By Stephen Willey, Etch
For us, the Deutsche Bank Awards came at the perfect moment. Whilst studying music composition at Birmingham Conservatoire, I had embarked on various enterprise adventures. Alongside a fellow student, I had played around with an idea for a digital sheet music store for which we took part in a smaller entrepreneur incubation programme. I regularly put together marketing materials for various music projects and the contemporary music ensemble I was co-directing at the time. Looking out for new ideas formed a core part of my time at university but I realise now that this was my entrepreneurial side coming through. At the time I just loved to create things and explore exciting ideas.
Image courtesy: Stephen Willey
Coming to the end of my post-graduate studies, myself and another student Rob Allen started thinking about setting up a music composition company (Etch). As we had already worked together on a number of short films, we made the decision to pursue our working partnership further and that’s when the Deutsche Bank Awards were announced. They were offering a generous grant, mentoring and workshops on how to run a business. Admittedly it was the opportunity of the grant that really drew our attention to the scheme. We soon learned however that although this money would be a huge support to us, it was Deutsche Bank’s close involvement with our business that was a defining factor in the successes of our business.
The workshops we received were instrumental in equipping us with the knowledge we needed. The first session covering all aspects of writing a business plan with Max Comfort is still to this day the most simple, interesting and informative session I have ever had on this topic (I’ve been to quite a few!). Even if we hadn’t won the award, that session alone proved to be hugely valuable for our journey as a company.
In the run up to the awards there were lots of people with great ideas and strong business plans. We often questioned whether we were in with a chance but without applying we would have never known. Throughout the submission process our focus was on communicating what was unique about both our business and us. Something we have learned from being on the scheme is that Deutsche Bank are just as interested in nurturing people as they are projects. We went to town on presenting ourselves in the best possible way and increasing our prospects. We went as far as spray painting promotional boxes for the panel, making sure our business plan stood out and making sure our presentation was slick. This is where coming from an artistic background can really come into its own as generally creating something unique and creative that will make you stand out is less of a struggle.
The most valuable parts of the scheme were without a doubt the mentoring and training we received. Setting up Etch was a steep learning curve and we were quickly to realise that simply making your brand and website look good doesn’t secure you a future. From day one, our mentor David made it clear that he intended to play an active part in ensuring we were successful and for me his close involvement was a real highlight of the programme. He held us accountable but equally made it possible for us to understand what we needed to do. His contacts were made available to us to further support what we did, which gave us a head start on our journey. The external perspective meant that we could understand when we were focussing on the wrong things and David’s extensive experience meant that we could confront problems with confidence. Alongside all the perseverance and hard work, Deutsche Bank offered opportunities to celebrate the successes, such as private tours of their own and other art collections. It was a great blend and made us feel valued and supported in multiple ways. Goals that initially seemed daunting to us were made achievable and we were equipped with the hands on help and training to reach them. Generally the reoccurring theme was that Deutsche Bank really cared about our successes.
Image courtesy: Stephen Willey
I’ve been asked what my top tips are for people thinking about starting their own business and what I wish I had known then that I know now. Generally I regularly ask myself; What problem am I solving and how big is the problem e.g. is it just me or am I solving something many people struggle with. That way I can ensure that there is a market for what I’m doing and that my solution to the problem will have a big impact. I also think it’s important to know what’s unique about you and what you’re doing (USP). Really creative USPs stand out from the crowd and make networking a lot easier. If you need a great book to read up on starting a business, a great place to start is The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. As for what I wish I knew then – something I’ve only learned recently is that it’s important to select what you are going to focus on but even more important to select what you are not going to focus on. It’s easy to spend a lot of time focussing on things that are not important but that will eventually become your biggest obstacle.
Etch create innovative audio solutions for live, interactive and recorded visual media. Founded in 2012 by Steve Willey and Rob Allen, their collective experience includes working with London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC and a multitude of games companies. Most recently their music and audio design was included on Pure Pool, released on Playstation4, XboxOne and PC in 2014. Their music has been featured on films nominated for Royal Television Awards and in 2012 they were awarded the Deutsche Bank Creative Enterprise in Music.