Melbourne startup Foxley helps web designers build their businesses and work smarter

- October 24, 2016 4 MIN READ

For freelancers across various industries or those venturing out into starting their own businesses, the job skills are there and ready to go, it’s handling the business side that poses difficulty, because it’s something they’ve never had to think about and have no training in.

Having faced this problem herself and seeing others go through it, designer Bianca Board decided to come up with a solution: Foxley, a platform looking to help web designers build a profitable business and do work better.

“Some designers just want to work a few days a week from home and have enough money to take their kids to Disneyland, other people want to build a seven figure million business with lots of staff, and we look to help all of them, no matter where they’re at,” Board explained.

To help designers start up businesses and get work done better, the startup has created two platforms, Foxley Business and Foxley Site Builder. As the name might suggest, the Business platform looks to help designers set up and run their business through online courses. As well as content, participants are provided with tools and roadmaps to help them get their systems up and running.

Site Builder, meanwhile, looks to help designers build smart websites faster. Like WordPress and Squarespace can be drag and drop systems, Site Builder lets designers put together websites without code. Where it really differs, however, is in its marketing and SEO scorecard system; it has an underlying engine that tells the designer and their client what game they need to play, essentially, to reach their objective on each page.

“This scorecard built into every page tells the user what to do to get more traffic or convert traffic into a lead, or a lead into a customer through setting up nurturing campaigns and so on that happen after that first interaction.

“It’s like having a marketing expert, SEO expert, and developer sitting on your shoulder telling you what to do; it’s what the world is doing now through service-based consultancy businesses, in one platform, so the designer can bypass everyone else and do it themselves,” Board explained.

The idea came to Board after years in the industry. In her previous business, Web123, she ran a program to teach designers how to build websites. What she found is that you can pick up how to build a site in a couple of months, but learning how to run a business is another story.

“They’re designers first, business people second. Obviously, when you go out freelancing or start your own thing, you don’t learn the business skills in design school,” Board said.

Foxley Business has created sets of 12 week-long courses, going through everything from systems, workflow, processes, marketing campaigns, sales strategy, and so on.

The first course helps designers to set up a system to easily generate clients: the platform gives them the whole system ready to go, essentially plug and play, with participants then mentored in a group learning environment online each week. To keep progressing through the course, participants must submit their work each week.

The idea for Site Builder, meanwhile, came from simple frustration. As a graphic designer, Board said she got so frustrated dealing with developers and them going missing in action, as well as the limitations of tech, that she wanted to build something to automate development.

She began working on the idea around seven years ago, after which she had other designers asking to use the software. From that point then came the issue of how to build effective websites.

“We built the program and realised everyone out there is designing great looking sites that don’t do anything for the SMB owner. It takes months even with the software to build effective websites, but people don’t have time to learn, so how can we skip that?” Board said.

“It’s not just like creating another pretty site, which the world is already full of, that don’t generate an ROI. We give our designers the tools to build effective ones.”

The development of Foxley was initially funded through Web123. After 12 months, Board said “the timing was perfect” to go out and raise capital.

“Everyone was getting sick of websites not working,” Board said.

Foxley started the capital raising process in November; having raised around $1.6 million so far from its leadership team and other investors, it is now setting up to launch Foxley Business at the start of November, and Site Builder next year.

The funding has helped get the startup through a difficult development. Foxley initially had a team offshore, before switching to using a blend of local freelancers, contractors, and full time staff.

“Not being a technical person myself, I’ve had to rely on other people and you don’t always get the right advice from people,” Board said.

“If have any advice, it would be to keep asking why every time you get an answer, keep asking why, until you’re completely confident that’s the right way to go.”

There are around 1,000 designers worldwide signed up to Foxley’s waiting list waiting for launch. Board explained the startup is targeting three kinds of potential customers: designers that are moonlighting, those still working for someone else but thinking of starting their own business; the freelancers who have been going at it themselves for a while but haven’t quite figured out the business side; and the heavy hitters, those who have been in business for a while but need help with scaling.

Board is also confident that, rather than being competition, design firms can become big users of a white labeled Site Builder platform.

“Foxley is not only code free, but because it has all the marketing and shortcuts built in, it allows you to save around 90 percent of the time building a site, which obviously cuts down the cost,” Board said.

According to the latest IBISWorld report on the Australian web design industry, though the space is worth $1 billion, no single player is estimated to generate more than five percent of industry revenue due to the high labour intensity of web design work; this means it can be hard for businesses to make a significant profit.

“A lot [of firms] have indicated they want Foxley so they can do the $5,000 websites for clients. At the moment they have to knock clients back all the time, because they can’t do websites for less than $15,000.”

With the launch of the Business platform imminent, Board said Foxley has some “pretty aggressive user targets”. To reach them, the startup plans to start doing events in the US over the next year.

Image: Bianca Board. Source: Supplied.