How a different mindset gave Melissa Roberts the edge when setting up Beanie Media

Young aspiring entrepreneurs should get as much experience in the relevant industry that they’re looking to set up a business in, according to the co-founder of a digital start-up.

Melissa Roberts left her apprenticeship in 2018, when she was just 18, to set up web design agency Beanie Media. The now 20-year-old says she has always had a mature mindset and knew she wanted to run her own business from a very early age.

“I’ve always thought about things differently,” she told The Yorkshire Post. “I’ll drive past a massive company and just wonder about it. I’d think about business all the time.”

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Her father has run a string of businesses and her auntie is also an entrepreneur. However, when she’d finished school Ms Roberts’ family wanted her to go on to do A-Levels at college rather than enrol on a more vocational course.

Melissa Roberts launched web design agency Beanie Media at the age of 18. Picture: Scott Merrylees

“There’s a lot of stigma around doing a BTEC, that it’s not as good as an A-Level,” she said. “They thought that I could achieve more than a BTEC.”

Following three months of A-Level, she dropped out and decided to pursue more vocational training after all.

The idea of being able to work for two to three days a week at a local web development agency alongside her studies really appealed to Ms Roberts.

In January 2018, Ms Roberts took up an apprenticeship with Huddersfield-based marketing agency KC Communications and even though she didn’t complete the apprenticeship, the entrepreneur found the training invaluable when it comes to understanding business processes.

Melissa Roberts launched web design agency Beanie Media at the age of 18. Picture: Scott Merrylees

The reason why Ms Roberts left the apprenticeship early was she had started conversations about setting up a business with Daniel Atkinson.

“We had all the same ideas,” she said. “Meeting Dan was like meeting another me so we decided to do it.”

That’s how Beanie Media, which is based in Denby Dale, was formed in July 2018. But starting a business from scratch was not easy for the young duo.

Given that they were both only 18 years old, convincing people of their ability to deliver on projects was a challenge.

Melissa Roberts launched web design agency Beanie Media at the age of 18. Picture: Scott Merrylees

Ms Roberts said: “Eventually, I just thought we’re young, we’re different, everybody looks at us as being different so let’s embrace it.”

The co-founder of Beanie Media says that the idea of running businesses is on the rise amongst her peers.

She said: “It’s seen as being quite cool. It’s getting to the point where everyone wants to do it, especially with the likes of Instagram, it looks fun.”

While encouraging others to also go down the same path that she has, Ms Roberts also cautions about the ups and downs that a start-up faces.

Melissa Roberts launched web design agency Beanie Media at the age of 18. Picture: Scott Merrylees

She said: “For us there have been times where we’ve had the best morning ever, amazing things are happening, but then you might have the worst afternoon ever. Or you might go through a phase of three months of not getting any new clients and you start to question yourself. Can I do this job? Am I right for this industry?

“Then what you’ve been working so hard towards will finally pay off and you’ll be like ‘I love my job’. It’s very up and down and it can be so easy to get disheartened.”

One particular low point came after their client yboo went into administration.

“I stayed in my house for six weeks after that just because the financial hit was so heavy,” Ms Roberts said.

She added: “The lesson was to make sure we’re getting paid before we put a website live. When people keep stringing you along just either walk away or show more authority.”

A real grass roots business story

Beanie Media provides web design, web development and social media advertising. It has four staff in total.

In the early days of the business, Daniel Atkinson would use money from his gardening business to pay Melissa Roberts a wage.

She would go out to networking events and start building up contacts and the duo would meet up in the evening to update each other.

Beanie Media registered a turnover of £57,000 for the period between October 2018 and October 2019.

Ms Roberts says she hopes the business will always be made up of a small team “that’s on the ball”.