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Duo turning raw talent into a polished product

IN the first SME Focus of 2013, we hear from two young people who have adopted an entrepreneurial approach to the problem of how to find work in a highly competitive business after drawing on support from a range of sources.

Names: Michael Grant and Agata Jagodzinska.

Age: 23 and 26.

What is your business called?

Raw Film Productions.

Where is it based?

The Business Innovation Zone at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

We specialise in corporate PR videos, primarily for use online.

To whom does it sell?

We sell to any business looking to boost its online presence. Our clients so far have included charities, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, local authorities and the Scottish Business Awards, where we produced short films shown at their events. Our portfolio also includes work we've produced for the NHS and American company Avenue 822.

What is its turnover?

It is too early to say. We are very optimistic.

How many employees?

Two.

When was it formed?

April 2012.

Why did you take the plunge?

We graduated in August 2011 and started the search to find full-time employment. Graduating in the middle of the financial crisis didn't make it easy for us. While still working at our student jobs in hospitality, we also worked freelance to gain experience.

At the start of last year, Michael took on board a project that was too big for one person to manage, so we went for it as a team and have never looked back. We work well as a partnership as we have complementary skills.

Every job we work on is different and that makes it very exciting – 2013 is looking very positive for us already, with an international project currently in pre-production.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Like most students, we worked part-time in evening jobs. Since hospitality wasn't something we wanted to do long-term, we were desperate to find work in film. It took a while until we were brave enough to leave and concentrate solely on our business.

We knew we were entering an industry where payment may not be regular, so there was always a risk in quitting safe jobs to start up your own business. It is definitely the best decision we have ever made.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We were very lucky as we owned basic equipment at the start, and we also had huge support from Queen Margaret University and our former lecturers. Later on, we were offered an office space in the Business Zone at Queen Margaret University in exchange for offering advice and assistance to students and staff.

We also had a lot of help from the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust, Business Gateway, and the Cultural Enterprise Office as we were setting up.

We've recently received a start-up loan from PSYBT to invest more in developing the business.

What was your biggest break?

I won a Bafta New Talent award last year, which was a real confidence boost for the business. It is amazing how people's attitudes change when you drop "Bafta" into the conversation. We believe it makes us appear more legitimate in the eyes of potential clients and we use it to our advantage.

What was your worst moment?

Our worst moment must have been when we graduated and realised that there aren't as many jobs out there as we would hope for. We applied for a number of different positions but hardly ever heard anything back, which lowers your self-esteem. It is important to keep at it and be determined and we eventually saw an opportunity to create jobs for ourselves by forming a partnership.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

It is great to be able to turn your passion into your career. This does turn you into a workaholic, but it's not necessarily a bad thing if you love what you do. Being your own boss is a great position to be in. It demands a lot of self-discipline, but also brings a lot of freedom. We both find it very satisfying.

What do you least enjoy?

Currently, we aren't paid regularly, which is not great. We are working at finding a balance between the ups and downs of the business.

What is your biggest bugbear?

Scottish weather always poses its own problems and can sometimes make it very challenging to film.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

Our ambition just now is to expand the business and work on bigger, international projects. We'd like to build up a larger team of professionals and become more hands-on, to be able to leave the paperwork and fully concentrate on filming and directing, as that's what we like doing the most.

What are your top priorities?

To be creative and think outside the box, trying to approach each project in a unique and exciting way; to take on new projects that allow us to build new skills; creating a good name for ourselves; building strong relationships with our clients.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Create more opportunities for funding and try to instigate networks between small production companies to make collaborations easier.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

That you need to be super-determined to achieve what you want to achieve. Nothing comes easy these days.

How do you relax?

Mike plays guitar, while I write scripts. We love a piece of good cinema.

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