Digital & IT

Published: June 16, 2022 | Updated: June 17, 2022

Agency co-founder hails arrival of former CEO in non-exec role as “huge coup for business”

Don Henshall, who is to become a Non-Executive Director and shareholder in Uprated, and Jon Darch, Co-Founder. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

“It’s a huge coup for the business.”

The words of Jon Darch, Co-Founder of digital marketing agency, Uprated.

It follows the news that former Farrow & Ball CEO Don Henshall is to become a Non-Executive Director and shareholder in the business.

The arrangement formalises a business relationship going back to 2019.

That’s when Jon joined Uprated in a full-time role after co-founding the agency with Andy White five years earlier.

He previously worked at Farrow & Ball as Digital Marketing Manager, coinciding with Don’s time as CEO.

Jon, 42, pictured left, said: “We started talking in 2019, almost on a ‘keep in touch’ basis.

“Don is interested in all sorts of businesses and helped us out where we had some gaps in our experience.

“Andy has now emigrated to Canada.

“His leaving presented us with an opportunity to think about how best to include Don and another team member who’s been with the business a long time.

“I’m really excited to work with Don.

“He’s by far the most successful person I’ve ever met so having that available to us as a resource is fantastic – it was not something I thought would ever be possible.

“To be able to lean on Don, be it as a sounding board, adviser or someone who has run lots of successful businesses, is hugely powerful for us.”

Don, 60, was CEO of Farrow & Ball for eight years from 2010 until 2018.

His previous roles included Owner of Krispy Kreme UK, bringing the famous US doughnut and coffee house business to this country, and the MD UK and then CEO USA of Diesel.

He was Chairman of Christchurch-based Gozney, the pizza oven company, from 2018 until last December.

Don, pictured right, said: “What I hopefully bring to Uprated is the slightly bigger helicopter sense of where we’re going with this, how do we grow the business, which clients are we helping and how can we help them more.

“I talk on the phone regularly to Jon but once a month we formally get together and we look at the numbers, talk about challenges and opportunities and move things forward.

“It’s great seeing it develop stronger foundations.

“We live in a digital world so obviously there is a huge growth but Jon and his team don’t want to turn this into some £10m big agency.

“It’s about sustainable growth and that’s what I like about it.

“For me there’s also a selfish benefit because they’re involved in digital and digital is the modern way.

“I sit on some other Boards as well.

“If you don’t know how SEO is working, or perhaps the latest evolvement with Google Analytics to GA4, then you don’t offer as much value.

“Being close to an agency that does that every day helps me as well.”

Based in Bournemouth, Uprated now employs 11 people and has just enjoyed its most successful financial year with year-on-year growth of 20 per cent.

Its three core services are digital marketing – paid, organic and social media – insight and optimisation and the design and development of websites using its inhouse team.

Clients include Brakeburn, Farrow & Ball, Homepride, Mozzo Coffee, MSP Capital, Runderwear and Steele Raymond.

Jon, whose brother, Ross, works for the business as a Senior Digital Account Manager, said: “Most of our business comes from referrals.

“We’re really hot on providing the best service we can.

“That means, hopefully, people say nice things about us and recommend our services. We have a network of referrers to the business.

“We’re pretty much an organic growth business.

“As we’ve acquired new clients we’ve looked to add more resources and more people to the team.

“We’ve had a big growth period this year with a number of new faces.”

Don, who lives in East Lulworth and retains business interests in several other companies, said he was relishing his new role with Uprated.

He said: “I ran businesses for a long time but I now want to be a coach.

“It’s all about coaching Jon and other members of the team.

“I’ve been very lucky in my business career.

“I’ve still got plenty of energy but I no longer want to be 24/7 running something.

“The non-exec role allows you to do that.

“They can pick up the phone anytime and I can hopefully help them.

“Sometimes you just need a sounding board because it’s lonely being the person running the company.

“Uprated is in a great sector with great people and delivers a great service.

“If you’re building something too quickly it doesn’t last.

“You have to be building each year and the foundations get stronger and stronger.

“That’s how I see the future for this business.

“It’s an exciting place to be.”