Into the Spotlight, sponsored by Huddersfield-based Scriba PR, is a regular feature which highlights some great businesses. Here we profile 75 Media which has big ambitions for growth.
For school pals turned business partners Joe Lawson and Alex Simpson their business success story is firmly rooted in Huddersfield.
In 2018 Joe, who worked in marketing, saw the potential for digital billboards providing cost-effective advertising for local businesses.
He teamed up with lifelong friend Alex to launch digital media company Bee Outdoor and the duo approached the Kingsgate shopping centre in Huddersfield about putting a billboard on the wall opposite Shorehead roundabout, one of the busiest junctions around.
Joe recalled: “Alex worked at Kingsgate at the time and we spoke to them and they already had planning permission for a digital billboard and they agreed to work with us.
“We had a start-up investment of around £15,000 and we needed to make it work within six months or that was it.
“We wanted to make billboard advertising accessible for Huddersfield-based businesses. With newspaper advertising declining where else could businesses advertise?”
Bee Outdoor quickly built a reputation for getting results and they soon had regular clients, many small local businesses. Their success allowed them to add a second billboard inside Kingsgate and others at Trinity Walk in Wakefield and in Bolton.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought their growth to a halt but Joe and Alex, now both 29, were still working other jobs.
It was at that point the duo were approached by businessman Paul Inman who had built and sold a successful traditional billboard advertising company and had set up a new venture 75 Media.
Paul wanted to learn about digital billboards and the two companies started to work together. Their business relationship grew and they eventually decided to merge in June 2021.
Joe said: “It wasn’t in our plan for that to happen. It was just that the opportunity came along and we took it. It was a good fit for everyone.
“We still had other jobs and we were just growing the business and re-investing. I won’t call it a side hustle because I hate that term but our plan was to keep growing steadily.
“What the merger did was give us the opportunity to give our business a leap forward.”
The merger – the company is still called 75 Media – meant that both Joe and Alex could give up their other jobs and become salaried working directors. Joe is sales director and Alex is client services director. They work alongside Paul, as managing director, and Katy Conway, who is operations and communications director.
Leeds-based 75 Media now has around 10 digital billboards and 200 classic billboard sites across the UK. The company has a commercial partnership with Wildstone, the UK and Europe’s largest provider of outdoor media infrastructure, to support their growth strategy.
The ambition now is to be the biggest outdoor media operator in the North of England and Joe said: “With the support of Wildstone that’s realistic for us now.
“We are just at the start of our growth journey and we’ll be ramping up with more and more sites across Yorkshire and the North West over the next five to 10 years. It’s really exciting for us.”
In May Joe, who lives in Lindley, became chairman of Huddersfield BID, the town’s Business Improvement District and he’s passionate about improving the town centre.
He previously worked for two-and-a-half years as a marketing executive for Leeds BID and wants to bring that experience to bear.
“Huddersfield is my home town and I’m really passionate about the place,” he said. “There’s some great independent shops, bars and restaurants. It’s culturally diverse and there’s lots going on.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years it’s probably lost its way a little bit and we need to get that back but there’s lots of initiatives and events that BID and others are working on to encourage people to come into the town centre.”