DYNAMO-STYLE disappearing tricks are not the norm in boilerplate business meetings, but then again, Andrew Dobbie is hardly a conventional boss.
Over a cuppa in his corner office at MadeBrave, Dobbie begins idly toying with his wedding ring while discussing his rather eclectic mix of personal pursuits. Suddenly, the gold band has disappeared, and it’s definitely not up the arm of his short-sleeved shirt. Tick, tick, tick and the ring back again, resting in the palm of his hand. “I am a man of many hobbies,” he confesses with a playful grin.
As it turns out, he’s a versed artist in close-up magic who once upon a time earned money performing in Glasgow’s pubs and clubs. That in and of itself could take over the conversation for the next half hour, but there are several other facets of this self-confessed aberrant yet to explore.
Once described as the “magic cage fighter”, Dobbie combined his career as a creative director with a semi-professional run in mixed martial arts before setting up MadeBrave in March 2012. Having trained alongside Joanne Calderwood, Stevie Ray and Robert Whiteford at the Griphouse in Glasgow, he continues to sponsor these UFC fighters through his company.
But that’s not to overlook his former life as a musician, playing guitar with local rock band Big Red at venues such as King Tut’s up until the age of 25. Dobbie still enjoys a bit of woodshedding, though his Gibson Les Paul is now adorned in neon and hanging on the wall of MadeBrave’s offices in the east end of Glasgow.
His is the first company to take up residence in The Albus, a speculative development from Clyde Gateway that is part of a multi-pronged effort to rejuvenate Bridgeton on the back of the Commonwealth Games.
Although dictated by the need for more space – MadeBrave employs 24 souls and counting – relocating from Merchant City would be considered a risky move by some. But Dobbie dismisses any notions of “downgrading”, focusing instead upon the area’s potential.
“We are now coining the phrase ‘Merchant City East’,” he says, a tell-tale tip-off to the great expectations Dobbie and others harbour for regeneration. “There is a change happening. There’s a great buzz around Bridgeton right now – it only takes a few people to start changing perceptions, and we are excited to be a part of that.”
The new digs haven’t put the brakes on MadeBrave’s growth, which is on course to hit turnover of £1.2m for the year to the end of February. The company – which specialises in graphic design, branding and digital marketing – has added six members of staff since moving to The Albus in April. Advertising last month to hire a new designer, the firm received no less than 150 applications.
Dobbie originally set out on his own in 2011 as a freelancer with the goal of simply being his own boss, having worked the previous eight years at Midgi Byte Creations, the now-defunct company owned by former Celtic footballer Paul McStay. A friend loaned him some office space for a few months, “but I did all of my meetings in Starbucks or Costa Coffee”.
The circumstances behind these humble beginnings are an oft-repeated story: Dobbie took the plunge just weeks after the birth of his son Finlay, with only £1,000 in the bank as back-up. However, his stint as a sole trader was short-lived.
Within months of landing his first client, Scottish Renewables, Dobbie was regularly working 16 hours a day. He hired his first part-time member of staff, and from there MadeBrave was born. Its client portfolio is now both weighty and diverse, including names such as Air Space, IBM, Muller, Sky, Springbank Whisky and Vango.
The company showcases its wares by promoting its own brand: across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, MadeBrave has about 20,000 followers.
“We now have our own fans,” he says. “As a business we need to think about that, because we have got two sets of people we are talking to – our own followers, and prospective clients.”
More than 80 per cent of the company’s customers are based in Scotland, and Dobbie sees plenty of room for further growth in the home market. He describes MadeBrave as “riding the wave of growth – and we’ll see where that takes us”.
“Now that I have got a taste for it, I want us to become the largest creative agency in Scotland. I have got a vision for this place that is not where we are yet at.”
30 SECOND CV
Born: Edinburgh, 1981
Raised: Biggar, South Lanarkshire
Education: Glasgow College of Building and Printing (HND, Multimedia Design); Paisley University (Bsc, Multimedia Systems)
First job: Paper boy
Ambition at school: Either to be a musician or an architect. I always knew it would be something creative.
Can’t live without: Now it would have to be my son, Finlay, and my wife Pam.
Kindle or book: Audiobooks – I have a very fast pace of life, so every morning driving into work I’m listening to learning books on things like marketing or business.
Favourite city: It’s got to be Glasgow, closely followed by Edinburgh, because I was born there.
Favourite mode of transport: We have got a Mini-segway, followed very closely by a Hoverboard we’ve got here in the office.
What makes you angry: Not a great deal these days – people not paying their bills on time, I suppose.
What inspires you: Being surrounded by positive and creative people.
Best thing about your job: Getting to do what I love, and getting paid to do it.