Antropy's Recent Interview with Starter Story

Posted by JackBudd on February 2, 2024

In a recent discussion with Starter Story, Paul provided valuable insights into the secrets underpinning Antropy’s growth, the origin story, and the key steps taken to launch Antropy:

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! I’m Paul Feakins, Managing Director at Antropy, an e-commerce web agency based near London Gatwick in the UK. Here I guide my team of very talented web designers, developers, and marketers to build incredibly fast and high-converting online shops with open source software so that they can be highly automated and integrate with all sorts of other systems easily.

Our clients have been from the entire spectrum ranging from one-person startups to huge and well-known companies such as The Mirror Group, UCL, Pizza Express, Coca Cola, what3words, and more. Our ideal clients are somewhere in-between, being in the 5 to 50 employee range.

Having started working alone in my bedroom over 13 years ago, I’ve grown the business over those years and now work from a nice office with a very talented and growing team of around 5 which I’m incredibly grateful for. We have just hit a record monthly profit of over £30k!


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

From a very young age, I was fascinated by computers. Like many ‘80s kids, I had a ZX Spectrum and used to sit and program in BASIC for hours. We have a replica Spectrum in the office today!

I always loved IT lessons at school and always craved time on the computer. When we bought our first home computer in 1994, a Packard Bell with a 66MHz processor and a 420MB hard drive, I continued my programming exploits, this time in QBASIC and Boreland Delphi. I also did some 3D modeling in a program called “Imagine” and some vector graphics in a fantastic program called “DesignWorks”. Both came free on the cover of computer magazines and were a taste of what was to come!

After finishing my A-levels, I wasn’t entirely sure what career to go into but I knew it must involve computers and ideally be creative. I was always drawn to computer graphics, so I did a Foundation in Art & Design where I experimented with Photoshop and Macromedia Flash. This eventually led me to a Degree in New Media Graphic Design at UCreative in Epsom.

A work experience module on this course allowed me to gain some real world experience designing book covers and typesetting books which led to my first freelancer role in London for a small digital agency called e-Digital. After that, I took a permanent role at a slightly bigger digital agency called Monochrome based in Cobham where the focus was on the complicated technical programming aspects of web application development, and I found my passion.

After some thoroughly enjoyable years there, in search of the next challenge, I incorporated a Limited company and joined the IT contractor circuit in the ColdFusion programming language that Monochrome used.

After a few years, I became Head of the Web Team at The Berkeley Group Holdings, an FTSE 100 company. After a few years there, in the summer of 2010, I decided it was time to do what I had always known was my calling and start my digital agency.

Take us through the process of building the first version of your product

When I started Antropy, I’d come from a web agency background, and most web agencies take on projects of all different types. The main type of project was content managed websites, and I made the decision to switch from ColdFusion to PHP (due to my preference for open source software). PHP is open source itself and it has much more open source software available for it. After thorough research, I decided to use one of these platforms, a CMS called Concrete5 (now called ConcreteCMS).

At this point, I took on a very diverse range of clients, mostly producing content managed websites, but also some interesting Flash games that I outsourced to a very talented Flash developer I had met at The Berkeley Group called Arek.

Having built up some good contacts, I managed to build a good relationship with a Project Manager who worked for various London agencies and would outsource some very juicy projects to Antropy including some for Ben & Jerry’s, Coca-Cola, Pizza Express, and others.

One of my early clients was my brother who had started a business called “Geeks and Gadgets” which sold gadgets and electronics on eBay. He of course wanted a website to do this and came to me.

After building his first online shop in Magento, I realized that it was going to be very important to use a platform where the code was well-written, simple, and flexible so I began some thorough research. After trying out various platforms I settled on OpenCart for its winning-blend of simplicity and functionality.

Interestingly, after focusing the company on e-commerce websites and online shops built specifically with OpenCart I started to get more and more business.

You might think that if you specialize in a niche and say “no” to projects outside that niche, you will reduce the amount of work that you get. But the opposite was true and the quality of the work you can do gets better if you specialize. It was the counter-intuitive but correct thing to do.

My brother’s gadget shop went on to do very well indeed specialized in Radio Control models and rebranded to RC Geeks. He now supplies many major UK retailers with big brand products.

Describe the process of launching the business

So there I was, in my bedroom with a wealth of experience and skill at developing websites, but no customers! I knew I had to get clients but I didn’t know how.

So I did the logical thing and bought a book from Amazon about how to get clients and it was called Get Clients Now. The book explained lots of different types of sales and marketing activities in detail and then gave me a weekly schedule with daily marketing tasks to tick off. These tasks have changed and evolved dramatically over the years - we’ve kept what worked and axed what didn’t.

I stuck to the plan described in Get Clients Now and … I got clients then! My Digital Marketer and I still use a variation of this weekly schedule described above to plan our marketing activities and I’m pleased to say that it still works nicely to bring in new business - but we regularly review it and adapt.

Of course, working alone I designed and built the first Antropy website which was at, a domain name one of our early clients suggested we shorten to - he knew what he was talking about in business as he’s recently sold his company for €150 million, but that’s another story!


