Success Stories

The University of South Wales has helped many of our graduates to start up their own businesses. Read on to find out about the variety of businesses that have benefited from the funding and support available to them through Bright Ideas, and their tips and advice to all you budding Lord Sugars!

Fran Kelly Fran graduated from the MA Art Practice (Art, Health and Wellbeing) course in December 2016. She developed the idea for Frankly Materials Ltd, a company that supplies props/special effects construction materials to the film, theatre and television industries, while undertaking the Professional Practice module.

Having previously studied and worked as a prop maker in London, Fran noticed a gap in the market for a local materials supplier when she relocated back to South Wales. Knowing she could fill this gap, and be better than its competitors, she was inspired to set up her business.

What Fran enjoys most about running her own business is the variety. On some days she is office based while on others she is meeting clients around the UK or demonstrating the company’s products.

The biggest challenge for the company has been finding a courier to transport their products, of which many are hazardous. After eight months of liaising with different courier companies, and many hours learning about legislation on health and safety, she found the right one. Fran says, “Yes, we could have taken shortcuts but it was essential for us to take that bit longer, to be open and honest with the couriers so our business could be built on strong foundations.”

Although it has taken time to build the business Fran is motivated by the fantastic team of people she has helping her run Frankly Materials Ltd. Fran’s experience in the creative industries, as well as the 90 years combined experience of the team, ensures that they have a unique understanding of their customers and their needs.

Fran’s advice to anyone thinking of starting their own business would be, “Do what you know, start a business in something you know well. Opportunities won’t come to you, you have to go out and get them.”

Fran is incredibly grateful for this support from USW Student Enterprise Team. She won the 2017 USW Emerging Entrepreneur Award of £1000, supported by Kier Construction, which she intends to use towards digital marketing; as well as a £1000 grant from Big Ideas Wales for a successful business pitch earlier this year

For more information on Frankly Materials Ltd, visit:

JonesMillbank Russell and Adam both graduated from the University of South Wales in 2008, with BA Hons degrees in Film and Video, and Documentary Film and Television, respectively. On graduating they set up Ido Wedding Films, a company which is still running today. They also worked on other small projects and held separate jobs until 2011 when they came together properly to launch JonesMillbank, a film and photography company based in Bristol, specifically serving the corporate sector.

The company has a simple ethos at its heart; to create warm, honest, human-led films that are more effective as a result. The inspiration for the business was the absence of this ethos in most other work that they saw. Adam says, “We also enjoy, more than anything, telling stories; it’s so inspirational to bring a tale to life through film and photography.”

Both Adam and Russell feel that their meeting at the University of South Wales is what made the creation of their business possible but stress that their respective courses gave them the foundations on which to build. Adam’s documentary approach guides the ethos of their films while Russell’s course experience stretches their imaginations in terms of their cinematic outlook.

In the early days of the company their biggest challenge was gaining momentum and trust from clients. As Adam says, “It’s a case of needing the portfolio to get the work but needing the work to get the portfolio.” However, they were very fortunate to win the national award for ‘Best Wedding Videographer’ shortly after forming Ido Wedding Films, and have since won the award again, plus other similar accolades. Their proudest moments have marked the growth of the company: firstly finding an office, then their first employee and then their first project over £3000. The business is now dealing with projects worth over £150,000 and their most recent key business achievement has been winning and completing a major project with The University of Bristol, providing video for the Bristol Futures online courses.

The business is now expanding and taking on a new member of the team. They’re looking ahead to a busy Winter/Spring season, and have plans for new markets that they want to break into. In giving advice to future entrepreneurs, JonesMillbank suggest that you should learn from both successes and failures and, by constant networking, gain from the experiences of others. Above all, focus on what makes your company different from competitors and capitalise on that.

