Beth and Dom from Common Story, a content creation company in Leamington Spa, talk about their business, their experience with the University of Warwick’s Creative Futures Incubator, and life at 1 Mill Street.
What vital support did they gain? And how to grow in such challenging times?
Picture Above: Beth and Dom registering the company in Dom’s shed in January 2020
In January 2020, standing in a shed at the bottom of Dom’s garden in south Warwickshire, Dom Sant and Beth Newell signed the papers to launch their first joint business venture. After 15 years working together in London-based TV production companies and filming around the world, Beth and Dom set their sights on the West Midlands. Soon after, Common Story was born – their independent production company which makes TV, films, video and audio content across a range of platforms.
When they signed their company registration forms, they of course had no idea of the challenges – and opportunities – that lay just around the corner with Covid-19. Fortunately, the University of Warwick’s Creative Futures Incubator programme came along at just the right time.
Joining the Creative Futures Incubator
The Incubator aims to inspire, educate and incubate start-up and creative businesses like Common Story. It supports the largest cluster of creative businesses outside of Greater London, here in Coventry and Warwickshire. Creative companies and start-ups that successfully apply can make use of the new co-working space at 1 Mill Street in Leamington Spa. They also have access to business advice, mentoring and networking to support the growth of creative ideas, enterprises and innovation.
Mentoring, one to one coaching and the accountability that comes with that is part of the Creative Futures Incubator programme offering. After nine months of navigating a new business during the first round of Covid-19 restrictions, Beth and Dom found this accountability and mentoring exactly what was needed to give them a creative jolt again. They were able to agree milestones and feel a strong sense of community with a network of creative peers and businesses, thanks to the incubator process. Beth described this as like having a ‘critical friend’, who would sit with them, help create structure and focus their purpose and ambitions in the form of a workable business plan. This was much welcomed, as starting a new business and chasing a vision can often feel lonely and incredibly difficult – never mind trying to do so in the face of a global pandemic via video meetings.
When government restrictions have allowed, having a physical space to meet has been a real asset too. As much as Dom loves his garden shed, an external and communal workspace can be hugely valuable. As Beth put it:
“There’s nothing that compares with those informal conversations you have in person in a place like 1 Mill Street. As human beings, we’re wired to interact in person. When it comes to new ideas, brainstorming, finding a spark and those alternative approaches, you just can’t do that in the same way during a focused hour or two online session.”
What the Creative Futures incubator has done for Beth and Dom is to strip back their thinking and give them a clear focus, leaving a really positive outlook on what they’re trying to achieve. Beth described it as being like a springboard that moved them forwards in all the areas they want to be involved in, thanks to the conversations they’ve been able to have and the connections around the region that Creative Futures has enabled.
Do you need business support? Are you in the creative & digital sector?
Creative Futures is a gateway between the University of Warwick and the region’s creative industries. They inspire, educate & incubate on campus and at 1 Mill Street, a new co-working space in Leamington Spa offering business advice, mentoring and networking to support the growth of creative ideas, enterprises and innovation.