You might recall that last year we held a Propeller Networking event called ‘Meet the Entreprenuers’ where we invited some of the companies we’ve worked with back to talk about their personal journey to being a business owner.
As the Great Northern Creative Expo fell on Global Entrepreneurship Week this year, it seemed a great time to revisit the format, focusing on the Creative industries. We invited three creative entrepreneurs to tell us how they’ve forged their paths and how to keep going.
We were joined by:
Janine Bebbington, an ex-lecturer turned film maker who works with charities and has an interest in reserving the present for historians of the future.
Alan Livesey, a film production and screen writing graduate who continues to work on a variety of film projects and focused his message on the importance of developing a sustainable practice.
Naomi Stromire, a recent start-up designer who is finding their feet on Etsy, having reignited a passion for art with no formal education.
A bit about Janine
Janine is a film producer with the company Gorgeous Media in Lancaster. Previously a lecturer, there were typically two types of students: those who were incredibly passionate and would show her the projects they had been trying on their own, and then there were those who would show up and expect you to programme them into the perfect filmmaker. Some were inspirational and some of them needed to be inspired. She’d always had in mind that she’d start her own business when she was 40 but put it off and put it off until, at 42, she took the plunge.
At first, Janine didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she knew that she needed to believe in the product she was selling or the stories she was telling. Which is why weddings didn’t really work out. They were fine at first but too many people get divorced and then the love story told no longer rings true. Now Janine works with charities, documenting the work they do and preserving their practices and procedures for further down the line. One day we may look back at state-funded youth services and barely believe they existed. Documenting different lives and different stories will allow future historians to understand our times much better.
A bit about Alan
Alan is a UCLan graduate, where he studied film production and screen writing. During his time at UCLan he got to take on some pretty interesting projects, such a forming a part of a 9-person crew in Los Angeles during final year and being invited to New York to create a documentary. (He made a short film at the same time too, because why not?)
One of his more ambitious projects was the Blackout project. Wanting to make a feature-length film but having no money to do so, Alan devised a plan for 6 teams to film separately, bringing the story together at a later stage. It took 12 months with the planning and editing involved, with each team acting independently.
A significant project in its own right, it also brought personal significance to Alan, who has recently opened up to being epileptic. Two days prior to the premiere, he hit the export button and his computer announced it would take four days to render the project. Panic set in, sleep did not happen and on the morning of the premiere Alan had a seizure from sleep deprivation. He described it as his ‘lightbulb moment’ that if he was going to continue working in film for several more decades, he would have to look after his health whilst doing so. The last 5 years have been a challenge for Alan, as he tries to balance film making, earning a wage and not pushing himself beyond his limits.
A bit about Naomi
Naomi grew up thinking she would be a designer and attributes her lack of success to dropping art in school. It was all about examinations and research, which took away from what she actually enjoyed doing. Recently, she took art back up because she wanted to design her own tattoos. This led to a bit of a boom, with friends and colleagues fawning over them and asking Naomi to design some for themselves. As such, she got back into it.
Naomi entered into it with no idea of how to run a business, no idea how to do her finances and really just winged it. She found her niche in sublimations but creating things in bulk means relying on a website to create the material for you using your design. There’s always something more to learn. Proud of her ability to keep learning, Naomi spends hours on Youtube learning new skills to take her art to the next level.
Despite our three speakers telling their own stories, there were a few common themes in what they were saying.
Build a community
All of our speakers stressed the importance of cooperation and collaboration; about having someone to work with and receive support.
For Janine, this presented first in her students, some of which wanted to be one-man-bands, and then in her work where she would approach charity organisations and sell them on the lasting value of a collaboration.
For Alan, the importance of community was probably most prominent when he was talking about the feature-length film Blackout. With no budget and little resource, Alan gathered together enough interested parties to essentially create six short films which were then woven together into one feature-length project.
Naomi’s entire business started because the people around her wanted to support her work. Starting as commissions for friends and colleagues, it was designing tattoos that got her back into art in the first place. Even then, she wasn’t certain whether to continue, but it was the support of family and friends that kept her going.
Find your niche
Naomi said it took her quite some time to find out what she wanted to do. As she developed, she realised her designs had a cartoon style and often features animals. Her shop focuses on sublimations – adding designs to products such as phone cases.
For Janine, her niche is preserving dying social customs so that future historians can look back at today’s culture. She didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she knew what she didn’t want to do. Her rationale is that if someone unearthed footage from the 60s about what could be considered mundane events, she’d be fascinated by it. Many would!
And Alan’s niche relates more to how he practices his craft. If you take something to the Nth degree, would you accept it? Would filming dog food commercials for the rest of your life make you happy? If the answer is no, then it’s a fine line between choosing work to survive or choosing work to live. Thus the move into more independent work. Filming music videos with Wasp is satisfying and puts food on the table, but his passion lies elsewhere.
Take your time
Comparing yourself to others and expecting instant results are two habits you’ve just got to shake.
Janine set herself a goal of starting her own business by the age of 40. And then 42. She already had over a decade of experience, developing her skills and honing the craft. Taking on wedding shoots helped her to stop thinking and simply respond, building up resilience and an instinct for what makes a good story.
Alan summed up the theme with a wonderful comment,
“You finish your first project and you expect Steven Spielberg or whoever your equivalent role model is to phone you up and say, ‘Alan, you’ve done it. I don’t know how or where I saw your work, but I did and I want you to come out to LA immediately and work with me.’ But life’s not like that. It takes years to break into your industry.”
And as for Naomi, she takes great pride in still being able to learn. Every day she’s picking up new skills, watching tutorials, learning how to improve. When you’re at the start of your career it’s easy to be impatient, but it’s important to keep perspective; you’ve got a lot of time ahead of you.
Find out more about our speakers:
Alan Livesey | alanlivesey.co.uk