An IT company, started by a former Teesside student, is now 10 years old and a multi-million pounds business.
Razorblue Group employs more than 40 people, has offices in Catterick, Leeds, Newcastle and London and works with more than 200 clients.
It has just posted record results, anticipates growth from its current turnover of £3.5m to more than £4.5m in the coming year, and later this summer expects to make a major announcement about further expansion.
Managing director Dan Kitchen was born in Sunderland, grew up in County Durham and North Yorkshire, and attended Red House School in Stockton.
As a teenager, he was so confident of success that at the age of 16 he quit his A’ level studies after just three months to concentrate on his business: “It was a bit of a leap of faith, but it paid off. I was 100% confident because I had nothing to lose and I knew what I wanted to achieve.”
Ten years later Razorblue’s list of clients includes a various range of businesses such as Sports Direct, Wensleydale Creamery and financial advisors Gale & Phillipson.
The company’s success, he said, was due to its technical excellence and recommendations from satisfied customers. “Almost all of our growth is organic and that has to say something,” said Mr Kitchen.
Razorblue began as a cloud hosting business – and still works with some of its early clients – but has gradually evolved. Now it offers expertise in Managed IT Support, Cloud, Connectivity and bespoke business software.
Speaking at the company’s head office in Catterick, Mr Kitchen said: “There’s been a marked change recently in the way technology works – there’s been a massive drive towards cloud – but we were already ahead of the game many years ago.
“We became an internet service provider in 2009 and built our own network. We also built our own cloud infrastructure and the knowledge behind that goes back more than 10 years. That means we have loads of experience delivering the solutions people now want.
“From our customers’ point of view, we do everything ourselves and we are in control through our own infrastructure. We are 100% accountable. Not many other people can say that.”
The company has thrived in a sector subject to constant change and fierce competition. “If anybody tells you they know what’s going to happen in IT in the next two years they’re talking rubbish. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. We’ve got to move with the market and keep up with the times – that’s what we’ve done for the 10 years. If new technology comes to the market you’ve got to embrace it,” he said.
Over the past decade, alongside his knowledge of technology, Razorblue’s boss has also learned how to run a growing business and one of his proudest achievements is the company’s commitment to apprentices.
“Many of the people who work here – were or are – apprentices. The technical apprentices have been fantastic. They are so engaged and love what they do. We obviously have checks and safeguards but the culture here is to throw them in at the deep end, so they’re learning at a rapid rate yet in a very controlled environment,” he said.
Although Razorblue employs graduates, its MD believes a successful career in IT is possible without going to university: “A lot of people think it’s highly theoretical, but IT is surprisingly practical. If you want a technical career and are bright enough you don’t need a degree. It’s about finding solutions to problems – whether they be technical or logistical in nature.”
He has no regrets about cutting short his own education and remembers visiting student friends when Razorblue was in its infancy but already successful. “I still had nights out but had to keep up with what was going on at the same time,” he said.