When it came to setting up their graphic design operation, Andy Finnerty and Oli Smith took their inspiration from some of the best in the business.
The duo – who aim to make a name for themselves with start-up venture Aye! Creative – acknowledge the influence of talented local lads James Sommerville and Simon Needham, who took their design company Attik to the world stage, working with clients including Coca Cola, Nike, Warner Brothers and EMI.
Oli and Andy are also getting advice and support from another big name – Freeserve founder and serial entrepreneur Ajaz Ahmed, who is mentoring the 21-year-olds.
Says Oli: “We met Ajaz at a networking event and basically asked if we could pick his brains. He liked the fact that we had grabbed the bull by the horns by being so direct.
“He made the point that having a degree doesn’t necessarily mean anything in business. That was a real eye-opener and put things in perspective.
“Ajaz really likes design and has a massive passion for it.”
Andy says: “He gets right to the point. We speak to him regularly face-to-face and on the phone. Ajaz has helped to provide us with some opportunities, but it has been up to us to grab them.”
Oli and Andy are both graduates of Batley Art School – something they have in common with Attik’s founding pair.
Oli, who lives at Linthwaite, attended Colne Valley High School, where art was his favourite subject. “I had always loved drawing and creating stuff,” he says. “I liked sport, but my real passion was for art and design.
“I did some work expeience at a photographic studio before going to Batley.
“The course at Batley was great. You got a lot of time with the tutors and it felt more personal than university.”
Andy, who lives at Dewsbury and attended Birkdale High School, says: “I was always heavily into art. As I got older, it made sense to do a visual communications course, which was quite broad-based. There were different routes to look at, such as fine art and graphic arts.
“I went to open days at a number of universities, but there was nowhere as appealing as Batley Art School, where you get more one-to-one time with the tutors. Our tutor, Jed Flynn, was a massive inspiration.”
Oli and Andy were also inspired by the Attik story – although in their case, Aye! Creative began life in a garden shed!
James Sommerville and Simon Needham began their business from the attic at the home of James’ grandma.
Aye! Creative began in the garden shed at Oli’s parents’ home. The company name expresses more than its Yorkshire roots.
Oli explains: “We worked on a couple of projects together before leaving college, including a project to ‘brand’ Dewsbury working with the Sharp Agency in Huddersfield.
“We started discussing setting up a business. I said ‘shall we?’ and Andy said ‘Aye!’ We have no family commitments, so we decided to give it a go, taking Attik as our inspiration.”
Aye! Creative covers areas such as logo design, identity design, branding, print, web, illustration and advertising.
Andy says; “There is big demand for graphic design services, brand identification and website design.
“We have a number of clients. We have recently rebranded Empire Brewing, a microbrewery in Slaithwaite, and Mark Riley hairdressers, which has three salons and a training academy. We also work with Creative Scene, which brings togther Kirklees Council, the Lawence Batley Theatre and Batley Festival. We also work with a mobile betting company based in Cyprus.”
Says Oli: “We want to be a brand, motion and digital studio. Everyone does websites and we will go down that route, but clients also want music, video and animation as well. There is a big market for graphic design.”
Last year. Oli and Andy made the move from the garden shed to offices at Huddersfield’s Media Centre – which provides them with upgraded workspace, more reliable digital connections and free meeting rooms where Aye! Creative can bring clients.
The duo also get involved with networking events staged at the centre and enjoy the buzz of working in the same hive of activity as other like-minded businesses.
Oli says: “We are trying to meet as many people as possible. The people we speak to genuinely want to help us.”
Adds Andy: “You have to get your face out there. Coming to the Media Centre and having a town centre base has really helped us to do that.”
Developing the business leaves little time for hobbies. Andy and Oli both work out at the gym and Oli “does a lot of running”. He has called time on his career as an amateur boxer, however. “I loved the fitness element of it,” he says. “I was mainly into Thai boxing.”
But he’s already broken his jaw in the ring – and doesn’t think turning up to client meetings with a cut lip and bruises would project the right image for the business!
Andy says: “The business does mean we have a few late nights, but you have to put up with that.
“We are investing everything we make back into the business. We like to work out, but we don’t waste our money on a weekend. It is about building the business over the long term.”
Oli’s boxing connections have also paid off. The duo are working on a branding project for Huddersfield light welterweight boxer Tyrone Nurse. Andy and Oli hope it will be a knockout move.
Work: Graphic design business
Site: Media Centre, Niorthumberland
Phone: 07540 568080