There are plenty of huge agencies out there currently which work with brands to effectively mimic their offline marketing efforts online or aim to compete with other large brands for ad space. But in these large companies, where channels are siloed – and little real human to human communication exists – creativity is stifled and, in some cases, their resource is not best utilised.

When it comes to digital, it’s easy to chuck a lot of money at a campaign and expect it to work. For some, it will, but for real success, a personable and collaborative way of working with the client comes out on top. This is especially true when smaller companies are in need of digital marketing but do not have the budget corporate agencies demand. One company aiming to make that change is a startup called Curated.

We spoke to Simon Douglass, the company’s founder, to learn more…

So tell us in your words what your company is and what it does?

Curated has grown into a vibrant, forward-thinking agency with an innovative approach to digital marketing. In 2014, The Guardian shortlisted us for Start Up of the Year and me for Leader of the year. We work very collaboratively as a team and believe in full transparency in our communication with our clients. We have a very honest approach to digital marketing and tell clients what works and what doesn’t.

What’s its USP?

In order to achieve the referral rate we have received, we have put a lot of time and effort into the work we do for each client. One of the main things that we do is create a personalised service for the clients. This level of flexibility is something a lot of agencies do not cater to. For us, a good relationship with the client is essential and we’re always actively looking to maintain this throughout our work with them.

What about your personal background?

Leaving behind a long and fruitful career at Google, I didn’t want to be so far removed from the clients I was working with and aimed to cut out the middleman. Agency life was the natural progression as it allowed for me to work more with business owners on digital marketing, which was what I essentially wanted to do.

What inspired you to start the company?

I had known for a long time that I wanted to be my own boss, so when I saw a gap in the market which other digital agencies had failed to fill, Curated Digital was born. With my business ethos and big dreams in tow, I started my journey of winning new clients and growing my business.  Agency life exposed me to a whole new side of digital marketing which was relatively new to me but it came to a point where I didn’t feel like I wanted to be managed by people whom I felt couldn’t impact the the business as much as he did, so four years later I decided to take the leap and form my own company.

What is the story of the company from launch until now? How big is the company now?

Curated started life as just me and one other colleague in a shared office. Since then we’ve grown to be 15 strong and are winning new clients every month. We’ve now taken over a full 2 floored office which we are working to transform into our own space to meet clients, relax and work.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your company?

We’ve had a couple of people leave the business because a toxic environment was becoming apparent. It was stifling people, so I had to take action quite quickly. As I do try to believe in people, I gave them opportunities to change but after a time it was apparent that that wasn’t going to happen, so we agreed to part ways, but I tried to help them along with the next stage in their career, even though it didn’t work out at Curated.

What’s your biggest milestone/ which are you most proud of?

I think where we are at right now – 3 years in, 15 great people, an office in Old Street, starting to get recognition in terms of award nominations, and attracting more digital marketing briefs from bigger companies. There are many times in the day when I just reflect on how we’ve grown, and I feel immensely proud.

What is your business model? How have you monetised your product?

We work on a retainer basis with our clients, charging by the hour. They will pay for a monthly retainer of work which we will use accordingly. We always report back on what is working well and advise clients where they’re budget should be going to optimise for their goals.

What’s the next step for growth – is the intention to grow the business independently, or look for an exit via acquisition or similar?

The honest answer is that I’m not sure at the present time. Curated has been profitable every month for 3 years and we’re continuing to grow. It really depends on what we do next with regards to our service offerings and whether we develop any products. In which case we may look at an exit

Will you be looking for more funding?

Not at the moment, but to the point above, if we go down the route of developing a product or more specific services, then potentially yes