What’s in a studio?

A story about four walls and the people that make those walls matter.

One of life’s little victories, being able to order amazon parcels to ‘somewhere’.
‘Are you guys a soft play?’
’Is this a travel agent?’
‘What do you guys do?’

Four years ago, on our lunch break Ian and I found this place

Four years later people still walk in regularly asking what the hell it is?

On that lunch break it was an empty unit, an old Tapas Restaurant with a big bold sign outside, ‘perfect for a cafe or shop’. No mention of ‘creative agency’.

Little did we know when we called that number we’d meet one of the nicest people to ever be a landlord and begin turning that empty little place into the home of our dreams, but not like in the Grand Designs way, more like in the ‘late afternoon trip to B&Q, youtube tutorial’ kind of way.

When this wee place began it had crappy tiles on the floor, dust on the walls and probably couldn’t be further from the image of SHINY ADVERTISING AGENCY if it tried, we pulled in all of those closest to us though and got our hands dirty, literally, we ripped up tiles, painted walls, fixed radiators. This was the first sign that this place would have a lot more hands moulding it than just ours.

For the first year of its existence it was blue, and had no sign outside, we then spent a small fortune having the outside painted to stop this happening. Painting ‘Something Something’ outside didn’t exactly ‘fix’ the issue of people not knowing what the place was. To this day we we must be the only folk in the world to paint their company name on the outside of the building and in turn make it even less clear what they do.

Over the years this is the place where we sat in a whisky induced stupor watching the results of the Scottish Independence referendum, packed our bags and set off round the world from and arrived at tired at the crack of dawn to go shoot something somewhere with Gav.

It’s held first aid courses, hen parties, film clubs, parties and board meetings we’ve shot a TV show in it and set off one too many smoke flares in the basement. Literally one, one is too many.

It’s been the backdrop to a baby, a puppy and a wedding. It’s been a pretty weird little anchor for a lot of people over the last four years.

Early in the studio’s infancy, one of my warmest memories of the place is being outside the office on a summer’s evening sanding a table to make a new coffee table for client meetings, a young 12 year old lad approached, ‘here pal, you’re doing that wrong!’. Introducing Daniel.

Daniel, was a 12, going on 40, year old lad who lived directly above us. A wee guy who had a tough deal and needed a wee hand from time to time. I’m really proud that our wee place could be a sanctuary for him from time to time and that a couple of idiots pulling their hair out over client budgets but also having a laugh might actually be the motivation he needed to pick up a camera, start a youtube channel and try his hand at ‘creative stuff’.

It’s gone from two of us sitting at brand new desks, with brand new computers and a head full of ideals and ambition, to now housing 10 people, two companies and a number of extremely talented freelancers.

Ultimately this wee place, that we found on our lunch break, painted, decorated and created ourselves has always been intended to be something more than an ‘office’. We set out to create a warm (sometimes), positive, inviting, creative home for whoever needed it.

Great space/Big windows

One such person, Sam, has typified what we want any studio we have to be about — a year or so ago he left his job at a local agency, with a bit of a question surrounding what he wanted to do with his future. He was clearly a supremely talented person with mountains of ideas, one option he had was ‘move to London’, but, before plumping for a move to the large city where ‘everyone is oh so busy, have I told you how busy I am yet?’ he approached us and offered us the rather one sided proposition ‘can I sit in your studio?’.

After picking ourselves up from the gall of his ‘offer’ we did in fact see what he was actually proposing. He wasn’t just a smart guy, he was a smart guy with a lot of ideas and kindling inside him to ‘start something’. The deal we were actually being presented was ‘what if I sit in your office, try pick up a bit freelance work, maybe help you guys out if you need it and hopefully in time, I can work out what it is I want to start?’. From that seed, he has in fact started ’something’. Together with Studio Something he has made incredible grounds in one year to starting a highly exciting product in the emerging market of digital health and wellbeing.

