Tell us about your life/career prior to the world of Studiotech
It’s a fairly simple path really… after leaving school, I went straight to Lancaster University where I studied for a degree in Business Management. After graduating, I went travelling for six months and when I returned, I was all set to go and explore the big wide world down in London but the family business came calling.
At the age of 21, I began working commissioning DALI lighting on site for the controls division of the business in London, then called Entech. I really wasn’t familiar with the world of construction and working on site. This experience taught me a lot about site and the people working on them and I soon came to love it and the people I was working with. It was fantastic to learn from the different trades and the important elements of site work and the world of construction.
My experience working for the controls company gave me a great grounding and I was frustrated when my dad said he wanted me to move over to Studiotech. I thought I was doing something good and I felt really comfortable where I was.
I was officially employed by Studiotech in 2014. For a couple of years, I really had no idea what I was doing. We had fantastically talented people but no real method of harnessing these people into a workable business model.
I’m not ashamed to say that we were fumbling around not really knowing who we were or where we were headed. Although a talented group of individuals with a huge amount of ability, no one really knew how to bring that together, and I think that was what my role organically became. It was important to knit all the talent together and put it into a model of business that allowed us to offer value to clients and designers.
What challenges have you faced?
We made a really poor decision to try and attack the white light market at a time when this market had already exploded and a huge number of companies were doing the same thing. We found a company in China and thought ‘let’s import that and sell it on’. In hindsight, it was very naïve, and it got little traction. However, this relatively unsuccessful foray did perhaps allow us to get clarity on what we actually offered the market and narrowed our focus.
As with many small businesses, we have gone through trials and tribulations. There have been great times, but also some very hard times, and obviously as a family we all really felt that. However, over the last three years we have seen a number of successes and we are grateful to have been able to turn the business around. I never thought we would get anywhere close to where we are now and I don’t regret a single day when it was tough as it really does make you appreciate what we have now so much more.
When was the turning point?
I wouldn’t say there was a turning point necessarily but rather an organic transition. We realised for our ‘integrator’ business model to be successful, we needed some buying power and manufacturers that were going to support us. Traxon, who are very reputable and much admired in the industry approached us about a partnership which we jumped at. I knew we needed to get very strong buying power in order to add value to our clients so as opposed to looking to partner with huge numbers of manufacturers, we looked to be very selective. This allows us to know the range inside out as well as command greater buying power which then makes us more competitive. We have a few fantastic manufacturing partnerships now but are always keen to keep this network small to ensure we can command the best service and price which in turn allows us to provide this to our clients.
Perhaps another seminal moment was when our Trinity Shopping Centre Leeds (designed by BDP) project received such acclaim. In 2014, it won Best Large Retail Project of the Year at the Lighting Design Awards. This project really showcased what we are about and again, narrowed our focus to what made us special.
Read more about Trinity Shopping Centre, Leeds
When Studiotech started, what was the service offering and how that has evolved?
It started when I was about 50 days old… beginning as a signage company in November 1989. Signage evolved over the years to encompass lighting in particular neon during the 90s.
Signage on its own became a saturated market so we wanted to use the skills acquired and diversify the model.
In 2008, we completed Teesside Retail Park, one of the first all LED retail parks. Initially, the project focus was the signage, but we knew we could offer the lighting as well. So, we offered the full package of signage and lighting which meant the client had no need to engage separate lighting and signage contractors.
As LED technology evolved and became better value, more reliable, and flexible, we realised that our skillsets were more aligned to lighting rather than signage. It’s difficult to say exactly when the shift from signage to lighting happened but by the time I arrived at Studiotech in 2014, we were far more lighting focused than signage.
Tell us three fun facts about yourself
What does a typical day at Studiotech look like for you?
It couldn’t be more varied; every day is completely different to the next. I am involved in some capacity in pretty much aspects of the business including: operations, finance, sales, strategy and recruitment. I can be attending client meetings, board meetings, marketing meetings or even looking at samples and making sure everything is ordered and invoiced. Each day is totally different from the next, and that is what I love about it.
Official job title
Tell us something that is a little unexpected about your job role
Perhaps the variance of it. We have such a flat hierarchy here that means we all muck in where required. We do have our defined job roles but these do tend to be quite fluid to ensure we can deliver on our client’s expectations. I definitely get ordered around far more than I ever order around; you can mostly blame Natalie our Marketing manager for that one, hence why I’m doing this!
What is your favourite project that you have been involved in Studiotech
My favourite project is probably the recently completed The Helix White City Place. It brings everything about Studiotech together. We were given the concept by the designer and we just went with it. We supplied and installed everything required for the project including electrical infrastructure, metalwork, acrylic lenses, RGBW pixel controllable lighting, sound system, infrared sensors for interactivity, and the control system that controlled the 4 forms of data harmoniously. We have been able to bring in all our different specialisms and skillsets, which is so rare because typically, the focus on a project is predominantly one element. It may be a controls/digital focused project or a lighting project that is very structurally focused but very rarely do we get to bring the two of these elements together in quite this way.
If I had to say what our USPs were I would say that this would be our controls understanding, bespoke fabrication, and the structural/mechanical understanding we possess. I can’t think of another company in the lighting world that possesses the breadth of skills to be able to deliver this without subcontracting elements. Being able to bring these elements together, all under one roof, and create something that is truly unique and relevant to today’s growing desire for immersive experiences is something we’re really proud of. In addition, we were able to achieve all of this in just five weeks. The process involved around 20 different manufacturers and bringing all that together was incredibly hard work.
It was a phenomenal experience for me and showed the development of where we had come from; it was virtually faultless. It was a real team effort and everything that Studiotech stands for.
Are there any exciting projects in the pipeline?
One that is incredibly exciting is the world’s first (I think, anyway!) interactive bowling alley – Westergate in Glasgow. There are those that exist where you can follow the ball on the floor, but not overhead. We are going to deliver overhead lighting that actually maps the ball. This project will also include a sensory experience in a lift cart as well as a motion tracking mirror wall.
111 Piccadilly is another exciting project, keep tuned for the full case study coming soon.
Where do you think Studiotech will be five years from now?
I would like us to be in a position where we are successful enough that we can reward every amazing person that has helped us get from a position of relative obscurity, to where we are now and where I believe we will be. Our name is getting out there more than it ever has but we still have so far to go with respect to being known for what we can do. I still feel that we haven’t yet got to a position where our skills and abilities are properly understood by a huge number of designers/contractors/end users and that’s completely on us to change that. Our offer is varied and complex, but we need to find a way to communicate this that gets our name out there even more. I still feel in some capacity, we’re a well kept secret that is starting to gain a voice but we have a long way to go.
We have financial targets of course, but that is not our motivation. Our motivation is to complete the most incredible and engaging projects and see happy faces on both clients and members of the public which will consequently bring about financial success. The post Covid world needs companies to create more engaging, exciting, dynamic, collaborative spaces and lighting is a wonderful way to do this. We think we’re perfectly aligned to be the specialist lighting company that is the go to for assisting in the creation of these new spaces.
And finally… what is the best thing about working at Studiotech?
The people! What we offer is something special, it is far more service-led than it is product-led, and that’s why I think it is even more important to show who we are as a team because clients are investing more in us, than they are the product. It’s the best feeling in the world when people buy into you!