Today I talk to someone who has already achieved what I aspire to, and at a younger age! At just 29, Andy has already built a sizeable company from the ground up and exited profitably.

Andy is now on his second venture Digital Quokka as an SEO consultant, but before starting this venture, Andy went from backpacking and bar work to co-founding and growing a multi-million pound venture.

In this interview, we cover Andy’s amazing journey, where he is now and the next steps for this entrepreneur’s career.

Q1) Nobody really trains to be an SEO expert; can you tell us a little about your educational background?

Happily Lost for Direction After High School

I left school in 2009 and went straight to the University of Nottingham to study archaeology and ancient history. This was due to me following one of the worst pieces of advice I’ve ever listened to.

The head of 6th form at school told me just to just study something I enjoy, rather than focusing on a degree that leads to a specific job.

This was somewhat to the dismay of my parents, who I remember saying “no do something more useful”. But I have no regrets about my degree choice, I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot.

An Early Interest in Marketing

I actually started taking an interest in marketing during my Uni years though. For example, Doritos used to do a competition every year where they asked people to film their own ad. The winner received something like £100k and so I gave it a shot.

However, my ad was just so terrible and embarrassing… In fact I’ve actually taken it down from YouTube now it was so bad!

Also WKD used to do a series of funny adverts, and I was watching one and thought there was a way I could make it better. So I emailed into WKD telling them I thought their latest one wasn’t very funny and gave them ideas to improve it.

Looking back on that I cringe at the arrogance, but they sent me a free crate of WKD so not bad for a student! I kept playing around with ideas like that but didn’t have any clue that I’d ever get into marketing professionally.

Q2) What was your next move after graduating?

I did what every graduate does who doesn’t have a clue what to do… I went into recruitment.

I was promised all this money, a great lifestyle and everything that comes with it. I learned so much about sales, targets and the like, but it was really cut throat. Basically, to the point where if you missed target for even 1 month you were in the firing line.

As much as I hated it I learned a lot in sales there, and I’d recommend anyone to do it for a year if you’re going to need sales in life.

Q3) Where did you end up after you’d left your sales job?

Coming to America

I had always wanted to go to America and so I decided to do this via Camp America. So I applied to Camp America and CCUSA, however they all told me I was past the deadline and I would have to try again the following year.

So rather than just give up, what I did was directly contact camps that these 3rd party organisations would place you in. I arranged my own job and set up my own visa, I just had to get Camp America or CCUSA to sponsor the visa (which they did for a fee).

Enjoying life in the USA!

A Huge Stroke of Luck

However, this is where I really lucked out, as these intermediaries kept pushing to set up my US bank account for me. I said no as all I needed them for was the visa sponsorship and I was setting everything else up myself.

It turns out the reason they do this is so they can instruct the camps to pay them and they take a huge cut before paying you.

Because I’d organized everything myself I got paid around £3000 for the few months I was there compared to around £700 for people who had organized through these intermediaries.

I wrote a blog post about it and there was a bit of uproar with these intermediaries trying to get it taken down. I took it down eventually, but I’m sure I was able to help a good few people while it was live.

Q4) So You Were Back in Britain – What was the next move?

When I returned home, I was working a bar job to get by while I decided on my next move.

I contacted an old school friend of mine who had set up a company selling steel doors when he was 16. I remember when he went to set that up and I kind of said “good luck mate, I’m off to Uni”

He started the company on eBay, and was one of the first people to really set up a professional template back when most stores were very amateur. It is now a multi-million pound business and he’s done fantastically well.

I basically told him that I was bored, didn’t want to work in a bar anymore and asked if we could meet up for a chat. It was good timing! Turns out a lot of people who buy from his steel door company also enquire about roller shutters.

And that was the start of it, myself my friend and his dad all co-founded a roller shutters company. We had around £8k seed money, set up a website and started trading.

Q5) Take us Through the Early Days of Your Business – How Did it Progress and Grow?

Humble Beginnings

Like all romantic startup stories it was literally us in a living room with a computer and a phone. I taught myself WordPress and built a website for the company, we had an agency in to do PPC for us initially but I learned on the job doing all our SEO.

Rejected at the First Hurdle

At first when we approached other companies in the roller shutter space to negotiate deals to supply products they wouldn’t take us seriously. However, we kept our heads down and kept working on the business.

Because these big companies wouldn’t work with us what we did was simply go to smaller companies from page 5/6 of Google, buy their product and put a markup on it.

We actually had to get their products shipped into our warehouse, remove their branding and then apply our own to it before shipping it back out.

What a Mistake Rejecting Us!

After around a year of working on the SEO, ranking on page 1 (above those big companies who rejected us for supply), we were turning over £2.5 to 3 million annually.

