What is your name?
Could you confirm your job title and what your role entails?
I run my own company called Horizon Imaging, offering architectural and low-altitude aerial photography services in the South East of the UK. Operating as a sole trader, I am the photographer, accountant, marketing and sales director – I have to do everything myself!
Who do you work for and where are they based?
I am based in Godalming, Surrey.
What does the company do and how long have you worked for them?
I started flying radio-controlled model aircraft in 1998 and since 2006 have been experimenting with taking aerial photographs using model aircraft. Around 2007 I set up Horizon Imaging (created a website, business cards, etc) and started taking on occasional commercial photo shoots for construction companies, hotels and schools. Since then I have achieved a degree in electronic and electrical engineering from the University of Surrey, and have spent 5 years in the engineering industry. In April 2014 I finally quit my last job and started running Horizon Imaging as a full-time business.
Prior to joining this company, could you provide a brief overview as to what you were doing before?
Before I went to University I took a 10 month ‘gap-year’ with Thales Avionics, a division of the Anglo-French engineering company which used to based in Raynes Park, London (now Crawley, West Sussex). During this time I helped out in their Hardware engineering department, testing new aircraft equipment, building cable looms and generally getting a feeling for working in the engineering industry. Thales then sponsored me for the duration of my University degree, providing financial support during term-time and 10 weeks of paid work during each summer break.
After completing my degree I joined Thales Avionics as a full-time employee for 2 years, working mainly as a Rig Technician. The most exciting project I worked on was building a mock-up cockpit of the Chinook Helicopter for testing a new suite of avionics instruments. I was involved with everything from designing and building cable looms to designing parts of the cockpit rig itself.
In 2010 I was headhunted by Blue Bear Systems Research, a small Research & Development company based in Bedfordshire, working on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). This was a fantastic job as it combined my passion for radio-controlled model aircraft, my hands on abilities in design and construction, and my knowledge in electronic engineering. I stayed with Blue Bear for 2.5 years, and my work mainly involved designing, building and test-flying UAS platforms and payloads.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your role?
The most enjoyable part of my work at Horizon Imaging is receiving positive feedback from my clients. There is an indescribable thrill that comes from being praised for something you have achieved entirely by yourself – finding the clients, designing and building the aerial photography helicopter platforms, capturing and editing the photographs, etc. There are a lot of things to juggle when running the business, but it is this feedback that keeps me going!
What aspects have you found the most challenging and how did you overcome them?
Running Horizon Imaging as a proper business (and not just a hobby) has been a real challenge as there are so many things to do. However, I have received a great deal of help from the Government-supported StartUp Loans scheme. They provided me with a low-rate loan to help me buy the equipment I needed for the business, as well as connecting me with a dedicated business mentor who I can fire all my questions at! The StartUp Loans scheme also runs free workshops and events on the different aspects of running a business, such as cashflow management, securing additional funding, and marketing effectively.
On top of the help I have received from StartUp Loans, I have found the internet to be a goldmine of information for running your own business. There are many free resources such as LinkedIn where you can connect and engage with other professionals in your industry and ask them for advice and guidance.
In addition to relevant qualifications, what other skills or experience do you need to do your role?
Running a business requires many different skills. As well as being highly competent in the work you undertake (in my case photography), you need to know how to be an effective salesperson, how to deal with cashflow, how to advertise your services and how to manage your time effectively. These are all skills that I am acquiring / learning as I go along, mainly through the channels outlined in the previous section.
How did SATRO assist you in becoming interested in this career?
Whilst I am no longer in the engineering field as such, SATRO provided me with fantastic exposure to the engineering industry during my time at school, which ultimately led to my decision to study engineering at University and work in the engineering industry after graduating. During my time at school, SATRO worked with my sponsor, Rolls-Royce, to provide me with a valuable grant for the duration of my A-Level studies, and SATRO were also on hand to answer any questions I had about working in the engineering industry. They even arranged a trip around the Rolls-Royce gas turbine factory in Derby which was absolutely fascinating!
What advice would you give someone who was thinking about this as a career?
My main advice would be if you have a passion for something and you are very good at it, there is a good chance you can turn it into a successful career! Also I would advise researching all the support schemes that are available to you, be it the StartUp Loans scheme, or forums on the internet.
Ultimately, if you can provide a product or service of sufficient quality which people are prepared to pay for, and you are prepared to work hard to see your plans come to fruition, you have every chance of success!