Name: The Bearded Fellows
Company: The Bearded Fellows
What’s The Bearded Fellows’ proudest achievement?
There are a lot of proud moments.
We are proud of delivering projects which involves working with young people to develop creative skills, we proud of bringing together a variety of creative skills such as film, animation, illustration visual arts, drama, and be able to share these in creative projects. A significant proud moment is also the realisation that we actually making a living out of doing things we like and we are passionate of.
If you’re talking business, then the proudest moment or period came in the middle of 2014. It was the point where we took a quantum leap in our understanding of who we were as a business and what we offer. We finally grasped how to produce quality work that is affordable in the marketplace. Knowing this really helped us as a business make the next step. It was like joining the dots or seeing the matrix for the first time. It just made sense. Now we have lots of productive conversations on how we take our creativity to the market as a product. It is not a case of compromise – integrity remains an essential priority – just that we now understand how to blend creativity and the market into one.
I’m also very proud of our name – which we came up with way before the hipster scene championed the beard as prima fashion! Our name is our brand and we have a great brand.
What are the major challenges of establishing a new business?
Learning roles and responsibilities is up there at the top of the list. We first tried to run the business as a collective, with equal say on everything. This has not necessarily changed – we remain equal in everything – but now we are more focused on how each member contributes to the whole.
We met at MMU and graduated during the recession. There were zero jobs at the time; you couldn’t even get a job that didn’t pay! The choice was either do nothing or make your own thing happen. It’s been such a journey up to this point because university really doesn’t set you up for the reality of life, such as running a business. We had to make it up as we went along, based on trial and error. We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning and were very optimistic, like when we got our first client. We were so giddy; we thought we’d made it. And then crash…nothing. We’d plowed so much energy and faith into the first job that we completely forgot about getting the next client. It was tough to come crashing out of a wave like that.
It stays with us even today. We often get anxious when We’re not completely rushed off our feet with work, worrying over whether we can afford even a minute of downtime. For us, it is essential that we are bringing value to the business at all times.
Another big challenge comes with making a decision you know will have consequences. It sounds so simple yet it weighs heavily. It’s taking the risk and the subsequent accountability. It comes down to controlling your fears, which is completely acceptable. The best policy is to remain transparent at all times and admitting that you are not always in control. Yet when you have to make a big decision, it is important you make it. We’ve recently learnt to say no, particularly when a client doesn’t share our values or understanding. It’s tough, yet it saves stress in the long run
Who are your clients?
Our clients are mostly start-ups, with 2-4 years maturity under their belt. They know who they are but struggle to communicate it succinctly because they are too busy chasing business and growing. They rarely have time to pause and think about how to present themselves. That’s where we come in. We are good at presenting a business’ narrative, journey, values, DNA – whatever you wish to call it. We work with the business initially to find out their characteristics and look to distill the message into a captivating animation or video. It’s a great way of capturing attention.
We also work with a number of medium sized clients as well as marketing agencies. We can be flexible in our approach because of our size.
Is it all about money, or do you have to love what you do?
You have to love it! Otherwise we wouldn’t have left what we were doing before we started the Bearded Fellows. This is not just my job; it’s my life. I think about it constantly, but not in a stressful way. I live and breathe what we do and everyone here is like my family.
Is it difficult to remain objective and make impartial business decisions?
It’s not too difficult. We are all equal shareholders in the business and want to keep it that way. Fortunately we are also very good friends, which makes it a lot easier. We all know to leave the egos at the door.
Each one of us will feed into business planning. That’s not to say we don’t disagree; we do. Yet it’s always arguing over the same goal. Ultimately we are all going in the same direction regardless of the means.
Do you participate in social/community programmes?
Yes, social/community participation is a big deal for the Bearded Fellows. We love doing community workshop. It is not simply a business motivation, more of an obligation. We are all creative and understand the importance of creativity to who we are, whether in our formative years or later on. Creativity means something more than pounds and pence.
We love to see how creativity affects the kids in a positive way, especially the kid who is always on the outside. It’s a beautiful thing when you see the lights go on and smiles erupt. Knowing that we are given the responsibility to affect change is an awesome task that we don’t take lightly.
It’s also about investing in people. You never know what will happen to those you help on their way up – they could be the next CEO of Apple or equivalent. Who is to say they won’t remember who helped them get there?
What makes you optimistic?
The future makes me optimistic. I don’t know where we are going to be, which is exciting. Every business plan we have ever done has never stayed valid for very long. Things are always changing and we’ve learned to adapt to this and make opportunity out of challenges. We’ll give anything a go. I’m too enthusiastic to accept regret of what could have been. I’m not even sure if it is optimism or simply a willingness to live in the moment.
The animation we do makes me optimistic. Not only am I fortunate to work with a creative bunch of people who blow my mind on a daily basis, but we also create a much sought after medium in video and animation. The traditional advert is long dead – no one watches real time TV anymore. It’s all about watching TV on the internet where we can forward through mind-numbingly orthodox adverts. Now you have to make adverts that people want to watch – they will go to YouTube to view or similar. This is exactly what we are doing.
Check out their great animation: The Bearded Fellows portfolio
Congrats The Bearded Fellows for your shortlisting in the Prolific North Best Newcomer category