Ashley JP Lockwood – Co-Founder, Deskmate.
(Also: Arthur Masionnier – Co-Founder, with Sean Geany – CMO)
Where’s home? Notting Hill
Profession: Currently making the world work better
Company Name: Deskmate
What did you study at university and what grade did you leave with? Bristol UWE, Studied BA (Hons) Marketing with Business. I left with a first-class honours (just).
Was it a clear-cut path in terms of what you would do after you left? No. I was lucky enough to have interned at Borro (Fin Tech 50) during my sandwich year, and they offered me a job straight off the back of it. At the time, I was still working out what to do and they gave me the opportunity to work that out. The founder, Paul Aitken is a very entrepreneurial guy and gave me the freedom to explore other stuff while working there.
What is Deskmate? Deskmate produce products that enable people to work better. The idea behind the business is simple. You spend roughly 1/3rd of your life at work, sitting badly or slouching. It makes sense to do it in a more efficient, productive and fun way.
You both met on Escape The City, where the idea for Deskmate was born. Can you tell our readers just what Escape The City is and how it facilitated in the creation of Deskmate?
Arthur and I met on Escape the City, we got on very well and we knew we were going to work together straight away. We possess pretty much opposite skill sets to one another and that works well. We were both working on different projects before deskmate came about. We launched it as a side project to make some cash before we realised we could make an interesting business out of it. There have been iterations of standing desks like ours for the past 2-3 years, but no one has taken the concept to where we have. We then got Sean invovled, who now takes care of our web and digital marketing, he also owns a clothing brand We Are What We Are.
Escape the City – it’s 30-40 likeminded individuals, entrepreneurs and go getters in a ‘start up’ environment for 3 months. Most attendees want to get out of traditional jobs and build something they are passionate about.
What’s the leading reason you would recommend Escape The City to others?
It’s a great platform to test an idea, get feedback and potentially meet someone to start a business with. For me, having a co-founder and sound people around is essential to making a business work.
What were the challenges in initially setting up Deskmate?
I’d say the biggest hurdle for us to get over initially was building a website that really functions well and finding out what sales channel is going to work best for you. You can get a MVP out, but for an e-commerce business it’s essential your website works efficiently. Arthur has really looked after the foundations of the business well (our accounts, finance and structure) and we can now push out Deskmate out to a wider market.
Who did you seek advice from and who really helped you in the early stages?
Everyone we could. Literally! I had a good friend design the logo we still use today (thanks Mimi) and I’d reach out to other friends who have built successful businesses for advice. In our first week, we managed to blag a pop up at WeWork through a friend Tara, we didn’t have a website or even a way for people to pay but we managed to sell 15 Deskmates which was unbelievable at the time. We still do pop ups for them now and have been to Paris WeWork on the back of all that. If you don’t ask you don’t get..
Did you ever doubt yourself that you could do it?
You have to back yourself 100%
How do you market Deskmate?
We have two channels, B2B + B2C. Our B2B channel is really growing at present, we are making custom deskmates for organisations nearing 100 people at a minimal cost compared to traditional standing units. It’s great because companies can add branding, logos, messaging etc. It really stands out.
Our B2C channel or direct to consumer has been a steep learning curve, but we have more of an understanding of how/where to market now (thanks Sean). The new website should support all that, too.
What sets you a part from your competitors?
On a B2B side, no one else can customise the desks like we can, it’s a massive selling point. On a more general level, we’ve introduced a fashion element to make standing fun. Our new minimates are a game changer and we’ve also made it portable, so you can pretty much work anywhere with them. We want to be a fun, fashion focused brand that’s more than just a standing desk, we are here to improve how people work and they are going to look good doing it.
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
The importance of having a clear marketing message so that when you are bringing a product to market, people understand your value. Right now we are working on a video to demonstrate this. Also, endorsements/reviews from real customers are key but something we strangely overlooked. The spike in interest/sales we get off the back of customers posting on Instagram once they have seen the desk in action is nuts.
What’s a typical day for you working on Deskmate?
I’m working really hard to build our B2B sales channel at the moment. So my day is spent talking to businesses about deskmate and how we can add value. Learning as much as we can about our customers is at the forefront of everything too. The carry cases we’ve developed came straight on the back of customer feedback. Arthur and I just got a PR agency on board to get Deskmate out to the wider world too.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
I’m strangely wrong most the time. I think when a business is your baby you tend to think you know best. Letting someone else take the lead when it’s not your area of expertise is key to growing quickly.
Any utter disasters along the way?
Arthur and I forgot to send stock to Paris for a pop up shop and left it too late to get there in time. As you may know. you are allowed 1 large bag on the euro tunnel. We thought we’d blown it but we managed carry 50 in boxes the size of a human through customs at London St Pancras. Nobody said anything!
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Deskmate?
The Virgin Startup loan was a big achievement, we needed that funding desperately. We are now engaging with some big start-ups and blue chip companies which is exciting as well. We had our first order from a recruitment firm in OZ the other day which we were chuffed about. Making it this far is pretty good too.
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Find a way to give yourself some supplementary income so you don’t have to worry about eating. Also, find a gap in the market and create an interesting, marketable product around that.
What do you think the next steps are for you this year?
We want to launch Deskmate into the EU, we have new products (not just standing desks) in the pipeline which Arthur and our intern Leanne are working hard on as well. I’d also like a big hitter in the health world to endorse us. Anyone got Joe Wicks digits!?
What’s the dream?
Deskmate in every business, home office and school in the world
Finally if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I’d be working abroad or doing remote year
Just for fun…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are…
Settling down, getting a regular 9-5 and Arthur
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually…
The Twenty Mile Club is….
Head to Deskmate’s links by clicking on the links below