WHEN young graphic designers Beth Wilson and James Gilchrist looked around for an event that showcased their industry in Scotland, they discovered there wasn’t one – so they set it up themselves.

Now in its fourth year, Graphic Design Festival Scotland attracts thousands of designers from all over the world to learn from the experts, share ideas and discover what’s hot in a constantly changing sector.

At the same time, the Glasgow-based partners are running a successful graphic design business, Warriors Studio, with a diverse and growing portfolio of international clients that includes Urban Outfitters, the V&A museum, Scottish guitar band Biffy Clyro and East Ayrshire Advocacy Service.

So, was self-employment and rapid growth always part of the plan?

“We met while studying graphic design at Edinburgh College of Art and never had specific plans to run our own business as such,” smiles Mr Gilchrist, 24. “But we both had lots of ideas and rather than hanging around, we just went out and put them into practice, even though we were still students at the time.”

Ms Wilson adds that both of their businesses have grown organically from the pair’s commitment to collaboration – and a desire to offer something new to the Scottish design scene.

“We were already acting and thinking like a design agency while still at university - our studio unofficially started before we even graduated,” she says. “Then we spotted the niche for the event, worked on the idea and did a business plan, won a substantial award through our university. The next thing we knew the festival was a reality and we were being invited to speak at events in Europe. It was the right idea at the right time.”

The pair both studied at Cardonald College, now Glasgow Clyde College, preparing the portfolios that would gain them access to one of Scotland’s most competitive and highly regarded courses.

“Our course at ECA had 580 applicants for 12 spots,” explains Mr Gilchrist. “The tutors at Cardonald were on a mission to get us into the best art schools and they knew the best ways to help us do that. Another designer who works for us also studied there and went on to get a place at ECA – that’s proof of how successful it is.”

The young entrepreneurs are now relishing the opportunities that come with being in control of their own destiny.

“Both our parents run businesses, so maybe it was in the blood,” says Mr Gilchrist. “But for me it’s all about the people. I love meeting, working and collaborating on different projects with a diverse range of folk. We’ve acquired so many new skills over the last couple of years, such as event planning. We’ve not been phased by anything yet, but maybe that’s because we approach everything like it’s a graphic design project – it’s all about problem-solving.”

Ms Wilson says one down side of running your own business is that it can be tough to step away and take a break, but she is full of encouragement for others considering striking out on their own.

“Get yourself a good brand identity, a good website, good social media and you can start anything,” she says. “From day one we’ve never been afraid to ask for help and advice from a variety of sources – parents, friends who were freelance, other studios with more experience - and it has served us really well.

“Think carefully about how you set up your business, the form it takes, and make sure it has the flexibility you will need to take it forward and maximise funding opportunities. Also, you’ve got to love what you do and really care about it.”

As for the future, both Warriors Studio and the Graphic Design Festival Scotland - which takes place in October - are going from strength to strength.

“Over the coming years we’d like to expand the team to include a wide range of skills in design, copywriting and animation. Perhaps around 10 people. And hopefully we'll have long-term clients who trust us to collaborate on exciting design projects. There are exciting times ahead for us."