When Owen Richards moved back to England from Australia a few years ago, he decided he wanted to set up a leading telemarketing and business development agency, but not in his home town of London, instead seeking a place that offered better work-life balance, like Exeter.
Recognising the investment and regeneration happening in the city and its environs, Owen co-founded Air Marketing Group in March 2016, and little over 18-months later, the team of two became 25.
The company’s ever-expanding team is set to double this winter thanks to a significant new contract, and in preparation, the team expanded into a second city centre office this autumn.
“Exeter is a lovely place to live,” said Owen, who is the company’s managing director and also saw the beauty in the area for raising a family. “And from a business perspective, Exeter is an expanding economy with huge potential with lots of investment happening both for business growth, regeneration and housing.
“It felt like I’d found a sweet spot where you can have the best of both worlds – the vibrancy of the city, while being surrounded by countryside.
“And there were very few competitors in the region, so it was good to be one of the first of our kind in the region.”
The 33-year-old co-founded the business with Richard Forrest, who he had been working with in Sydney to grow their analogous company, Forrest Marketing Group. The company is set to turnover more than £1m this year and has achieved more than 350 per cent growth this year alone.
The company specialises in outsourced business development, telemarketing and lead generation services, boasting clients from a variety of industries including international companies such as Funding Circle and Fujifilm as well as firms closer to home such as Winning Tenders and 4Networking.
After initially working out of a rented meeting room in someone else’s small office, the team swelled within a few months prompting an office move to Brittany House on New North Road.
More space was needed to house the new cohort this autumn and over the summer, the managers surveyed the team about where they would like their next office to be. The vast majority wanted to stay put in Exeter’s midpoint, and it was agreed, after considering other options including out of town business parks, that from a business perspective and from a social perspective, they were in the best place, so they opted for a second base on Queen Street.
The plan is for the team managing the new contract to work out of Brittany House, while the rest of the team take up residence at their Queen Street office.
“Growth was really important to me and I invested a lot of energy in expanding the business and the team, which started growing almost immediately and has continued ever since,” explained Owen.
“Logistically, we could operate the business from anywhere. But our staff are happy here and it is nice to have a choice of venues where we can have meetings with our clients and welcome them to our office in the buzz of the city.”
A recruitment drive has been underway since the end of September to accrue the team members needed to drive the business forward.
“Due to availability and suitability, we struggled to find a place big enough to accommodate the team in the centre of town,” added Owen. “But we’ve decided that two separate bases suit us from an operational perspective. It works well for us. And our staff are happy to be here.
“I’m so proud of how far the company has come and our new office gives us even more opportunity to grow, while allowing us to continue to build upon our place in the Exeter business community.”
Cllr Rachel Sutton, Lead Councillor for Economy at Exeter City Council, said: “It is great news that entrepreneurs are recognising Exeter as an ideal place to launch their ambitious start-up businesses, over anywhere else in the country.
“We have worked hard in recent years to make Exeter even more attractive for businesses and we can safely say it has paid off when companies like Air Marketing, which has really helped boost local employment opportunities, decide to launch here, and grow here.”