Barrie Gordon is the founder of Blend and is a man who loves what he does. His company specialises in high-quality commercial photography and he has worked with the likes of Dune, Ted Baker and House of Fraser. Based in North London, Blend has built a reputation for highly professional photography that is both cost-effective and uncompromising on quality.
Having entered the photography industry soon after leaving school, Barrie was already well-equipped with years of expertise and knowledge when he decided to embark on his own entrepreneurial journey. The initial success of Blend only whetted his appetite for more and the opportunity to join the Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library was one he jumped at. We caught up with Barrie to see how things have developed since completing the programme and to find out a little bit more about how he’s grown a successful company.
What made you believe that you could turn your passion into a business?
You used the words, belief and passion in your question. In my view, these two attributes are paramount to starting your own business.
I’ve always been passionate about photography, but becoming an entrepreneur and having my own company is what dreams are made of. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working for a variety of photographic companies and this gave me with the perfect opportunity to learn and also to see things I could change and improve. The managerial experience that I garnered over this period also meant I had the necessary skill set to do something I always wanted to do. To make that jump from employee to running your own business takes confidence and belief in your own ability. It's easy to start a business but to make a success of it is a much tougher ask, so believing in yourself is a really important quality for any entrepreneur.
As a small business, I was very interested in any guidance that would help me build a successful company. I felt the programme offered advice in lots of areas which would help to develop my skills as a business owner. Furthermore, as a start-up, with limited funds, to be offered free advice from experts in their respective fields, naturally appealed to me too. I had been trading for a couple of years when I applied for the Innovating for Growth programme and was delighted to find out my application had been successful. The assistance I had in key areas such as brand development, marketing and strategy are things that helped Blend to grow and I’m very pleased I made the decision I did.
You’ve recently rebranded. Why did you feel this was necessary and have you started to see the benefits of this decision?
We were previously known as Packshot and Stills but the rebranding of our company has made a huge difference. To some degree, the old name and branding held us back. The term packshot relates to a particular type of photography. In essence, it's a basic product shot ordinarily shot on a white background. We didn't want to be pigeon-holed and known for just doing this type of photography and I felt that "Packshot and Stills" was doing just that. Our services extend way beyond that of packshots; we are capable of offering professional photography from fashion and video content to complex creative shoots. The old branding just didn't relay that message.
Additionally, profit margins in packshot photography have been driven down. Competition is fierce and as such, prices have fallen to a level which makes that area of photography tough to sustain. Consumers don't really put the same value on packshot photography as they do for creative still-lifes or fashion photography. It just made sense to distance ourselves from that term in relation to our branding. Having said that, we still do packshots here at Blend but wanted to get the message out there that we are experts in a range of other areas of photography, hence the name Blend.
The company is relatively young and brand awareness hadn't truly been established. If we were going to rebrand, now was the time to do so. Moreover, the website also needed to be redeveloped, so it seemed a perfect time to do it.
Since the rebrand in mid-January, I've had very positive feedback regarding the visual aesthetics. We've also started to see the commercial benefits and certainly had more interest in our fashion work. I'm hoping this trend will continue and we will see similar progress with our creative product photography.
Innovating for Growth focuses on key areas to help businesses scale-up and grow. When considering the support and advice you received, what would you say has helped Blend the most?
There were plenty of aspects of the programme that helped me to grow Blend. Due to the size of my business, the advice that I received was split between things that were actionable straight away and guidance I could implement at a later stage.
Initially, I had a meeting to look at an overview of my business. It was evident that for me to grow the business, I had to look at my time management. I also needed to delegate some of my day-to-day duties to free up time and to enable me to concentrate on building and expanding the business. It may seem obvious, but without someone telling me that it's okay to do so, I probably wouldn't have adapted.
Along with advice on rebranding, I also had some very hands-on advice from ASB Law. They looked over aspects of Blend from a legal perspective and helped us enormously to amend our legal documents.
What’s next for Blend?
We're looking to further expand, not only in physical size, premises and personnel but also broadening our offerings.
We'll always be looking to adapt in order to deliver the level of service that our clients expect. For us to remain competitive, we constantly need to be refining and reviewing our internal processes to maximise the quality and efficiency of our output.
Externally, we'll be increasing investment in our marketing. We have a brand that we can be proud of and, as such, we want to get our message out there.
Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Barrie? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply now.