I founded my first design business Abovegroup in 2001 in a back room of my mum’s house, using her desktop computer late into the night. The strategy was simple: each job should be an opportunity to learn and then earn. I’d pitch for and win business, and then hurry back to the ‘office’ to order as many books as I could find on the subject (this is how I was learnt to be a designer - I’m a Politics graduate). Growth kicked in when I joined forces with the best business partner you’ll ever have the good fortune to come across - Alex Smailes, who at the time was a professional photographer. The business grew into a highly successful graphic design agency, introducing a culture of design and social engagement largely absent from the region at the time. We touched almost every significant indigenous business in the region, with a lasting impact on the visual landscape; worked with and nurtured a generation of emerging designers; and had lots of fun in the process.
The second version came out of merging my business with one of the largest advertising groups in the region - the local branch of Ogilvy, to form Abovegroup Ogilvy. We serviced multinational giants - Coca-Cola, IBM, Pizza Hut, PWC, Unilever, Nestlé: great prestige, and a lot more grown up. I was also managing pretty much every significant department, with a team of 65 people. All this while splitting my time between Trinidad, the UK and France, and integrating multiple cultures.
The final iteration came post-Ogilvy, when we went very small and rebuilt as a consultancy. Small, as in never more than six of us. Consultancy, as in less advertising, more design strategy. Great clients, an increasing number of digital products, a greater focus on sustainability, and some of our best work. We started building and investing in related businesses - some worked, others not so much. Abovegroup became a fully virtual agency in 2017.