BCU Alumni celebrate 10 years in business


Dan Cooper and Olly Sorsby graduated from BCU’s BA (Hons) Graphic Communication degree course 10 years ago before setting up their own company, Adaptable, a digital product studio.

In 10 years, they have picked up skills, experience and further knowledge in their chosen industry

Now, they’re sitting down with us to tell us what they’ve accomplished in the past decade.

Hi Dan and Olly! Can you tell us all about Adaptable; when did you create the company, what inspired you to set-up your own company and what does the company do?

Adaptable is a digital product studio; we craft digital products and experiences that help organisations thrive. We founded the studio in 2013, during the final months of our university course. It was during the second year of our course that we were put in the same tutor group. We started working together and decided we’d like to set something up. We were working freelance at the time, and Dan had also been running a small eCommerce business, so it seemed like a natural progression to set up a joint venture.

We have just moved into our new studio located at Assay Studios, in the centre of Birmingham. Our building, the former Assay Office, was built back in 1877 and boasts lots of the original character making it a creative and inspiring place to be based.

Over the years, we’ve worked with the likes of National Express, Liberty Steel Group, Spitfire Homes, Dr Martens and the Mailbox. Currently, we have 12 members on the team, along with a network of connected partners. We’re also currently hiring for more positions too.

What are the biggest lessons in business you have learned in the past 10 years?

Take care of people – Look after your team; that's not just sticking a pool table in the office, it's real benefits like flexible working and company healthcare. Also, creating a culture where everyone is treated equally, and we prioritise honesty and transparency.

Love what you do – If the passion isn't there, then it's probably not going to work out. You should also spend time where you add most value, so if a part of the business isn’t your core focus, bring someone on board whose passion it is to run that part.

Don't get comfortable – If you stand still, you get left behind, and in our ever-changing digital world, that couldn't be more true.

Take risks – Take risks across the board, that could be a hiring decision, a different strategy or approach to a project or even an investment decision.

Deliver more than expected – Something we should all strive for. No matter the scope of the project, we strive to deliver nothing less than a world-class product.

What are your biggest highlights from the past 10 years?

Taking the gamble after uni and ploughing ahead, getting the business off the ground, consecutive year on year growth, navigating and surviving the pandemic and coming out stronger and more efficient after reviewing how we operated.

Also, we take our team away on our annual retreat, it’s a real highlight at the end of each year to take a long weekend break, normally to a European city, to have some extra downtime as a team.

Building a business isn’t easy, so what have been the biggest challenges and how have you overcome them?

Again, the pandemic. It would be easy to focus on the negatives, projects getting put on hold or cancelled, but instead we used it as an opportunity to relook at how we could best support our clients, and how we could improve our processes to be more efficient.

Learning to be comfortable with rejection; you’re not going to win every project, and it’s important to keep the conversation open and friendly. There might be opportunities to work together in future! Also, try and get feedback about why you weren’t successful, it’s a massive help for future work.

We’ve often come across complex challenges or things we haven’t encountered before with a particular client or industry. We’ve always relished the opportunity to learn more and see figuring out these challenges as a key part in growing our expertise.

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

Connected to graduating, a few years after we had been running the studio, it was great to be asked back to BCU as visiting speakers. We got to run a series of workshops and briefs with students which was really rewarding for us to be able to go back and do.

How has your degree helped you in your career so far?

I think our degree provided us with theory and practical skills, the main takeaway was how to solve problems. Solving our clients' problems and challenges is what we do on a daily basis which has been a valuable tool.

What advice would you give to those currently studying at BCU?

Make the most of all the opportunities that you have whilst studying. The more you put in whilst at uni, not just with your course work but all elements of uni life, the more benefits you’ll get when you graduate.

Don’t be scared to reach out to potential employers and see if you can ask them questions about your course work, dissertations etc - it was surprising to me how many people were happy to give me 30 mins to chat through things.

Find out more about Adaptable here.

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