A Middlesbrough digital business and North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) member has grown 100% year on year and is now edging towards a £1m turnover.
James Pennington, managing director of Viral Effect, based at Boho 4, started his career selling lollies at secondary school and progressed to selling club tickets for commission while at Teesside University.
This experience encouraged him to set up his first business Compare the Club and worked closely with the local Domino’s pizza shops.
His marketing was so successful more and more branches of Dominos gave his business contracts to handle their social media and data collection. On the back of this experience he and Mike Racz set up Viral Effect in 2012.
The company, which employs 20 staff, now handles digital engagement for 300 Dominos outlets both locally and nationally, processing 18,000 inbound tweets a month.
It is able to respond to tweets at such a rate, 80% of tweets are replied to in under five minutes and the service covers 91 hours a week.
James said: “The growth of my business has been tremendous over the past four years.
“Almost by accident we have been at the forefront of helping fast-paced businesses really get the benefit of social media. Statistics show clearly that a high proportion of sales are now on-line via mobile phones so we are perfectly placed to help our clients fully exploit this customer preference through our social media expertise.”
NECC relationship manager Tom Warnock said: “Viral Effect is a great example of an inspirational business which has a perfect success story it can share with other Chamber members. It is always good news when an entrepreneur creates a business and is able to expand on its home patch, creating new jobs as well.”
The extent of the business’s reach is now Delhi in India where Viral Effect had a contract with Nandos.
This work was won on the back of a franchisee buying into Nandos brand who already had experience of the company’s work with Dominos. Viral Effect is also working closely with other major brands including CEX and Anytime Fitness gyms.
James has recently bought into a Middlesbrough graphic design and web development business who he had been working closely with, called Eighty8 Design, which complements his company’s digital services.
In terms of future growth he wants Viral Effect to focus on business to business messaging, particularly via twitter and sees potential for growth in the hospitality industry. He also sees a growing appetite for virtual reality projects, for example gyms using it so a client can see what it will look like before being built.
James added: “I am really proud to be a Middlesbrough business. We were based in Teesside University’s Victoria Building for our first two years which was a great base while we set ourselves up and now benefit from being in the heart of the Boho quarter.
“There is a great tradition of call centre staff delivering excellent service here and it is perfect for our clients.”
James joined NECC as he was wanted to get access to other businesses and find out what services and products are available on his doorstep.
He is keen to share his knowledge for the benefit of other businesses and Viral Effect will hold a social media masterclasses for companies in the future.
• James is pictured (above) outside his Middlesbrough offices with left to right, Vicki Pratt, Roger Davis, Matthew Hammond, Marcus Briggs, Martin Doyle and Sasha Todd.