In those early days, I was akin to the comic depiction of a one-man-band - someone playing all those instruments at once; I did telesales to find clients, I sent out emails, I went to networking events, I went on business forums like the UK Business Forums, I searched Twitter for people who were looking for web developers, and then of course when I got interested leads I put on a suit and went to those meetings to try and win the business.

There were a lot of time wasters. Then I’d need to write up their requirements into a clear statement of works, generate the invoices, and add them to the open source accounting software we use, GnuCash. After all that I’d need to design the website, present it to the client, accept their feedback, then once signed-off I’d have to code it.

Finally, I’d configure a server to host it and the job would be done and the money in the bank. I’m very pleased to say that several of the clients I got from those early days are still with Antropy today!

There were a lot of difficult and unreasonable clients, clients who didn’t respect the work, clients who didn’t respect the skill or time required, and then of course there were the ones who took the work and simply didn’t pay their final bill. Over the years though, every time something like this has gone wrong, I’ve implemented a new rule, policy, or process, and I have to say that problems are now very few and far between and Antropy is quite the well-oiled machine!

For the first year or so I worked alone like this but soon began to outsource some projects to freelancers who I knew from previous jobs or through friends. I built good relationships with a few people who were starting similar businesses to my own and it was useful to have calls with them and chat about ideas for growing our respective businesses.

After around a year I hired a fully remote but full time Project Manager from Romania via a freelancer website and after that hired a few Ukrainian PHP developers. The business continued like this for a few more years until I heard through a good friend about a chap called James who was very interested in getting into web development.

At this point, I was sharing an office with my brother - because it was nicer than working at home all the time - and that made it easy to ask James to come and join me in the office to work on a few projects and see how he got on.

He was very eager to learn and very good but even so, committing to the outgoing of a full-time developer’s salary was nerve wracking. However, it did seem to be the right thing to do and I took the plunge. Happily, all worked out very well and after a year or so I started to look for more UK-based developers to join me - albeit at apprentice level initially to keep costs low.

After the first hire, it somehow didn’t seem so scary hiring more staff, so that’s what I did. After getting a few more UK-based developers, I hired a Sales Person called Alex who could also help me Project Manage. He was another contact who came through a friend and while it took him a while to generate enough extra business to cover his salary (almost 3 years actually!) Eventually, he paid off and he helped me hire some incredible developers as well as filter out the low paying and difficult clients and attract much better quality ones.

Although Alex recently left the company, we’re doing incredibly well, and planning to hire more staff in the near future, that is essentially where we are at today; making record profits, looking to grow, and incredibly busy, with a lot of potential for future growth and ideas for new services!

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

As mentioned earlier, to this day my Digital Marketer and I still have a schedule of daily marketing tasks and we tick those off each day as we go. Here are some of the tasks on our current schedule:

  • Check the OpenCart Forums for user issues and respond helpfully.
  • Check the OpenCart Commercial forum for paid jobs and respond.
  • Check the UK Business Forum and reply helpfully.
  • Once per month send an email newsletter to our database - everyone who’s ever enquired about our services.
  • Once per week, check the performance of Google AdWords and adjust if necessary, always playing 2 ads off against each other with minor tweaks.
  • Once per week write a blog article that is helpful to OpenCart users.
  • Once per week post something useful to our target clients on all social media channels; Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter).
  • Once per week check our SEO position for the top 5 keywords we’re targeting.
  • When a client sends a nice email about being pleased with our work, ask them for a Google Review.
  • Online networking; check in with business contacts around once a week to see how things are going and whether you can help them with anything or whether they can help you with anything, even just a quick tip, some moral support, or a second opinion on something can be very useful.
  • Once per month, go over active clients and ask if there is anything to help with.
  • “Follow-up” - very important! Don’t assume people will come back to you if they are interested in a project. Keep a list of people who have enquired and chase them regularly until you get a yes or a no, or they have ignored 3+ emails.
  • Every day, find 10 new prospects who use OpenCart send an intro email, and give them a call.

Something I learned quite early on in business is that sales and marketing are more important than anything. The huge temptation after you do some good marketing work and win a few clients is to focus on the work for those clients and of course, you feel too busy to try and win more clients while you’re working on their projects.

But you MUST continue your sales and marketing activities even when you feel like you’re too busy to do them because when those projects end, you’ll be left with none otherwise and you’ll end up in the cycle of “feast and famine” that agencies and freelancers alike truly hate.

Always do your marketing tasks first thing each day before any client work, and then crack on with the client work, unless you want to run out of work that is!

Another really important thing that seems so obvious to me now is that you must build a database (it can be a spreadsheet at first as shown below) of everyone who has ever contacted you about your products or services and use that list to send out regular newsletters or just to start conversations about what you can do for people - stay in touch with the right people.

