AN ENTREPRENEUR who set up his first digital business at the age of 16 has told how he scaled it down to “specialise in the things we were really good at”.

Tom Keeping dropped out of sixth form to start an apprenticeship with a web agency seven years ago, but decided soon afterwards to start his own business.

He built the design and web development agency Keeping&Co into a company with 15 staff, but said he changed course two years ago in a bid to focus on doing quality design for larger brands.

Mr Keeping earned his first business clients by going door-to-door. “At 16, I went out to local businesses and got two projects off the back of that,” he said.

“I learned on the job more than anything. Gradually, over the course of a year or two, that became enough to fund me. I didn’t enjoy the development part as much as the design, so I found a developer who was good at that,” he added.

In recent times, he has renamed the business Keeping, a “design and strategy” studio providing web design, user experience and packaging, with an emphasis on lifestyle brands.

Clients have included Bubbl, a tech business providing location-based mobile marketing tools; the luxury holiday property company Avenue; handcrafted jewellery brand Burrells; and Dorset Cyber Alliance, which aims to reduce the risk of cyber attacks.

“Two years ago, I took the decision to refocus and to specialise in the thing we were really good at and were becoming known for through our quality of work,” said Mr Keeping.

“That’s when we went from 15 people to two. It wasn’t an overnight switch but that was the journey.”

The business moved to THIS Workspace, in the Daily Echo building, in the autumn of 2017 as it began its rebrand to Keeping, with a senior designer taking the staff numbers to three.

“We’ve spent this year building a portfolio where we’ve over-serviced pretty much every client tenfold to build our credentials for attracting larger work for bigger brands,” said Mr Keeping.

“What I’ve learned is that the definition of growth varies from person to person,” he said. “It’s very important that you get the definition of growth right for you.

“We’re driving growth by the quality of work we’re doing and the type of clients we’re doing it for and not by how many heads are around the table.”