Tell us a bit about your business?
Blue Clay Productions is a video production company based in Sydney and Wagga Wagga, offering a wide range of services from filming, editing to motion graphics. We also increase the online presence of clients by creating strategies and creative, compelling video content that fits our clients’ marketing needs and budget. Some examples of how we might do this is through creating a television commercial, online promotional film or live streaming an event. We started a regional arm in March 2012 and work closely with SME’s and tourism operators.
Why did you start up your business?
I’m a journalist by trade and love telling stories. When I was working for a major current affairs program I was often approached by businesses and individuals who wanted to share their story. Some of these businesses were paying PR agencies thousands of dollars just to write a press release. Then you have the ‘big boys of business’ paying tens of thousands for online videos – even more for a television commercial. It’s just not feasible for SME’s to pay this kind of money. When you consider the power of online video in terms of audience reach and the various ways you can use it to tell and sell, it’s a perfect platform for SME’s. Teaching this market how to use online video and creating affordable content has been a successful recipe.
I also saw a gap in the video production market – particularly when it came to corporate films at a reasonable price. Many were able to pick up a camera and edit some footage but few were able to really tell a good story.
What are the major hurdles you experienced when starting up your business?
Getting runs on the board in the first few months was a hurdle. I enrolled in a small business course that really made me look at the direction of my business, my market and my competitors. What was my edge? What was the one thing that made my video business different? The answer was ‘me’ - that being my experience and training. So I ran with it. I attended every free (or cheap) networking and training event I could. I made cold calls and I turned on the charm without (hopefully) seeming too desperate! Rejection is a very hard thing to deal with but you need to use it as fodder to keep going. Once you get momentum you gain more clarity and confidence. Also, capital can be a difficult obstacle but it doesn’t have to be. There are low interest unsecured loans that can easily be obtained. Research it through your local Business Enterprise Centre.
What tips can you give other SavvySME members that are thinking or in the process of starting up their business?
Do your research and do a proper business plan. Starting a business is like building a house – you need strong foundations. Don’t skip this and ensure you spend proper time on it. There are lots of short courses you can do to help with this process and templates that can show you the right format.
Market yourself and get out there. How? Do I need to say it? Video marketing is great for people on a budget who want to build an online presence. You don’t need thousands to produce quality video content however remember that you need to protect your brand. Don’t send anything live that will do more harm than good to your product/service. Think outside the box and think of ways you can use video to reach your audience. You could simply do a vlog (video blog), a product demo, an office tour or you could engage a video production company to create a professional film for you. Remember to ask yourself, ‘Who is my target market and what are my key messages?’ Remember, Google loves video.
Also, create partnerships and explore pro-rata deals. The first big contract I scored was after I already worked for this particular company through a sponsorship deal. It meant that they got to ‘try and test’ my services before they handed over a cheque. It actually lead to many other contracts. I still take this approach when I am trying to break into a new sector. You won’t see the rewards the following day though. It may take months if not a year or more to see the full return on investment.
What made you decide to take the jump and focus on your business?
When I first returned to Australia from working overseas for a couple of years as a journalist and producer, I found it difficult to find full-time work that wasn’t based in the news industry, which I’d grown tired of. I had a plan when I returned to open my own video production company however I needed capital and some training. I worked part-time while I completed a business course and also during the first eight months of trading.
How did you family and friends react?
My friends and family, like so many others, often said they supported me but they often questioned my sanity and regurgitated facts like, ‘One in three businesses fail in the first two years of business” etc etc… Some perhaps thought it was a ‘phase’ I was going through; others knew how tenacious I am so they didn’t question it. You just need to remember to take it slowly, do your research and preparation and be passionate! If you aren’t passionate there is a good chance you will become a statistic and no one wants to hear ‘I told you so’.
How has your life changed?
Wow, where to start? I work harder, longer and in the beginning sometimes for a lot less money… but I am now more passionate about life, work and the future. Expanding to regional NSW has brought a lot of opportunity and exciting paths. I have also learnt what my ‘business style’ is and how it works for my company and me. Oh, and I can pull a sick day and take leave without asking the boss.
What success have you experienced since starting your business?
Blue Clay Productions has managed to secure a number of great contracts and establish fantastic relationships with key bodies in various sectors ranging from tourism, universities and media. In 2012 we filmed a documentary about the woes of dating in Sydney. We took five single women fed up of dating ‘pretentious city guys’ on a road trip to meet men from various backgrounds. We drove from Adelaide to Rockhampton meeting all sorts, from farmers, professional athletes to Irish miners. It was a mission to say the least.
We also made the move to open our regional branch, which has opened a lot of doors for us. This year we will be opening a Media, Arts and Business Centre in the Riverina where we’ll conduct training, mentoring programs and networking events. Exciting times.
What is the vision for your business going forward?
We really want to expand further into Melbourne and run more workshops across the cities and regional areas to teach people the value of video marketing and story telling.
We are aiming to become the go-to agency for regional video production in southwest NSW and established training and a support base for SME’s, young entrepreneurs and artists through our centre.
What tips can you give other SavvySME about motivating yourself to push through the challenges that rise up while building your startup?
Network and talk to other people who are starting up their own business. Join a young entrepreneur or business group in your area. You aren’t alone and you might be able to troubleshoot issues with them and form great alliances at the same time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be the biggest and best within a year. Set realistic expectations but aim high. Also, make small goals and targets that you can tick off and gain a sense of accomplishment – and reward yourself when you get there. But most importantly? Remember to have fun!
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