One Great Studio is a "digital-first agency" focused on using digital marketing assets "to drive profits and purpose", according to CEO Djuvane Browne and Chief Operating Officer Gina DeLisser.
Emphasising the mantra that "digital is more than social", the two co-founders also clarify that the company does not sell websites nor does it just sell digital services, but offers measurable outcomes to its clients by using digital media to drive business.
Though both met as teens at Moorlands Christian Camp in Mandeville, Manchester, Browne and DeLisser do not consider their business partnership to be mere coincidence or luck, but the result of divine intervention that orchestrated their reunion later in life to support each other's professional pursuits and complement each other's skill set.
In fact, it was the same Moorlands Christian Camp that would serve as the ground where the seeds of One Great Studio were planted. It was there, too, that Browne honed his entrepreneurial skills, gleaning from the expertise of several businessmen who sat on the board of management for the campsite.
In 2012, after spending almost a decade as a self-employed freelancer and solopreneur designing and building websites for various clients, Browne began operations at Moorlands while serving with his wife to manage the facility.
"One Great Studio was really a transition for me from being a solopreneur to taking on a partner. When we started out a lot of clients I had built up over the years before came over to start One Great Studio," he told Jamaica Observer at the company's small boardroom off Lady Musgrave Road in New Kingston.
Though its name suggests otherwise, the company's head office consists of possibly less than 3,000 square feet including the founder's office, a meeting room and a office space shared by about four team members. Starting with only four employees including Browne as the sole proprietor and DeLisser as a contracted freelancer, the company has grown to over 23 team members.
One Great Studio also operates from another office in Florida in the United States due to having served US-based churches and ministries as its first clients in the start-up phase of the company. With no cash injection, the company began with two computers and the income from these US clients serving as cash flow to cover expenses and support growth.
"At the time we were serving a lot of US churches…and they would basically outsource all their design and web work to us," Browne explained.
"One of the interesting things is we did work for a church in Texas that got picked up by a US company that was promoting this church and brought us a whole bunch of other churches," he added.
From there the company began to grow its clientèle, but also its service offering as clients as demand increased. Within a few years One Great studio landed its first local corporate client in IronRock insurance company.
The year 2013 marked a pivotal year in the life of the company as Browne and DeLisser cemented their partnership. After DeLisser contributed to the promotion of an album produced for gospel artiste DJ Nicholas, she decided to become a full-time team member. However, Browne had greater plans and invited his long-time compatriot to partner with him in growing the business and serve as chief operating officer.
"I was working on my own for a long time and that has its limitations…and so we worked together on a couple of projects and I found that the projects were better with her input. So I said to her, 'I would like to join'," he revealed.
For DeLisser the invitation to enter into partnership with her former campmate was an answered prayer. Although she had spent the previous years working in public relations for a Jamaica Stock Exchange-listed company, she was longing to apply the training in graphic design she received from York University in Toronto, Canada, to drive business revenue. As such, she responded and she took up the offer and joined Browne in Mandeville to manage two new recruits from Northern Caribbean University.
Both DeLisser and Browne would eventually relocate to the Corporate Area and with it One Great Studio also relocated its operations to the same locale.
For Browne, the move was more so to take up an opportunity in ministry serving as youth director at his local church, Swallowfield Chapel. While balancing the demands of ministry and business, the CEO said he "felt the strain of" the "divided attention" to both areas of his life. Soon the business's performance started to decline, and after a year and half the CEO was contemplating full-time ministry.
Sharing with Business Observer that this period in the business "is a big part of where we are today", Browne noted that, again, divine intervention would give the business its second wind and he, too, felt a new sense of purpose. On his birthday in 2016 he received a call from Jamaica Broilers Chairman Robert Levy requesting help with a website listing on Vrbo. This, he said, was an opportunity to demonstrate one of the value-added services of the company.
According to Browne, upon completion Levy said to him, "Djuvane, you're sitting on a billion-dollar business."
Not doubting the sage advice of the businessman, Browne disclosed his crisis of commitment with Levy explaining the challenges he faced balancing ministry, business and his role as a father and husband. What Levy told him next would have a lasting impression on his life: he too faced a similar dichotomy of wanting to serve in ministry while handling the responsibility of managing a company.
However, Levy noted that had he served as missionary, his life would not have had as meaningful an impact in God's Kingdom as serving as CEO and chairman of the conglomerate.
"Djuvane, you have to know whether you're called to the front line or to the pipeline," Levy told him, assuring him that there is a place in ministry for people who provide funding for others on the mission field.
Taking this council from Levy, Browne said his new vision for One Great Studio was to be the "place where people wanted to work", and so within a year the company's staff complement doubled to eight. After another year, it grew to 16 team members, and continued to grow even during COVID to now number 23. This growth in personnel was, in fact, a reflection of the increased demands of clients for new services as the company employed more staff members to meet the requests.
In addition to website design and development, One Great Studio began offering graphic design, community management, content strategy and development for websites, as well as social media management and strategy.
"I think it's important to mention that when we were adding services as clients requested, it was all along the lines of our overall focus for businesses, which is 'digital strategies that drive profits and purpose'. So we're big on connecting the dots across what we call digital assets. So our goal is primarily to serve businesses well and help businesses accomplish their goals through whatever digital marketing work we're involved with," DeLisser, who manages the day-to-day operations of the company, said.
The addition of new services was never ad hoc, she explained, but rather "thoughtful", "measured" and "intentional", aligning with the growth trajectory of the company while delivering results to clients, reiterating the company's commitment to outcomes.
When asked what it means to be a "digital-first agency", Browne noted, "We have the capacity to be a full-service [marketing] agency be we don't want to do all the different things, We want to play in a space where we're already established and we think we're best able to do that in a digital space. If a client wants to spend mostly on traditional [media], we're not the best agency; but if a client wants to spend mostly on digital and some on traditional…we prioritise digital over traditional."
With demand for new services driving new employment, the company has had to invest heavily in training with a view to entrench the company's culture of delivering outcomes. This includes workshops focused on reviewing the lessons from past projects as well as cross-training among specialists.
"We don't just want our team to have their knowledge [and skills] alone. They have to have an understanding of where we're heading," the CEO told Business Observer.
Apart from training, the company has changed the roles of account executives to client success managers as they bridge the gap between businesses and the designers and developers who execute the project. Furthermore, Browne has plans to provide business model training to managers in order for them to understand how the company's service contributes to its clients' success.
"From the very beginning this was Djuvane's process. You're not just selling a website; you're also doing consulting," DeLisser outlined, adding that the company has what it terms a "good fit call" which helps clients identify and prioritise their digital media needs.
Now the company is looking forward to growth having recently acquired an international company engaged in providing search engine optimisation (SEO) and converter rate optimisation (CRO).
Whereas an SEO allows a company to improve its ranking in online searches by using keywords to drive traffic to websites and apps, a CRO will help a business to convert visitors to websites and apps to become sales leads and, ultimately, revenue generation. Already, One Great Studio has the software that tracks impressions on websites, apps and social media that become sales leads and revenue.
Though tight-lipped on the company recently acquired, Browne disclosed that the company's staff complement will again double, to 46, and will include international team members serving an internationally diverse client base. Moreover, he pointed to the growth of the company in the Caribbean.
"The truth is that with the scale and the capacity we have now developed through our own growth locally and then the incorporation of the newly acquired company, it puts us in a place where there are not a lot of digital agencies at our size with our capacity in the Caribbean. So a big part of what we want to do right now is to expand into the Caribbean, not just the Caribbean but the region," Browne stated.