Graphic Designer Ben Thornton was the lucky recipient of a support package at last year's ISLEXPO to help him get his business idea off the ground. As the winner of the Manx Radio competition his prize included business assistance from the Department for Enterprise, mentoring support from Barclays, a Manx Radio advertising package and an iPad. Almost one year on we spoke to Ben to find out how his business has developed from an idea to reality.
'After I struggled through school I had to decide what it was I wanted to do. I have quite a creative mind so I thought the University College Isle of Man’s Art & Design course would be a great place to put this to use. It turns out that by doing this course I discovered what I really wanted to do with my life.
A few years ago I started up an independent street wear brand on the Island. Through this I was able to tour with some great bands and meet some fantastic people but I decided to put this to the side for a while to focus on my other projects.
I am now working as a Graphic Designer for a Marketing team on the Isle of Man and using my creative mind every day.'
'The business I’ve started is called Print & Press Studio which is going to be a creative hub and will combine screen printing, photography and design so I have been using my prize to develop this.'
'The Micro Business Grant Scheme run by the Department for Enterprise was the first part of my prize. It helped me to realise how many different aspects of a business you have to work on from the numbers side – tax, VAT, profit and loss and all your overheads, the importance of a business plan, and how to set one up and what to include in it. The five-day course was very eye-opening and got me excited to continue with starting a business. Following the completion of the training course, the Department allowed me three meetings with one of their small business advisors and the advisor’s insight and experience enabled me to progress the business plan further still.
I also won time with a Financial Advisor from Barclays. I have spent two of three sessions talking about having separate accounts for the business. It was very useful speaking to someone who knows a lot about the numbers side, which I found was the most intimidating part of starting the business. I had mentoring from a few different people that had slightly different views on running a business and different skills. They were all very supportive.
When I was looking for a place to set up the studio, I realised my overheads were very expensive. After talking to my advisors, my partner and I decided that we would move to a bigger place to live in Douglas with a spare bedroom to run the business.'
'There have been two highlights. The first has definitely been reducing my hours at my full time job after eight years to prepare to go self-employed. The second has been meeting all of the like-minded people starting or running a business.'
'Finding the funds for equipment and setting budgets has been the hardest challenge.'
'I plan this year to build the brand, get my name out there and to continue to produce high quality products for customers! And I'm looking forward to having my first employee hopefully this year or next.'
'The Isle of Man is a great place to start a business. If you have a great business or service to offer, work hard and provide great customer service then you’ll flourish here.'