Wibble had started and she has supported me every step of the way. My family provides me with the motivation to push myself every day. I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without the support and guidance Aisling has provided.


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Wibble outline logo on dark blue backgroud

Paudie Fearon

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