Business Journey: James Palliser of Digital Converters
Digital Converters enables its customers to preserve their precious memories using digital technologies in a rapidly changing world. The company has grown organically since 2016 and now employs a staff of 25 with a turnover in excess of £1m. Its Founder and Director James Palliser shares his business journey.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Digital Converters is an on-demand service digitising media stored on old magnetic tapes, film, photos and audio equipment. In just five years the company, which we started as a side project, has grown to employing 25 staff locally, with revenues of over £1m.
With many people working mostly from home in the Orwellian future we find ourselves in, and families being separated and unable to contact each other face-to-face, we have noticed an increase in the demand for preserving and sharing memories as a means to connect the family and raise people’s spirits whilst reminiscing in old memories (Pre-2020).
What did you do before you started this business?
Sean and I are mechanical engineering graduates local to Ripon, North Yorkshire and founded the business in 2016 whilst seeking engineering roles after university. The job market was so competitive in our field and we needed something to do in the meantime.
We spent time consuming information online, talking with experts and building our own knowledge so that we were well-equipped to develop our service to the high standards expected in the digitisation industry.
Whilst we had no previous experience in professional digitisation, we felt that there was a much-needed media niche that proved a more rewarding career path than we initially expected. It turned out there was a bigger market than we expected and there was a big opportunity for a professional digitisation service to establish in the UK market.
What inspired you to start up?
With older media formats becoming harder to play and watch, due to deterioration or lack of reliable equipment, we created a service that would bridge analogue media to digital. Whether for personal family memories, cultural heritage or legacy corporate archives, Digital Converters proved that valuable media could be safely preserved forever.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Initially when we set up, pretty much everything we learnt was from Google. There are so many great resources for setting up an e-commerce business. As the company has grown, we’ve learnt how beneficial it can be to outsource work in areas that is not our exact field of expertise. We must have a very broad understanding of how all processes work in the business, but to manage successfully, we cannot dedicate all of our time and energy to one specific section of the business.
As a self-funded startup, we have never had the resources to hire experts full time (marketing, business development, accounting, HR) but have found working with relevant consultants to point us in the right direction beneficial. This way we can learn about the respective areas of scaling a business, whilst applying the knowledge of individuals with far more specific experience than ourselves.
How did you access any finance you needed?
We’ve been completely self-funded and are yet to use any external financing.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
The most satisfying thing so far has been building a unique work environment and culture which is something I’ve found lacking in most workplaces. We still have many ways we can improve, but our team is exciting, energetic and passionate about contributing to a fresh and growing company.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Our price, service time, customer support, transfer quality and experience are all market-leading when compared to any competitors. We are handling particularly precious material with immense sentimental value and our customers are concerned about the potential loss of their irreplaceable memories.
We have a heavy focus on customer service and regular communication with every customer. We track every order through our system, updating customers in real time throughout the process. We prioritise customer support, being available via email, live chat and on the phone and have a satisfaction guarantee, meaning that we will do everything possible to ensure each customer is satisfied with their order.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
It’s great to have the freedom to make your own decisions and grow the business in a way you think is best, but this also comes with quite a lot of responsibility and the need to be very self-motivated. Having a job that is always different is great; every day there is a new problem to solve and something that requires a creative solution. So, in a way this is the most satisfying thing, knowing that no single day is the same and there is always a new problem to get stuck in to. Previous jobs I’ve worked in became quite boring once you understand the role and the work is no longer challenging.
Where do you see your business in five years’ time?
Digital Converters will be the only established company to offer large scale digitisation solutions of analogue media commercially, and will continue to improve our customer service over this period.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say just go for it if you think you can, and don’t follow the expectations and pressures of society to go through university and standard education routes. You won’t get a lot of support if you want to do anything against the norm, so if you have an itch to start something on your own, go for it. Seek the advice of people who are constructive and supportive of your goals and ignore the voices of others that aren’t.