A huge deal of that revenue was simply down to good SEO and being in front of the buyers eyes before the competition. The fact we were reselling other people’s product with a markup just goes to show the power of organic visibility.

UK Roller Shutters Graduated From Its Living Room Beginnings

Q6) Being at the Top of Google Is an Amazing Boost, but Was That the Only Factor to Your Success?

No definitely not, in the early days we pretty much had a motto – don’t say no to anything. We would take almost any order or request that came through.

One example in the early days is when someone asked us to supply a steel roller shutter with perspex windows in it. We of course said yes as you see them everywhere. It turns out it’s only aluminium shutters that are supplied with these as standard.

Rather than turn the order down we got in a steel shutter with the holes, ordered perspex and industrial glue and inserted the windows one by one in my friend’s living room. It was this sort of scrappy can-do attitude that kept the sales rolling in!

Another Lucky Break

Just through being ranked in Google we were approached by a billionaire from Hong Kong.

The individual has a house on an island that is consistently hit by typhoons and requested shutters which are rustproof, watertight, typhoon resistant and have fly screens which could be down when the shutters are up.

To be honest, when the person approached us initially, I didn’t take the request seriously. Anyone with a business is used to scam requests from overseas customers for elaborate products – usually with a credit card chargeback shortly after delivery.

However, the individual actually flew over to the UK in their private jet, met with us and took us over to the property in Hong Kong to assess the job and give a price.

Andy on His Way to Hong Kong

The problem (like before) was that nobody sold anything which met those criteria. So it was another custom job and a lot of finger crossing, this time combining suppliers in Spain and Germany to create the finished product.

The customer floated us around £200k upfront, which in the industry is totally unheard of. That money is essentially what we used to grow and scale the company to the multi-million pound turnover it achieved.

Off the back of that customer and their contacts, in addition to frequent trips out east, we build a huge export business which is still sustained to this day.

Q7) At what Stage did you Exit the Company and Why?

After a number of years in the business my role slowly grew further and further away from any sort of marketing.

The money was very good, but I was frequently dragged into the management of our staff, HR issues and other related activities, which isn’t where I wanted to be.

So I took the decision to sell my shares to the other owners, exit and make a move back into a completely marketing-focused direction. It was a completely amicable exit and I still work happily with the company today as a consultant.

However, at the time on paper, it seemed like a crazy choice!

Q8) So Was the Next Move Onto Digital Quokka After Exiting the Business?

Not immediately, I wanted to get some experience with a really top-notch SEO and marketing agency first. It was actually a frustration of mine, nobody seemed to be able to answer the question “What would you do for a client who is already #1 for all their keywords”.

I wanted to find an agency who worked in that space and made a difference at the very highest level of SEO.

So I found a position at Croud, an agency I can’t speak highly enough of. They take big data in SEO to another level and it was a real privilege to work with such intelligent and innovative marketers.

I was able to be a part huge experimental marketing campaigns, finding gains where other agencies would stall and working on technical SEO on a world-class level.

It was definitely a move that enriched my client management experience, allowed me to learn from some fantastic individuals, and then move on to launch my own consultancy.

Q9) Tell Us About Digital Quokka and the Direction for This New Business

The agency is at the moment a single person consultancy run by myself, I want to take ownership of accounts and provide a really in-depth and personable service.

With the experience I have as head of marketing at my own successful company and running large scale campaigns at Croud I’m really confident in being a high-worth asset to any company.

SEO is my forte and what I’ve worked at for the longest, although in the last couple of years, I’ve had the chance to increase my PPC skills drastically and work on some really valuable campaigns.

I take a lot of pride in detailed reporting, being available to my clients when they need me. I make sure they know exactly where their money is going and the impact it’s having.

Too many agencies simply take their retainer money and don’t give much back in the way of transparency – that’s not what Digital Quokka is about.

Q10) Finally, Can You Provide Us With Your Top SEO Tip for 2020?

Optimising for the user’s intent is key in 2020, as it has been in recent years. Now this is nothing new, a lot of people are aware of the concept but don’t actually take measurable action to implement the theory.

What I recommend doing is using a combination of Scrapebox and Screaming Frog to gather SERP data for all the keywords a client wants to rank for and is perhaps currently in position 11-15.

Pull the data for these keywords and analyse the top 3 results on page 1 for for each query. Sometimes you get nothing out of the ordinary, but in many cases you will find the intent of your content is completely off.

Too many people try and push pages higher with links when they’re fighting against the grain.

Therefore with some content adjustments, you can align your page to what Google thinks users are looking for. In more cases than not, you can make really good ranking increases using this technique.

Where to Find Andy

If you’re interested in finding out more about what Andy is up to you can follow him on Twitter or head to his agency website: