Lawson Willett is a second-generation business owner, having taken over his father’s highly-successful printing firm in 2016. But taking on this established company with its roots in the local economy didn’t mean Lawson didn’t himself possess a genuine entrepreneurial spirit. And while the business continues to produce everything from a single business card to million-plus runs of colour literature and magazines, Lawson’s own focus move even further towards the digital.
“Today’s technology is quite literally staggering”, he says. “Back in the early days of print, everything was incredibly labour-intensive. It involved sketches and film, bromides, proofs, densitometers and print rooms full of equipment.
“Much of that still remains, but not everything – our own work has long been computerised in terms of proofs and communications, and the rise of quality digital printing was a game-changer. But as recently as fifteen years ago we couldn’t have imagined we’d be walking around with the whole of Google or Wikipedia in our pockets – smartphones, tablets and the Internet of Things have changed our lives forever. What they can do for business in the future is unbelievably exciting!”
Part of the generation brought up on iTunes, TED Talks and TWiT, but still understanding the power of business built on relationships, Lawson turned his attention to the future, tapping into new developments while continuing to make his customers’ businesses work smarter, and more efficiently.
His two latest projects combine the rise of digital technology with supporting business. The NewsDesk utilises trend-led newsfeed services for clients to position them as thought leaders in their industries, providing constant social media and e-newsletter contact; and the other is the No1 Business Centre in Gloucester, the new entrepreneurs’ hub for business support for small and new businesses in the centre of town.
“What struck me when I started talking to people about my idea for the No.1 was how many people asked me whether they could rent space, flexibly, having already bought into the idea of a professional and supportive environment surrounded by like-minded business people. If we could find enough complementary businesses to fill the place, bouncing ideas off one another and offering each other’s services to their contacts –
even contracting them themselves – we were onto a winner for the local economy.”
Today, services on offer range from simple hourly co-working to using the No.1 as a registered address (about half the cost of most other routes), from events to full-on annual office contracts, joining several other established local businesses believing the centre as the right place to be based. Add to that meeting rooms for two people up to 30 seated or more for a function, lunchtime nibbles and outside speakers, all within the converted and renovated Gardiners Leather Factory on Alvin Street (near the Gloucestershire Archives) and you’re getting a picture.
“I half killed myself in the early days, ripping down ceilings, mending windows, painting walls into the night, at least until I ran out of steam and my first child made his appearance,” Lawson continues. “Since then we’ve had teams of professionals bringing the wonderful old place to life.
“My long-term dream is to expand the No.1 concept across the country, with a special focus appropriate to each location. In the short-term, we want to help local entrepreneurs tap into the facilities and the skills we’ve got in place. We can offer professional sales and marketing, writing, back office functionality from financial to virtual assistants – there’s even as much coffee and tea as you can drink!
“Co-working, hot-desking in a business-like and friendly environment, without punishing long-term financial commitment is surely the way forward for small business.
“We look forward to meeting more like-minded entrepreneurs soon!”