Pull up a chair and join us as we chat about using business as a force for good, Wholegrain’s ethos and special sauce, the importance of team spirit, and how design can change the world…
Wholegrain was your brainchild and it’s just reached an important milestone – ten years in business. Congratulations! How does that make you feel?
Thank you! Ten years have gone very quickly! All I can say is I’m immensely grateful to all our clients, team and supporters who have placed their trust in our company. I’m incredibly proud of my team’s capabilities and the love they give to our clients. I couldn’t be happier! This is genuinely the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my life.
Tell me about your background and how you got started in web design.
I’m a natural communicator, and my education background is engineering and communication systems. This placed me in a very good position to be able to communicate technical aspects to humans.
Web design was a natural progression after we worked with a few brands that needed websites. We then built a small but focused team with strong web design skills.
Why did you and co-founder/hubby Tom decide to set up your own design company? What made you specialise in WordPress?
Tom and I decided to start a company because we wanted to spend more time with each other. We also wanted to make the world a better place by using our business as a force for good. We thought the only way to do that was to start our own business and shape it around our values. To set an example of good business practices that we wish to see in the world.
It was Tom’s brother Richard (an online marketing guru) who introduced us to WordPress. We found it the best thing since sliced bread! Once we started using it for our personal projects, it was a natural transition to use it for our clients. All our clients that got WordPress sites were happier and more independent. We felt like we were empowering them by giving them a product they could use and develop themselves. It’s a great tool for businesses to thrive.
What differentiates Wholegrain from other agencies? Why do customers choose you to build their WP sites?
Wholegrain’s ethos. The love and care we put in our projects is well beyond any other agency on the market. I can say that quite confidently because our clients have told us so time and time again. Our ten-year business review showed one of the strongest happiness scores for clients and team alike! This differentiates us from other agencies.
Along with love and care, we’re also excited about using technology that’s open source. This means our clients are free to leave once we’ve developed their site, which is one of the main reasons they choose to stay. We take pride in helping our clients become independent, so they use us only when they really need us.
Tell me about some of your favourite projects from the last ten years. What strategies and design processes did you follow to make them so successful?
My favourite projects… there are so many! If I had to choose, I would choose Ecover. Ecover is one of my favourite brands. They stand for plant-based, non-toxic products, and clean living. They also care about the environment and the health and wellbeing of their customers.
We worked very closely with the team at Ecover to create personas, user stories and user journeys, which led to wireframing, design, and a beautifully coded website. The strategy was to ensure the brand is always the star of the show. People love the ethos and values of Ecover, so no matter what product they create their customers want to try it because they trust them (which is the genius of good branding).
Where do you go for design inspiration?
Muzli is my one-stop shop for UI interactions, graphics, and much more. I used to look for best in show on Awwwards, but this has now been integrated into Muzli so don’t have to look in two places. I recommend setting it to be the landing page on your browser, filling your morning with inspiration whenever you open a new tab.
Wholegrain achieved B Corps status this year – another amazing achievement. Why was this so important for you?
Good business is good for everyone – your staff, your clients, and the wider world. B Corps certification holds you to account; it makes you think about everything you do for your team and for your clients. It’s this certification that proves we exist for the greater good, and will continue to participate in positive things and use our business as a force for good. Through the B Corps movement, we’ve met the most amazing people who are doing fantastic things in the world. We couldn’t be more proud, yet humbled at the same time. It’s a great reminder that we have to keep up the good work too, because we get reviewed every two years. We need to maintain a high score in order stay certified. So it’s not a checkbox exercise.
Wholegrain has a wonderful team spirit. How do you ensure your team members are passionate about their work and play?
We all live by the saying: Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns. I think niceness is the same thing.
At Wholegrain, we hire nice people. You have to be nice to be part of our team. When you’re kind to one another, you learn to give each other a listening ear, to be happy in someone else’s happiness, and to be there for each other when you’re going through a hard time in life. This means everyone feels supported and heard.
We keep team spirit high by having days together once or twice a week, and giving each other space the rest of the week, by working from home, etc. This is a great balance. We’re not on top of each other all the time and respect each other’s boundaries when somebody has an important piece of work, but we remain very much in conversation. Plus we only work on positive projects, which helps to keep team morale high.
Do you think design can change the world?
Yes, I really think so. Design is the base of everything. Everything you see, hear, and feel is the way it’s designed to be (other than nature of course!). The doorknob you turn or the light fitting in your home or the chair you’re sitting on right now; everything is designed to make you feel a certain way. It’s immensely important to create whatever you’re working on to provide a good user experience in any situation. I think if each designer were compassionate about the user experience instead of paying attention to their ego, we would have a more comfortable place to live. So yes, I think design influences how everything is around us.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to a younger Vineeta?
Be patient. Things take time. Rome was not built in a day and nor was any business.
What does the future hold for Wholegrain? What would you like your business to have achieved in the next ten years?
Knowing how quickly the past ten years have passed, we already have plans for the next ten! We want to build a stronger team that works on positive projects (I know we’re already doing this, but more of it please!).
Currently, our current revenue split is 60% positive clients and 40% neutral. By 2026, we want to be a genuine zero carbon business and by 2020, we want 100% revenue coming from green and socially responsible businesses. We also have many other goals around our team’s wellbeing and our clients’ wellbeing. You can learn more about it here.
Vineeta, thank you so much! I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you and I love your vision and goals for Wholegrain’s next ten years. I’m so excited to see how Wholegrain develops and what sort of amazing projects you have in the pipeline.
If you’d like to join our wholesome band of happy WordPress experts, take a look at our latest vacancies. We’d love you to be the next member of our merry team.