StartUp of the Week: Fudge Animation Studios
Running your own business is a great way to unleash your creativity, and one startup that definitely does this to the max is our StartUp of the Week, Fudge Animation Studios. It was always the dream of founder Daniel Weaver to start an animation business, and already they've worked with massive clients such as Disney and the NHS - amazing work. We caught up with Daniel over a cuppa.
Business name: Fudge Animation Studios
Founder name: Daniel Weaver
Loan funds received: £25,000
Based in: Camberley, Surrey
1. Explain your business in the time it would take the kettle to boil or drink to be poured
Constantly innovating and challenging the status quo, we skilfully create and produce entertaining animated stories and content for audiences of all ages in a humorous and engaging way.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
We’re based in Camberley in Surrey, but as we spend so much time with clients in London we have a little office there too. Camberley’s semi-rural surrounding offers us the quality of ‘work life’ that fuels our creativity, but being easy to get to and a great place to live also makes it attractive from a recruitment perspective. Also, being 45 minutes on the train from London ensures that we’re not too far away from our clients - we can always jump on the train for a last-minute meeting if necessary.
3. How did you come up with the idea?
Telling stories and producing animated films is all I’ve wanted to do since I was given my first camera at the age of five – an old 8mm Bolex – and founding Fudge is a dream I’ve held for most of my life. I studied as a film director at one of Europe’s best film schools before cutting my teeth at the BBC working on some of the Beeb’s landmark children’s animated television programmes such as The Teletubbies, Tweenies, Bob the Builder and Postman Pat etc. Producing entertaining and humorous animated stories which can be appreciated by audiences of all ages is our mission, and it’s something we strive to do every day at Fudge.
4. What’s the business model?
We work primarily on a ‘work for hire’ basis and already produce animated content for some of the world’s largest brands and organisations.
5. Who are your competitors?
With the popularity of animation, especially from a business communications perspective, we have lots of competition – as well as animation production companies we have to contend with creative, digital, and marketing agencies. Our real competition though is creative character animation studios whose focus is solely on animation production. Creative businesses like ours are probably quite strange because our big competitors are also companies that we love and look up to – organisations such as Aardman and Studio AKA.
6. What’s unique about your business?
The thing that distinguishes us from our competition is Fudge Labs. Fudge Labs is our ‘brain trust’ of experts that we involve in the initial stages of client projects. Experts include art and creative directors, sales, marketing and social media experts, scriptwriters & storytellers and even (on occasion) up-and-coming comedians. The input of this group of people at the most important stage of production, when we’re discussing strategic objectives, creative ideas, concepts and style treatments, is invaluable and ensures that the work we produce really stands us apart from production studios that just want to see a script or storyboard.
7. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
We got the loan almost exactly 12 months after we’d begun trading.
8. How have you used it to grow your business?
In so many ways. To our team of world-class creative talent we’ve added state-of-the-art animation equipment and software which improves the quality of the work we produce, but also makes us more efficient. We’ve also used the money to invest in marketing ourselves and talking about the great work we do. The loan enabled us to take on a fantastic digital marketing manager who has done a great job getting Fudge out there.
9. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?
Our mentor is a guy called Ian Macpherson, who’s been brilliant. Fudge is growing so quickly and winning work with some amazing clients so, being involved in the business day to day, it’s easy to get carried away with all the excitement and success we’re experiencing. Ian has been great at reminding us not to run before we can walk and his advice has been really useful.
10. Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
We were supported in our application by Grant Baker at Enterprise First, and I can’t speak highly enough about him. Grant went above and beyond to help us during the application, reviewing our written and financial business plans and providing advice all throughout the process. Without Grant we simply wouldn’t have been able to get access to the fantastic support that we’ve received from Virgin Start-Up.
11. Biggest achievement so far?
We have 30 frames in our office, each of which were donated by a friend or family member when we started Fudge. These frames each contain a business objective (we call them ‘Champagne Moments’) and range from our first Christmas party, to our first Oscar, to our centenary. We’ve achieved a few of our goals already, but choosing our biggest achievement is pretty easy! For a startup animation company it doesn’t get better than being approached by THE animation company - at the start of this year we got the chance to work with Disney on a music video for the first female artist to be released outside the US under their Hollywood Records label. Amazing!
12. What’s next for your business?
In the next few years we want Fudge to be one of the UK’s foremost animation studios, renowned for producing memorable characters and entertaining and humorous animated stories. Leveraging state of the art technology and world-class creative talent and working with like-minded creative organisations, we will continue to delight our customers by producing engaging content which exceeds their expectations and those of their viewers.