Reflecting on 10 years of Wholegrain Digital

Written by Tom Greenwood - March 28, 2017

On the 19th of March we hit exactly 10 years since we founded our company. It didn’t really hit me until we passed that date. Then suddenly I stopped and thought, “Wow, has it really been that long?

Over the past few days I’ve been reflecting on how we started out and what we’ve achieved since then.  I could probably write an entire book on it but here are some highlights that jumped out:

Start-up dreams

When we started, we dreamed of having our own design company.

We’ve succeeded in that and have been lucky to be involved in some really exciting design projects over the years and even had our work featured in the Big Book of Green Design.

Tom holding the Big Book of Green Design

We dreamed of building a team that was small but perfectly formed.

We have a really nicely sized team at the moment even though we have actually had to resist the temptation for growth for growth’s sake and hold back even when there has been demand to grow.  Balancing the desire to keep the team small and close knit with the businesses natural tendency to grow with customer demand has been one of our biggest challenges and will no doubt continue to be in the coming years.

We dreamed of working with positive brands to help them succeed and listed Ecover, M&S and Solarcentury as our dream clients.

Ten years later we’ve worked on major projects and have ongoing relationships with Ecover, M&S and Solarcentury even though we never did anything to target them. It seems like the universe just provided!

We have also worked with many other positive organisations and now generate 45% of our revenue from what we term “positive brands” and the remaining 55% from neutral brands, meaning that none of our revenue comes from what we would consider to be destructive industries.

We dreamed of creating a business that was a model of triple bottom line sustainability.

A few weeks ago we finally achieved Certified B Corps status, an independent and rigorous assessment of our social and environmental responsibility. We did it while maintaining financial sustainability for a decade, proving that people, planet and profit can go hand in hand.

We dreamed of having a UK business with team members and clients across the European continent.

We’ve have built an international team and client base centred around our London HQ, spreading far beyond Europe.  However, we have not yet established a more concrete presence in mainland Europe.

From brand design to WordPress

When we started out, WordPress wasn’t even on our radar. In fact, we didn’t even build websites for the first few months, focusing purely on graphic and brand design. However, it immediately became clear that “everyone needs a website”, and after some experimentation my brother introduced us to WordPress. Our clients immediately took to it and gave us really positive feedback. We realised that it had huge potential and decided to change direction and specialise in design and development for WordPress. We’ve never looked back and by trying to always listen to our clients and adapt to their needs, we’ve built the business we have today without ever needing to do any advertising.

Attendees at the WPUGL meetup at Wholegrain Digital HQ
Sharing with the community at our WordPress User Group London Meetups

The best thing is the people

The best thing about the past 10 years has undoubtedly been the amazing people that I’ve met along the way and had the pleasure to work with. I’m fortunate to work with a team of truly good people who are creative, dedicated and who care beyond expectations, as well as to have worked with incredibly gifted and lovely clients, suppliers and contacts within the wider WordPress, design and business communities.  It’s those relationships that have made this past decade truly rewarding.

Not to mention we’ve shared some really good food together!


So what’s for the next 10 years?

Looking forward, there’s still lots to do.

We’ll continue to push boundaries with design and WordPress, particularly in the enterprise space and we will embrace new opportunities to share our resources and knowledge with the wider community. Our Granola starter theme is a good example of something coming soon, so watch this space.  We also see the technology landscape widening and we will be embracing new technologies that can benefit our clients, especially those that are open source.

We will try to push our own boundaries as a socially and environmentally responsible business and put more effort into sharing our experiences to inspire the wider business community.  Hopefully one day we will even achieve our goal of becoming a truly zero carbon business.

I hope that despite Brexit we can strengthen our presence in mainland Europe in the coming years. I also want to continue experimenting with new ways of working and become a truly 21st century business.

Above all though, we’ll continue to focus on deepening our client relationships and find new ways to deliver better service, be more transparent and work as true partners with common goals. We’re well on our way, but there’s always so much more to do.

2027, here we come!