It’s always great to hear a business success story. But you won’t often hear one as interesting as Josh Bolland’s.
At the ripe age of 18, he joined arms with his technically-minded brother Ollie, and together they founded JB Cole, a transformational digital technology agency. 10 years on and the business is still going strong.
We were lucky enough to pin Josh down for our Adam Asks podcast. Here’s what he had to say on growing his business from such a young age.
Plus, as he recently became the Manchester Chair of BIMA, a national digital community, we also discussed the value of networking and how being a part of a business community can supercharge progress.
Becoming a Business Wunderkind
Since being a teenager, Josh has always been keen to explore his skillsets and try new things. First, he dabbled in graphic design. Myspace was big in those days and Josh got a kick out of creating customised layouts for the social media site. It evolved into his first business.
After a time though, he realised graphic design wasn’t his calling. So he tried his hand at photography instead. One of his friends used to record grime music in his garage and Josh took pictures for the artists’ album covers. This soon became business number two.
With a thirst for bigger challenges, Josh decided to change direction and he kickstarted a visual graphic-based business in London. His brother, Ollie, joined him after finishing university. He wanted to be a writer but soon found that helping Josh run the business was excitement and work enough!
Owing to Ollie’s technical skills and Josh’s strong sense of business, the company eventually morphed into a web-based agency. JB Cole began to offer clients more and more complex technical builds and the agency grew from strength to strength.
10 years on and JB Cole has established a strong presence in London and North West England and the future continues to look bright. For budding entrepreneurs, we asked him what tips he could share on becoming successful at such a young age.
Josh’s Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
When Josh first started out, he was usually the youngest person at networking events. This was in itself daunting, but there was also the added pressure of convincing older peers to take him seriously (or at least it seemed like that).
However, after attending a few events, he got more confident and less anxious about starting new conversations. Which is why he advises young people who are just starting out to “push past the nerves and get a few events under your belt”.
“And above all else, don’t focus on your inexperience,” says Josh. “Instead, work hard to do a fantastic job no matter your level. Because as long as you’re doing your best, you’re delivering value.”
“Honesty is worth its weight in gold too,” he continues. “Being open with people from the beginning that you don’t have a lot of experience shows you’re authentic. Your clients will appreciate your honesty and respect you more.”
Harnessing the Power of a Business Community Through Networking
If there’s one thing Josh could pin the business’ success on, it would be the network he’s built along the way.
For him, it started with working alongside external advisors. Having that third person to bounce ideas off was especially useful when Josh and his brother couldn’t agree on something. And when their team grew, Josh and Ollie were able to rely on their input to consistently do the best thing for the business.
Things really got exciting when Josh and Ollie launched an office in Manchester and joined BIMA (which Adam is also a member of), a national digital community brimming with value.
Some of the most influential people in the digital arena are BIMA members and they usually attend its many networking groups. Tag along to an event and you could be getting growth tips from business legends - as Josh did.
He told us how BIMA and other large communities were integral to the success of his company: “People are so willing to help you as new starters. Joining such events is a groundbreaking tactic to progress. With a network of well-established business leaders and advisors at your disposal, opportunities will come flooding in, as they did for me.”
Zoom in on today and Josh is now the Manchester Chair of BIMA. His advice to those wanting to get involved?
“Anyone is welcome to join a BIMA breakfast meeting. Around 70 to 100 business leaders and entrepreneurs attend and the insight you can gain from one session alone is remarkable. All you need to do is throw yourself in feet first. The more you participate the more you’ll get out of it.”
Josh’s Final Tip for Business Growth
“In the end, it’s all about perseverance. If you believe in your business and are passionate about it, you just need to keep going and try your best.
“Every business owner experiences the highest of highs and lowest of lows. If you can weather the bad times and still move forward, success will be yours for the taking.”
You can listen to the full podcast with Josh here - you won’t regret it!