On 4th April 2023 B Double E turns 5!
I couldn’t think of anything to write about for this month’s blog, so I thought I’d gazump Helen and write about our Birthday before she gets a chance to. So here for your delectation (and to keep Helen off my back about writing a blog) are my deliberations of the last 5 years.
Why go limited?
Previous to 2018 we were both working as sole traders running our own individual businesses. I was trading as Bee Productive (remember him?) and Helen was largely freelancing in design studios around Manchester as Mrs Bee. In those days there was very little crossover between our businesses and our client list.
Working as a sole trader more in the corporate world than I was, Helen faced a couple of issues which she wouldn’t if she were limited. So she spoke to our accountant who basically said that it would be cheaper if we both went limited rather than just Helen. So B Double E was formed more as an umbrella company for our 2 enterprises than any grand vision of Helping Voiceovers to be Seen and Heard.
What’s in a name?
We love being B Double E. But we took ages finding a name that worked.
We’d both previously played with ‘Bee’ in a punny kind of way in our business names, and wanted to keep that. The problem is that bees are a universally acknowledged symbol of hard work and industriousness, so every bee-themed name we could think of was already taken either as a business name or the domains had already been registered online. So we moved from bees onto hives and found much the same. I remember in my searchings that I tried B double E as a wildcard and came up trumps. Helen took a bit of persuasion, but very quickly came round.
A few days ago I had a Facebook memory come up ‘Just done a grown up thing and had to come for a pint to recover.’ The grown up thing was setting up our business bank account and the memory makes me smile. After we’d set up the account there was an offer of discounted business insurance with the bank, and so the account manager we were talking to rang the broker and we heard one side of the conversation – “B double E ltd… Robert Bee… Bee… Bee… B double E” and you could see the lightbulb switch on as soon as she had to spell our name out!
We’ve only had 2 negative reactions to the business name. One when we launched the business from a client who said they thought we’d overthought things and it was too complicated, and the other from my Mum who, when I told her the new business name said,’ Oh, that’s not very original.’ To be fair to her she had more years than I have of having to spell it every time you get asked for your name.
The Empirical Umbrella
Trying to think of a catchy title for this next bit about the umbrella company evolving into the (tiny) business empire we sit atop of now. I’m reminded that Umbrella is an Urdu word and that when we invaded India one of the things we brought back to Blighty was umbrellas which were used in India as sun shades, but we brought them back to keep the rain off. No idea why no one here had thought of something like them before. Maybe they’re too hard to carry on horseback in full armour or something. My history is a little patchy.
The first One Voice
In 2018 the First One Voice conference was held in London. This was about 3 weeks after B Double E’s launch. Because of my connections with Gravy For The Brain I was asked to speak. I really wanted to, but the conference was right at the end of a holiday we had booked in Suffolk. Long story short, we drove from Suffolk to London, missing the first day of the conference but I spoke and hosted a workshop. Previous to B Double E, Helen had never been to a voiceover conference but attended this one sort of as my guest, but mainly just hanging around in the hotel bar making a nuisance of herself. But she decided that she liked voiceover artists and that she wanted to work with them. And so a seed was sown. It grew slowly until the next bit happened…
2020 was a funny year. If you talk to people who were running businesses in 2020 most will tell you that it was a struggle, but there are a few that for whatever reason did ok (I’m not thinking of the nefarious arseholes who cajoled, scammed and defrauded their way through the pandemic, I’m thinking of normal honest people). There’s sort of a survivors guilt for those people who did ok. I think we’re sort of in that camp.
When the world shut down Helen lost all of her freelance work overnight. She had been slowly working towards working full-time with voiceovers but she still had a long way to go. 80% of her income disappeared overnight.
For me, it was boom time as many London VO agents – who previously had told their artists that they didn’t need studios at home – had to rapidly reassess that situation and many of them got in touch with me to help set home studios up for their roster of voices. So I kept the ship afloat while Helen hibernated for 3 months and redesigned her side of the business to what it now is a lot faster than she otherwise would have been able to. So these days she works from home almost all the time and I never get any peace. Financially, ‘we survived the pandemic’ is about as good as we can say, but there’s no way we’d be where we are now without those events of 2020.
A lot can happen in 5 years
Neither of us had any ambition to run a business when we left school. Even a decade ago (when I was doing Bee Productive part time as a bit of a side-hustle) the thought of owning a limited company together was a million miles away from where we’d thought we would be. But here we are, now working very much together with a shared client list and a greater understanding of each other’s work than ever.
Above that, we both love what we’re doing and highly value the opportunities we get given to make an impact on other people’s businesses. It’s honestly an honour to be trusted with the nuts and bolts of how other people make an income, and it’s wonderful when we see our efforts making a difference on – not just someone’s business – but their confidence and excitement as well.
Here’s to the next 5 (and beyond)
We’re not going anywhere. We’re both proud of what we have created and want it to get bigger and better. We feel a lot of love for our services from the voiceover community and going forward we want to tweak and improve our offerings, and maybe come up with some totally new ones.
Watch this space!!
To find out how Rob and Helen work with voiceovers – Helping you to be seen and heard – head over to our services page. And you can keep in touch by subscribing to our newsletter or follow us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.