Even if you only use a spreadsheet at first, building a list in a database or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is essential. You should add everyone who contacts you about your services and make sure you either get a yes or no from them (unless they do ghost you which is pretty common sadly). It can look as simple as this Google Sheet to start:


You would be surprised at the amount of money that’s lost by small businesses simply because a potential customer (or worse, you the business owner) forgets to reply about a potential project!

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I’m very pleased to say that over the 13 years, Antropy has been in business, the trend in our sales is clearly upward and by keeping on top of our expenses, our profit is also trending upward. If you’re wondering, the big profit in November 2011 was caused by a very big and stressful project for Pizza Express, but I’m pleased to say we’ve recently beaten that previous monthly profit record.


It’s hard to scale a services business like Antropy - to scale you need talented people, and by definition, they are hard to come by, but the growth has been good and in the right (upward!) direction.

On top of that, we are starting to generate more and more of our revenue from scaleable sources such as the OpenCart extensions we sell as digital downloads.

We also decided to build our online shops that dropship - there were two reasons for this - one was to understand our clients better from their perspectives as store owners, and the other was to build another source of scaleable income.

One of our shops (in the vape industry) has become quite established and is making monthly sales in the thousands of pounds. If you vape you’ll love it!

Going forward we intend to focus more and more on the scalable services we offer which are our OpenCart Web Hosting, our OpenCart Extensions, and our OpenCart Health Check, and we have plans for a SaaS product that we aren’t ready to unveil yet.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Well, it’s pretty hard to sum up 13 years of business experience in a few paragraphs but let me think what short messages I might send back to my younger self if I could …

Be polite, professional, firm, and fair - but recognize that clients can often be unreasonable, so make sure you say no to unreasonable requests.

If they threaten to walk, then let them - it will give you space for clients who respect you and your work - assuming you do good work of course which you always must!

There will be times when you feel you need to take a risk - such as hiring your first remote worker, and then perhaps hiring your first employee. Depending on your temperament that might be pretty scary. If it’s not scary at all then you’re probably not being cautious enough with your money.

But if you think hard about whether it’s right and it still seems like it is (and it won’t destroy the company if it goes wrong) then it’s probably worth taking the risk because even in the worst case you will still learn something valuable.

Hire the best people you can and pay them as much as you sensibly can, treat them well, but do not accept any nonsense. If you choose carefully, most employees are brilliant and work hard but if they do start to disrespect you or mess around, get rid of them immediately and don’t look back - otherwise they will drag you and the company down. The weight off your shoulders you’ll feel when they’re gone will be incredible. One day you’ll laugh about it.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

This is actually a very important question and one that we have quite strong views on, and the answer is that we aim for all of our software to be web-based and open source, and ideally written in PHP.

Not all of our software conforms to this for various reasons but most do. For example:

  • For accounting we use GnuCash and Webzash.
  • For Project Management we use Rukovoditel.
  • For Time Tracking we use Kimai.
  • For our Intranet, we use WordPress which is quite a bad piece of software but it’s so popular that as web developers it’s good that we know it.
  • For Bug Tracking, we use Gogs.
  • For server and website monitoring we use PHP Server Monitor (which I’m one of the contributors to).
  • For most of our desktops, we use Linux of various flavors but my current favorite is Kubuntu.

Most of these run on MySQL databases and I’ve written various scripts and dashboards for the company that use this wealth of data.

I can see in real time so much information about the company including our income and profit to the penny which is accurate to the second as my developers log time. I do not know of any other companies that have such accurate and up-to-date information about what’s going on, and this is incredibly helpful in guiding decisions.

For example, we can very quickly develop new functionality that might do something like email all clients who are running out of pre-paid time or get a list of clients whose last website audit was over 6 months ago.

This allows us as programmers to automate so many parts of the business from the accounting to the marketing, and even much of the development work.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Get Clients Now was probably one of the most useful books in getting the business started, as well as many of the business classics from the early 1900s.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that early on in Antropy’s history in around 2011, I entered a “Young Entrepreneur’s” competition and got through to the finals. Sadly I had to drop out at that point because of the particularly demanding project for Pizza Express previously mentioned, but I still won a year’s membership to Nigel Botteril’s Entrepreneur’s Circle.

This included a monthly networking meeting where a business mentor would guide the group through business (and especially marketing) lessons which were incredibly useful and guided a lot of my early marketing techniques.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

The biggest one has to be simply, “work both hard AND smart”. Just because you’re your boss does not mean that you can do what you like, start when you like, finish when you like, go to the pub, take long lunches, and so on.

If you’re running a business, your clients or customers will expect you to be available during business hours and if you’re not they probably won’t take you very seriously.

Being your own boss means treating yourself like you would any other employee. Brian Tracy likes to say that when starting your own business, “you either focus or you will have to go and work for someone who will make you focus.”

Other than that, and as mentioned above, doing your sales and marketing tasks first each day is very important, however busy you are.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

While we haven’t got any job ads running this second, we are always looking for talented web developers and computer geeks, and we are likely to be hiring a Web Designer with CSS-knowledge, another PHP Developer, and another Project Manager in the very near future.

So if you are interested in working at Antropy please do have a look at our Careers page and send me an email!

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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