A COMPANY boss with a passion for fast cars is driving ahead in business.
Simon Ryan, 36, is determined to keep things on track as managing director of Mirfield-based Purebrand Creative Communications – and is gearing up for further growth at the firm which he co-founded just over 10 years ago.
Says Ryan: “The business was launched in December, 2000. We started in small offices in Cleckheaton and were originally known as NX Dimension.
“I took over sole control when my business partner left in 2005 and rebranded the company as Purebrand.”
Simon, who grew up in West Yorkshire and attended St John Fisher School in Dewsbury, says: “I started the business when I was 26.
“I had studied graphic design at Cumbria College of Art and Design, but I fell into retail management.
“I was at Huddersfield Hi-Fi Centre and when the company opened a branch in Halifax, I was manager of the shop for four years.”
Through perseverance, Simon eventually got his first job in his chosen industry, working for an exhibition design agency before joining an advertising agency in Leeds.
But he recalls: “I was brought up in a family where there was a lot of ambition.
“I have two older brothers, one of whom trained as a lawyer and now works as an investment banker and the other who is a financial adviser with his own practice. My father also had his own business for a time.
“I had always wanted to work for myself, but it was really through working at the ad agency in Leeds that I got the necessary experience and built up some good contacts.
“It was my investment banker brother who suggested I should set up my own business – and he loaned me the funds to start up.
“It was a really steep learning curve and had I not gone into it with a partner, I don’t know if I would have done it.”
In the 10 years since starting the firm, Purebrand has evolved enormously, says Simon. “We started out as a design agency,” he recalls. “But the demand was there for us to do a broader range of things. We were managing print, booking advertising space, organising media campaigns and developing brand strategies. Design became only a part of what we were doing.”
In the past two years, Simon has set up a consultancy arm at Purebrand, which is focused on working with public sector organisations and has already worked with the NHS in Peterborough to devise a communications strategy; Peterborough Council, where Purebrand worked on the launch of a new trust to look after the authority’s culture and leisure services; and Leeds NHS Teaching Hospitals Trust where it helped find innovative ways of raising funds for five hospitals run by the trust.
Purebrand’s consultancy division is also currently working with the Welsh Assembly Government on the launch of a pilot programme to put health trainers into communities in South Wales.
“We are still a relatively small company, but we have some very big clients,” says Simon. “Often, big companies want to work with big marketing agencies. But our first client was Leeds City Council with whom we still work.
“We also work for the world’s largest brake pads manufacturer TMD Friction and deal directly with their German head office. We do most of their marketing and we have just completed a video for them which will be produced in eight or nine languages.”
Other clients include ITV and the massive OCS Group, which employs 65,000 people and where Purebrand is the sole marketing agency worldwide.
Simon also takes satisfaction in winning a contract to rebrand the Gamestation retail chain in 2004 – when Purebrand with its handful of staff working from tiny premises in Cleckheaton successfully pitched against the renowned Attik with 250 employees and offices located across the globe.
Simon admits: “We have had a tough couple of years, like everyone else. You feel you have to work twice as hard for half the rewards. But we are optimistic about the future. The economy is still difficult, but we have got through the worst of it and I am very focused now on how we are going to promote our own business. We are in the process of launching a new website and will be focusing on growing the business in 2011.”
That optimism is evidenced by Purebrand’s move to Wheatley Business Park at Mirfield. Says Simon: “We were based on a back street in Morley – and that had served its purpose. We were there because we wanted the kudos of a Leeds postcode, but we discovered it really makes no difference now.”
Purebrand was appointed by St James Securities, the developer of Wheatley Park, to market the scheme, which stands in rural surroundings at the former Hopton Mills site. Purebrand came up with the logo and branding – and Simon suggested the name, which is linked to the history of the former textile mills.
Purebrand also took office space at Wheatley Park, alongside businesses including textile firm Camira Fabrics and interior architects Normal TM.
For Simon, reaching the office is just a four-mile commute from his home at Lepton – but he is often on the road visiting clients across the country. “We have a really good team at Purebrand and that means I can work from anywhere,” he says. Simon also spends a lot of his time has a place in South Wales, where many of his family still live.
When Simon tires of the relaxing surroundings of Wheatley Park or South Wales, he satisfies a need for speed with his passion for cars. He owns a Mercedes SLK AMG, but runs a Mini Cooper diesel for day-to-day travelling.
“When I was a boy I had hundreds of Matchbox cars and when I was eight, my dad persuaded me to write to Ferrari – and they made me an honorary members of the Ferrari owners’ club. Now I watch Formula One on television and I have attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed a number of times. A lot of the Formula One drivers are there – and unlike at F1 racetracks, you can almost get within touching distance of them.”
Simon welcomes a change of pace, however, and – in stressful times – imagines an alternative career path!
“Our people are very talented, but talented people are very expensive,” he says. “If I had my time again I’ d probably open a smoothie shop or something where you don’t need highly skilled people. I’d make sure I got the business model right and open a chain of shops!”