For more information on JonesMillbank go to:

Wandering Visuals Oliver and David graduated from the BA (Hons) Film and Video degree in 2016. Inspired by a holiday to a hostel in Barcelona they set up Wandering Visuals, a production company based in Cwmbran, at the end of their second year; although they’d been making films for some time before that. Their Barcelona film shoot went so well that they decided to edit it together immediately, and then send it to the owners of the hostel. The owners loved it and wanted to use it for marketing, so invited Oliver and David back. This gave them the inspiration to believe that video could be a viable business, while exploring their other passion, travel. So, the name Wandering Visuals was born.

The networking opportunities they gained whilst at USW were extremely helpful as they met a small number of other passionate filmmakers with whom they plan to collaborate in the future. The Student Enterprise Team at the University was also very supportive of the business, offering opportunities such as the Bright Ideas Den that awarded them some funding, and the annual Freelancers Academy that led them onto their first office space at Welsh ICE in Caerphilly.

They both agree that the best thing about owning their own business is, “The feeling of freedom. Not having to answer to a boss. Neither of us have ever been very good with authority or blindly following instructions. We like to know the reasoning behind every decision. If something goes wrong, the only person you can blame is yourself. There’s something liberating about that. It really gives us a true sense of motivation.”

Their biggest challenge has been trying to find promising and viable work in a saturated market while still remaining true to their creative vision and beliefs. They know they could work in safe, but ultimately dull, jobs but what they really want to do is tell interesting stories and work with brands that they believe in. They know they have a strong artistic voice and want to be hired for that.

When asked to give advice to future student entrepreneurs they stressed the importance of constantly searching for and planning the next job, and never relaxing just because the last one was really successful. They urged, “Do it now. Don’t wait around. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re in, it’s always better to start with what you have and start chipping away. Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure is a good thing. As long as you learn from it and implement that going forward, you’ll always be progressing.”

For more information on Wandering Visuals visit:

Gary King Gary graduated from the BA (Hons) Computer Games Design course in 2015. National Insecurities is a game development team based in the UK, with a view to being primarily based in Cardiff in the future. Gary and his team developed the idea for the business while studying at USW.

Although the business is still in its early stages, getting funding is one of the biggest challenges, the greatest achievement they have had so far has been having a game funded and published by Humble, a very reputable company. The game was 2000:1: A Space Felony, which was received very positively by public and press. Gary says, “It’s our crowning achievement, and we’re very happy with it.”

Gary found the Student Enterprise Team at USW to be very supportive in helping start up the business, They offered advice through business surgeries and granted some funding through the Bright Ideas Den to attend an event called GameCity 2016, which Gary believes is responsible for setting the business in motion.

In terms of the future, the business is working on a new game, a Western murder mystery “which defies all rules of narrative structure in games”, and Gary is talking to Humble about a continued partnership for funding and publishing.

Gary would give the following advice to games related entrepreneurs of the future, “Have four plans and 14 backup plans. Expect none of them to go well. If you succeed, it’ll probably be an accident, but the preparation can only help you.” It is also important to be highly self-motivated, as everyone in his team is. He also advises that you should always assume that everyone knows more than you, so it is important to attend networking events and make friends with people in the same field.

For more information on National Insecurities go to:

Ryan established his own photography company in 2009, just as he was starting a degree in Photography for Fashion and Advertising.  He was successful at pitching for £1,000 at the Bright Ideas Den in his final year, to help cover the costs of branding and marketing for his new studio in Cwmbran.

Hot on the heels of her success at the Future Entrepreneur Awards in June. Lisa-Jane was commissioned by Lucy Owen, television presenter and host of that event, to photograph her 10 year wedding anniversary event in Cowbridge recently. Lisa-Jane now has a growing list of celebrity clients.

Toby and Richard set up On-Par Productions in 2010, after graduating from the BA in Documentary Film and Television.  Covering every aspect of film-making, the company deals with development and production through to post production and distrubution for a range of clients.

Rhys and Natahn set up 'Zipline Creative’ in 2008, a year after they graduation from the BA in Documentary Film and Television.  The production company makes high end corporate adverts and programmes for television and radio, with past clients including Aston Martin, the Welsh Government and the BBC.

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