On the face of it, there is no apparent connection between a long-established paint manufacturing company, with almost 75 years' trading history, and a small digital communications agency, still in its first twelve months of business. The link, however, is The Prince's Trust, which as part of its programme enabling 18-30 year olds to start their own businesses, enlists the support of larger organisations to act as mentors for these startup ventures, providing commercial advice, expertise, guidance and counselling.
It was indeed The Prince's trust in the North West that introduced Manchester-based HMG Paints to three enterprising young graduates, Dan Walford (25), Chris Bartle (27) and John-Paul Phillippe (24), who set up Fusion Visual Communications in Chorlton. HMG's Chairman and long-time MD, Brian Falder is an active supporter of the Trust and volunteered the firm as a Business Mentor, while its Marketing Manager, Alison Patterson, has been providing Fusion with practical and conceptual marketing advice, to help get the business established in Manchester.
Since 1976, The Prince's Trust has supported almost half a million young people through training, mentoring and financial assistance, helping them to realise their potential and even transform their lives. Its business programme offers loans and grants to unemployed and under-employed 18-30 year olds to start their own business, with over 4,000 young people receiving start-up finance last year, at an average cost of £3,300. Most of these Trust-supported businesses survive the first year and 55% continue trading successfully into their third year and beyond. Dan, Chris and John-Paul are all graduates of the University of Derby, in Electronic Engineering, Computer Science and Music Technology respectively, and last year put forward proposals to the Trust for setting up a digital communications business, subsequently receiving initial funding and expert advice on accounting and administrative procedures.
Although starting in Derby, Fusion later relocated to Chorlton, South Manchester, with the support of regional Trust executive, Paul Smith. "The Prince's Trust organisation has been really good in Manchester and they've put us in touch with lots of people. It's also a great city to be part of," says Dan. "London is regarded as the major design scene, but Manchester is just as influential, with a thriving arts and music community."
Fusion employs modern interactive digital technology to bring a new dimension to marketing solutions, combining information-giving with an element of entertainment. Among the digital solutions it offers are CD-Rom style business cards, carrying animation, video clips and music, multimedia CV's that incorporate dynamic creative portfolios, website design based on html and animated flash technology, and eyecatching banner advertising for the internet. Current clients range from universities to household brands and projects include an online actors' CV and showreel database, for London-based Actors Inc.
Business Mentors for the Prince's Trust must be prepared to commit around half a day each month to meetings, counselling and generally developing a professional relationship with their young entrepreneurs. To this end, HMG's Alison Patterson meets regularly with the Fusion team, helping to develop their marketing approach and even sending out a mailshot to Manchester businesses on their behalf.
"The Trust felt that HMG would assist us with networking especially, in a city we're totally new to, and that's certainly been the case. It really helps to have an established company promoting our cause and introducing us to their business contacts," adds Dan. "Brian Falder calls us personally from time to time, offering sound advice and spurring us on with his enthusiasm, so the relationship is working really well."
With its original mentor in Derby, Henri Winand, Vice Chairman of Mergers & Acquisitions at Rolls Royce, still helping out on the business side, Fusion has clearly had the best possible start to its venture and, as demonstrated by a growing portfolio of clients, is definitely keen to make a go of it.
The firm can be contacted via its website at www.fusion-vis.com
Further enquiries to:
Telephone 0161 205 7631