‘I want us to be the best company at what we do’
As far back as he can remember, Niall Carlin had an entrepreneurial spirit. Even at school he would sell cartoons he had drawn, so it is hardly surprising that he went on to set up doubleJump Studios.
Based in the Gasworks in Belfast city centre, doublejump Studios is a boutique motion graphics and video production company that counts Ulster Bank, Nathan Carter and Tyco among its growing number of clients.
It produces and creates dynamic visuals to engage and inspire, while promoting and explaining a business.
“We’re actually a fairly young company, we started in September 2015,” said 29-year-old Niall.
“When I started out it was just me working in a back room in my house in Derry where I lived at the time and I was driving up and down the road to Belfast to get contracts.”
Niall graduated from the University of Ulster in 2009 and was fortunate to quickly find a job which offered him a wealth of experience.
“I was very lucky because I left Magee and just after that the recession hit,” he said.
“It was all doom and gloom, I was very lucky to get a job just across the road.
“I got great experience and stayed there for a few years before moving up to Belfast and starting a new job in a design studio for about five years.
“I was managing my own team there and it was at that stage that I decided to take a risk and go out on my own.
“Ever since I was little, I was very creative. I loved drawing and coming up with stories and, when I was at school, I would draw characters and sell them as posters,” he added.
“That entrepreneurial spirit was always there and I think I realised when I was working for other people that I loved the challenge but that ultimately I wanted that challenge for myself.
“I knew I had experience at managing people and managing a business for someone else and I thought I wanted to manage my own business before I got into my 30s.”
Niall has relished the challenge — but he has found setting up doublejump Studios a steep learning curve.
“When you are CEO, you are ‘chief of everything officer’, you have to deal with all the paperwork, and you have to work out how to divide yourself up,” he said.
He said his involvement with the business accelerator and start up programme, Entrepreneurial Spark, has proved crucial in the company’s success.
“It’s been invaluable to me,” he said.
In particular, he has gained experience in pitching his business to new clients.
“I had to overcome a fear of that, there is a fear of rejection, so you learn how to pitch yourself,” Niall said.
“We did a lot of training on pitching in front of 100 or 200 people.
“You fail a few times, but then you get used to the pressure of it, you get to own your pitch.
“And then eventually you are doing it without even thinking about it.”
Securing his first client was proof to Niall that he could make a success and doublejump Studios has gone from strength to strength.
They work with companies in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and as far afield as Australia.
The CEO has found that word of mouth and reputation has played an important part in its success.
“A lot of work came in from referrals,” said Niall.
The team of four at doubleJump Studios is now working hard to develop a growth strategy for 2017.
As part of this, Niall is looking to appoint someone to work solely on marketing and sales — hopefully within the next six months.
“It’s a role I have been doing myself until now and I think it is going to be hard to let go,” added Niall.
“I feel like it is a job that I do best because I am so passionate about the company but now I know that I need someone to come on board and help.
“In terms of where we will be in the next five years, I see us working with a lot of local and international clients to help them create world class content.
“I want us to be the best company at what we do in Northern Ireland, if not the UK, and I want us to compete with other leading companies.
“We’re doing all right so far, our target is to increase our turnover by 30% to 40% this year.
“I think we are probably fur- ther on than we wanted to be by this stage.
“Some companies don’t turnover anything for the first few years, whereas we have been really fortunate and we have got really great clients and a good team.
“Never in my wildest dreams when I was starting out in a back room in September 2015 did I think we would be where we are now, it’s crazy.”
And as well as the success of the company, Niall is also in the enviable position of really loving his job.
“I think everyone should start up their own business once in their life,” he said.
“It is a challenge and I wonder what I am doing every day, but if you are passionate about what you do and you enjoy what you do, then it is totally worth it.”
Next week, the Big Interview speaks to Willowbrook Foods managing director John Mccann
Niall Carlin, the founder of doublejump Studios