Are we the UK’s first black-owned, female-founded and women-led digital agency?

Tobi Ajala Forbes Under 30

I’m Tobi Ajala, the founder of TechTee, a digital agency specialising in software development and design for clients like Nike, Gucci, Apple, and La Perla. I was recently asked if we were the UK’s first black-owned, female-founded and women-led digital agency, and I didn’t know the answer! If there are others out there like me, I’d love to meet them.

When I was younger, I always used to say to myself that I never wanted to own my own business. I hated the idea of it, and it seemed like a lot of hassle. Maybe I just looked at business from a very different view.

What I had in my mind when I was younger was not this — what I have now. The reality of what I have now is an excellent fit for me, and I’m thrilled about doing this because I enjoy all the various aspects.

Yes, it’s a company, and there are profits to be made and salaries to be paid. Still, ultimately I also just really enjoy speaking with the team about the projects that we’ve got coming up and the tech and design decisions behind them.

While the technology industry is very much white-male dominated, I’m proud to run and own a successful company in this space.

Before I got to work with the big brands we work with now, I was working with small businesses.

For a long time, there was a real juggle — where I had to pitch with a one-pager, then get a conversation going, then keep juggling that with my actual work. Beyond pitching, I had to go and do the full development. It was hard.

I was juggling a lot of things to be able to gain more clients. But eventually, I brought more people on, and the pitches worked! I learned the key to becoming an external supplier, or B2B vendor was not only about pitching to people in power but the right people.

They must have the power, the influence, and the actual budget to make decisions. There have been times that I’ve met people with power and influence, but they don’t do the budgets, or they don’t do the vendors’ side.

This single lesson has made a significant impact on the business as a whole. And looking back, it’s been quite a ride.

I spoke to some marketing people last week, including somebody who’s been an agency owner. He was like, “Hold on, aren’t you the first black-owned female-led and female-run digital agency?”

I had never thought about it. Am I? If there are other digital agency business owners out there like me, I’d love to meet them.

I am passionate about running this agency partly because I develop and design myself. When I look at other agencies that have come before us, I can see that often they’re led by founders who don’t have design or development experience themselves.

I’m not sure how that’s even possible. Because I find that my experience as a practitioner is fundamental to my perspective as a business owner. When I’m speaking to prospective clients and discussing what they might like to build, they often ask me to ‘go find out what’s achievable.’

But I can just tell them what’s achievable because I code myself, and I do design too. So I can say to them, “You can achieve that. We can use X, Y, Z talk technology. We can do this and that.”

That strength comes from being a software developer myself.

My tech career started with being very curious about engineering and technology — I started coding through a library textbook; then went through university failing terribly. I did an apprenticeship at the BBC, which was terrific, and then I started my own business very organically.

Sure, I may not be on every client’s project 100% of the time. Maybe I’ll put 30% of my time into this project, but I’ll put in my pull request; I’ll get my code reviewed by the other team members because I love the aspect of development and design.

I find strength in being a developer and a designer, then a manager. Leading and running a company that specialises in development and design is a delicate balance — between the kind of business side of things and the tech.

I spend a lot of my days telling other companies, “if you digitise it this way, or if you add this component as a digital element, you could make X amount of money. You could increase your engagement by X amount, like those kinds of things.”

Then coming up with what that would look like in granular detail is even more fun for me. The juggle is something special, but I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying the ride.

I’m entirely self-taught. But what I found is that one project led to another, and before I knew it, the projects were getting bigger, I needed to bring on more people, and now I lead a team of four, and we’re always looking for even bigger projects and challenges.

If you’re looking for a design/technical solution for your business, learn more about TechTee here.

A creative technologists.