A visit to the PageSuite office immediately demonstrates the relaxed work ethos of this forward-thinking digital development company. Staff mill around, chatting and sharing ideas at their modern, free-range desks, or pop over to the open plan kitchen area to make a drink. There’s even a beer pump, installed by the new brewery over the road, to be put into action last thing on Friday as the team wind down for the weekend.
PageSuite marketing director Lucy Tozer smiles as I comment that this must be a very pleasant place to work. “It’s great, we all get on well, there’s lots of opportunities for people to share ideas and feel they’re part of the business. I love it!”
The bright, modern environment on the ground floor of the new Connect 38 building next to Ashford International Station in Kent is a far cry from the origins of this young-at-heart company, launched in the garage of its founder Nathan Parrett in 2006. It now has 50 employees and is constantly evolving its marketing strategies to meet the needs of an international client base.
Nathan was born in Hythe, Kent and went to school in Dover, before doing a BND in computer management at South Kent College. His first job as a marketing analyst at Telewest in Gillingham, led to work in London for four years, before he came up with the idea of PageSuite after “getting frustrated viewing pdfs on newspaper websites”. It’s a software program to present print to online readers in an easy-to-use format, with a satisfying “swishing” sound as the virtual page turns.
Word of Nathan’s innovative software soon spread by word of mouth. He recalls: “We won a client called Archant, who wanted it rolled out to 100–plus newspapers in three weeks. We worked night and day to achieve it and as soon as they went live, a marketing piece was done by them which quickly picked up traction. We were soon picking up almost a client a week across the UK, while I was selling and developing the software seven days a week.”
Luckily for Nathan, he was only 27 at the time and had the energy to carry out this exhausting schedule, while juggling the demands of a new baby. He had quit his full-time job two weeks before his son’s birth, to follow his dream of working for himself. With hindsight and the maturity of experience, he now says ruefully: “I have since learned that no one ever works for themselves!”
After the low-key beginnings of PageSuite in his garage at home in the village of Mersham, south of Ashford, Nathan began to expand the company, taking on tech developers and moving the business to two barns in nearby Aldington. An admin office was set up at Smeeth a few miles away, but in September, 2018, the entire team moved into the Connect 38 building as one unit.
Despite its worldwide client base, PageSuite has just one overseas office – in Boston, New Hampshire, where Chris Took is working on expansion within the US. He hopes to take on another two or three staff in the near future.
A London office was tried for a while, but with the new high-speed rail connection to Ashford, Nathan felt it was better to retain the Kent base and encourage staff to make the move out of the capital, where property is cheaper and opportunities are becoming more diverse.
Nathan said: “Over the last 10 years, we have developed solutions for some of the biggest newspaper and magazine groups across the world, including The Boston Globe, Newsday, The LA Times, The Philippine Star and News UK. We’ve also enjoyed recent success in both the Middle East and central Europe.
PageSuite operates two main marketing strategies – “out-of-the-box” software and tailored development solutions for more niche companies. Staff are also working to develop links between PageSuite and hands-free, voice-controlled speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home. Nathan and his technicians are working on the software to offer regular “flash briefings” of news and even how to create virtual reality solutions for customers.
The company is also exploring uses for so-called “Smart City Tech” which offers help to work out the quickest commute and the best places to park, among a host of other innovations.
A sister company, SixPorts, was set up in 2018 to open new digital opportunities for companies. Its business development manager Laurence Whittle welcomes inquiries, especially from SMEs wanting to stretch their wings in the online market.
With all this excitement, Nathan keeps his finger on the pulse of reality by helping to look after his five children – two by his fiancée, three from a previous relationship. He also loves to run, clocking up to 40 miles a week as a stress-buster.
He lists his professional ambitions as “to grow both PageSuite and SixPorts and for PageSuite to be a world-leading brand,” adding “we are doing really well in the States and want to replicate that success globally, we are on track to do that.” However, success doesn’t come easily to Nathan, who admits: “I always want more and try to pass that ethos to my valuable staff. Without them I wouldn’t have a business.”