I studied graphic design at Epsom College of Art and Design in the early 90′s and then moved to Portsmouth University to study a BA (hons) illustration. Previously, as soon I left school, I worked as a technician at Howard Humphreys in Leatherhead, which later became Brown and Root.
I left civil engineering after 2 years as I found technical drawing, especially using the likes of early Autocad, really dull and constricting. Pen and ink drawing was engaging, but time consuming and fiddly to edit.
Going back to art college allowed me think and express myself in a much more creative manner. I hardly touched computers during my 5 years at college/university, instead making sure I approached each project with a unique solution so as to expand my knowledge of colour, materials and media. Solutions included oil painting, screen printing, model making and photography.
I was always surprised how other pupils stuck to the same technique and style, I thought uni was about experimentation, both in the classroom and in life… if you catch my drift!
On leaving college, I struggled to find work as an illustrator. I just didn’t have a strong enough style or more importantly the contacts to get the work from. I made a few pounds with some low key commissions and eventually managed to get some work at Epic Multimedia in Brighton. Tough times, as I had to learn on the job, whilst on contract work and with a young family to support.
But I grafted, learnt photoshop and page maker, whilst at a newpaper publishers until I landed a job as the Mac Artworker with a new, national magazine. The “GQ of Gaming“. Here I had to learn Quark very quickly and for six months we worked ridiculous hours to publish 148+ pages of Features, News, Articles, Reviews and Adverts. Then company went bust!
But was it all in vain?
During this period I learnt so much about running a small business. I didn’t realise at the time but this shaped my ‘Yes, can do‘ approach to any project or job opportunity that came my way.
I eventually landed a job with a small commercial printers in Epsom, who had a contract with NTL (now Virgin), after some time out as a plumbers mate at the Imax Cinema at Waterloo, and worked for 2 years as the Studio Manager. I set up systems, purchased Apple Mac and PC equipment and learnt all I needed to know about printing, (at the time) which became the spring board to going out on my own.
A combination of freelancing and working late, slowly building up clients with lots of small jobs and help from the Princes Trust got my sole trader business off the ground, working out of the printers premises, until I was forced to move out.
A good friend helped me by providing a unique office, a porta cabin, which was originally purchased as a sandwich making outlet. Set in the Surrey Hills, it was effectively in the middle of nowhere, so I had to find a way to get my business known.
“And the best solution is networking”
I joined Epsom BNI which removed the feeling of isolation and put me in front of like minded people. And once I realised ‘Givers Gain’, the referrals started coming in. I still work with many of these contacts to date. I now regularly attend the Dorking BRX Business Development Group, an excellent, small support group. I have built both websites, one bespoke, one using WordPress
My business is now very much focused on ‘getting your brand out there’, through Graphic Design, Print Management and Web solutions. Offline and Online marketing, social networking and social media are helping to grow my business and connect to a national and global market.