Virgin Start up of the Week

Start Up of the Week, By Mandy Barker

Sail is honoured to be chosen as Virgin’s Start Up of the Week. It’s an excellent initiative for new businesses. Virgin partner with local organisations to provide business support and funding, along with networking opportunities. I was interviewed by Virgin, the original article can be found here: Virgin’s Start Up of the Week.

1. Explain your business in thirty seconds or less?

Sail Creative is a branding consultancy using immersive research and creative exploration to reach unique solutions. This gives our clients competitive advantage, with results that engage and emotionally connect with people. We deliver high quality, unique work that challenges the status quo, pushes boundaries, and has impact.

2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?

The great thing about design is that you are not limited by location. I started in Scarborough (my home town), and still have a strong client base here. I have just moved to Newcastle as it gives more professional opportunities in terms of clients, the arts and culture sectors and business support. Newcastle is a great city, it is growing and developing with lot’s of exciting movement in the creative industries. I am working with clients across the country, I always like to have an initial face to face meeting so I make an effort to do this.

3. How did you come up with the idea?

I went to uni at 24, prior to this I worked in business roles which gave me excellent transferable skills. I worked for an agency for a couple of years to then finally take the plunge into self-employment.

Sail Creative challenges the traditional agency model, we use a collective of talented and trusted freelancers to collaborate with depending on the project. Working with freelancers gets excellent results – it means everyone is equally invested in the project, has autonomy and control over their work pattern, meaning we can work when we are at our most creative – inspiration can strike at any time, it isn’t something that can be switched on 9-5. It also enables us to be agile and flexible, and more cost-effective whilst providing a quality and in-depth service.

Collaboration is the future!

4. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?

I was working with Peter from Yorkshire in Business (Virgin StartUp Loan partner) for a few months, had some excellent support. Peter was a sounding board and helped guide Sail Creative, it was useful knowing I had expert advice right there. We had a meeting about once a month – and I always came away feeling motivated and fuelled. I got the loan after about 6 months.

5. How have you used it to grow your business?

I used it to purchase a car – as I travel around the UK regularly to meet clients, partners and collaborators. I also invested in accountancy software, having effective software systems and processes increases efficiency and productivity!

6. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?

I have just been given my mentor through Virgin StartUp, Laura. We had a kick-off call about a month ago, Laura brings a wealth of experience from London, working within creative industries, and now working as a recruitment consultant. She is helping me work on business strategy.

7. Biggest achievement so far?

Curious is a North East LGBT arts festival exploring and celebrating LGBTQ arts across the city of Newcastle. For 2017, we were briefed to create a new identity for the festival. I collaborated on this project and we used experimentation, exploring various routes, reaching our final idea of ‘deconstruction’. Using the individual LGBTQ flags, shapes and colours, and bringing them together, the brand concept is deconstructing labels and bringing them together to represent unity, diversity and difference. This captured the Curious values, whilst creating a strong and exciting visual language that translates easily across print and online communications. It was a lovely project to work on that I am very proud of!

I currently have a self-ignited touring exhibition called Words Bare, that showcases challenges and comments LGBTQ people have faced in society. I gathered research from LGBTQ people across the UK, asking what challenges/experiences they have faced. The result was an exhibition that challenged these intolerances, put the experiences gathered, into the limelight. The artwork aimed to question why these views are still very present today. The exhibition also enabled visitors to share their own experiences. This was one of my proudest moments, taking a personal stand for the LGBT community and making this intolerance visible-starting a needed conversation.

I have also recently designed a book cover for Verse Matters, an anthology written by migrants and refugee women and men, telling their stories and experiences. The core theme is that we are ‘all connected despite our differences’. As soon as I had a Skype meeting with the client, I knew I could get creative and push boundaries with this one! I made the cover spelling out the title with nails, using coloured thread to connect them, with the underlying message that we are all connected.

I have also recently been accepted onto Entrepreneurial Spark in Newcastle, it’s an accelerator and support for startup and scaleup businesses. This includes workshops, a great network, mentors and office space.

8. What’s next for your business?

Sails aim is to build long-term and trusted client relationships, be forward thinking, challenge the status quo, always develop and do work that adds value for our clients.

I am constantly getting out and meeting people, to build organic relationships. I want to lay long-term foundations and build trust. Sail are passionate about social change and community impact – I love working with clients who have a positive ethos. If I can continue to work for clients that are pushing for social change and/or believe in what they do – I will be very happy!

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