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The stories of three flourishing startups as they share the successes, struggles and secrets behind their growth.

EP2: Accept & Proceed

When David Johnston decided to strike start his design studio back in 2006, he didn’t have a business plan or more than one month’s wages in the bank.

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Episode 2: Accept & Proceed

"We’ve been careful not to grow at a rate that will overstretch us – we want to be able to do ground-breaking work and not have to take on contracts just to pay the overheads."

When David Johnston decided to strike out on his own by starting a design studio in 2006 he didn’t have a business plan or more than one month’s wages in the bank.


‘But I had notions of grandeur from the get-go,’ he says, with a laugh. ‘I knew that I wanted to be a company, even though it was just me at that point.’ To give this impression, he admits to invoking a split personality: ‘I made up staff members; I created email addresses and would pick up the phone as one person, and then pass on the calls. It was quite confusing and unsustainable – but it worked!’


David’s team vision began to be realised when creative director Matthew Jones joined him as a business partner in 2008. The pair have since turned Accept & Proceed into an award-winning design agency with 13 staff and a client list of eminent brands including Moleskine and Nike.


Last year the pair opened Today, a co-working space in Hackney. The curation of a ‘fun and lively’ atmosphere has been a central concern. ‘I’ve been at agencies that are driven by profit or expansion alone, and I didn’t want that for us,’ says David. ‘We’ve been careful not to grow at a rate that will overstretch us – we want to be able to do ground-breaking work and not have to take on contracts just to pay the overheads.’


Tip for growth: Encourage your staff to spread their wings

David encourages his staff to pursue personal design projects outside of their commercial ones, and credits this as a factor contributing to Accept & Proceed’s high retention rate. ‘We have the 43M3 gallery where we show self-initiated work sometimes, and we do other personal projects, for no other reason than we love them.’