‘Hey healthy worker’

And the reason we even met Sam was because another one of these FREELOADERS! Probably the single handled most talented person in the office, the incredible illustrator, (single handed geddit?) Pablo Clark, a man who we convinced (forced) to move from Madrid to Leith nearly three years ago with the promise “we are making a cartoon and we want you to make it with us and I dunno when it’s over you can go home?”.

Somehow that was enough, he did in fact swap Madrid for Leith, we did in fact make that cartoon and he never did go home. Thankfully, for us.

Like Sam, Pablo typifies the type of people we want to fill the studio with, smart, interesting, self starting folks who have a mad wee spark inside them to go make a dent in the universe all the while lending a hand to those around them.

And if it wasn’t for him coming back then this guy would have had nothing to animate.

Erik, and tiny baby Sonny.

Erik, a man we knew at The Leith Agency, when we worked there, who as we left said ‘I’ll come find you guys, we’ll do something together’. He did in fact find us, and we did in fact make a lot of things together and for the majority of the time the studio has existed an Italian man with a penchant for Reddit and impeccable file management has walked over the threshold.

It may have been Ian and I who found it, and stuck our names on the lease (and kind of outside in big painted letters) and then put our balls in the window.

In reality though it is the product of many, many people.

It might just be four or so walls, but more than ever, we have found that it’s about the people you let inside those walls that make a company, a culture and dare I say it ‘a family’, which is a huge reason why we’ve made the decision we have.

We’re proud that it has been somewhere so many people have been able to feel at home in or find a bit of sanctuary in whilst tackling the treacherous waves of ‘making it’ in the creative industries, and the three above are just three examples.

Speaking of three? In the time we have been in this office we’ve realised it had come to housing three ambitions -

1 — To be the base for Ian and I to build a creative agency.

2 — To be able to a home for as many smart interesting freelancers we could fit.

3 — To be somewhere that could give someone else with a hankering to start something the place to formulate those ideas and start them without the stress of finding office space.

At the start of this year though we found ourselves in awkward position, Studio Something was growing, Sam’s company was growing and it was building it’s own company culture, desks were getting to a premium. The last thing we wanted was to have to ask freelancers to move out, or send our first venture baby off to an industrial estate in Livingston.

This wee place built on friendship, dreams, camaraderie and a slightly delusional plan of making a wee room in Leith a creative hotbed in the world that seemed a mad gamble four years ago was becoming too small.

We bet on ourselves and a simple plan of surrounding ourselves with smart people four years ago and it seemed mad so why not take that mad gamble again?

Gamble we have, we decided to roll the dice and go all in on red, or limestone yellow to be precise. We want on the hunt to find the next place to house and grow these ambitions in.

Again we didn’t look far, in fact pretty much just looked out the window.

To this -

A four floor, 16th century manse, that is far too big for us as we stand but just the right size to house the next version of our ambitions. It will be in, some senses, purpose built to house those three ambitions that we couldn’t contain in the current studio.

One floor will house Studio Something, one floor will house Welbot and one floor will be a dedicated space for some of the best and brightest freelancers and folk starting out, the next Pablo, Erik or Sam. Our ambition for this place is that is an inclusive, welcoming, interesting place full to the brim of talented, sound people who want to make something the world genuinely loves.

It’s a huge scary leap but then so was this place, that now feels so small, all those years ago.

Ian read this quote out of a book yesterday and I think it really summed up for both of us the next step of our journey,

‘Your dreams should scare you, you should wake up at 4 am in a sweat, thinking ‘I don’t know how to do this’
David Hieatt

Well when we opened the door for the first time on that old Tapas restaurant four years ago we were pretty scared and I’m sure when we close it for the last time and open our new doors we’ll feel exactly the same way.

But when did that ever stop anyone?

Shiteing it.

Studio Something is a creative agency on a mission, a mission to create one of the best companies in the world, by making things people genuinely like. This is a year of learning for us, If you would like to tell us why we are wrong, how we can improve, what we are doing right or if you too want to go on this mission. email us. tweet us. Get on our mailing list. Whatever, just say hello.