This weekend I had the pleasure of speaking to students at the University of Bath about my transition from being the Station Manager of a student TV station to the Managing Director of a video production company that now employs four staff and works on video projects where some have implications at an international scale. I’ve delivered this talk a few times, including at my former university Southampton Solent University, the University of Reading, at the National Student Television Awards & Conference and at regional NaSTA events.
Although I (more often than not) don’t get paid to speak at these events, I always enjoy the opportunity to give students an insight into what many consider to be the story of my success. But of course, to me, my story is one of working incredibly hard for many years to start building a business that still has long a way to go before it reaches my personal vision of success… but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate where we’ve got to so far. (We recently just opened our very own studio, for example.)
As those of you who know me will know, I didn’t start my business with a trust fund or external investment. I don’t have a wealthy family who bought me the expensive equipment I needed to get going. Instead, knowing that the road to a career in media was going to be tough, I saved my student loan and lived on the wages of my part time job that I had while studying. By the time I left university I had a fair amount saved. I used the money to buy my first ‘serious’ camera; I spent £5000 on it and still have it now, although I don’t really use it so much these days. (I must have stopped using it within six months of buying it, actually. Technology changes very quickly.)
But more importantly, by the time I left university I had been studying, working 16-24 hours per week in retail, running a student TV station and freelancing all at once for almost a year. As a result, I developed an incredibly strong work ethic.
When you have a full schedule there’s no time to spend a day feeling hungover, and when you work in retail there’s no such thing as a weekend. Admittedly, like many students, I attended some of my lectures begrudgingly – I even skipped a few here and there, but for the purpose of getting more work done and for getting more hands-on time with camera equipment, not to spend an extra few hours in bed. When I left university and eventually left my part time job, it made it easier to continue with that momentum as I started working from home, which is where many freelancers and small businesses stumble. It’s far too tempting to spend all day laying in bed or watching TV.
The reason I share these details of my story is because, ultimately, I think that the majority of people who make it to university have a relatively equal opportunity to create their own success. The biggest hurdles are mindset and passion. I genuinely believe that if you’re passionate enough about what you do you’ll be successful at it because you’ll have the determination to keep on at it when things aren’t going your way.
I hope he doesn’t mind, but I like to give an example of a friend of mine. After we left university he helped me a lot with my business and freelanced for me regularly. He was incredibly reliable, highly skilled and a great guy to work with. Unfortunately I was only just about able to afford to pay myself a stable income at the time, so I couldn’t give him anything permanent. Sadly, he would keep applying for jobs and kept getting turned down. The feedback he’d get from interviews was never consistent, which made it really hard for him to know what to improve on for future job searches.
After 18 months of his job searching effort I met up with him for a catch up and he revealed to me that he had gone for yet another interview, but he felt that it had gone very well. A few days later he called me and told me that he’d gotten a the job and would now be working for Sony – one of the biggest companies in the world. Had he given up his search two months, six months, twelve months, or whenever else ago he would have missed this opportunity. He’s been there for over a year now and has had some amazing experiences. He was passionate enough not to give up, despite the challenges.
With Southpoint Films, I’ve been very fortunate that the path behind me has fallen the way it has, but let there be no doubt that the path to this point has been full of challenges that would otherwise have killed many small businesses. Those challenges and the battle scars from them are natural for almost every business, and the only weapon that can get a company through those situations is passion, which is why it’s the most valuable trait we look for in staff.
Ultimately my belief is that, while there are many things in life that are hard, if you care deeply enough nothing is impossible. This weekend marked the tenth anniversary of one of the first short films I ever made. Little did I know that in ten years time I’d be running my own, successful video production company. Life takes many interesting twists and turns, and I look forward to the next ten years. Nothing is impossible.
Rowan is the Managing Director of Southpoint Films, a video production company specialising in videos for businesses. For promotional films, event coverage, training videos and other videos for businesses in Southampton, Hampshire or beyond, please don’t hesitate get in touch