Being the managing director of a North East-based company, which exports all over the world, is such a rewarding role. I travel a great deal and that gives me the opportunity to rave to anyone who will listen about how great we are in the North of England; both the people and the businesses.
Blue Kangaroo Design has been operating for over 10 years, and during that time, our home has always been in the North East. We’re a creative agency that produces work which delights, excites and inspires. Our talented team works on projects from packaging and illustration through to POS, exhibition and print for a number of clients in the licensing sector, both here in the UK and oversees, in countries including the US and India.
From humble beginnings when first setting out, our client list has grown to read like a who’s who of the entertainment world, with brands such as Disney, Pixar and Mattel on our books to name but a few. From those first initial meetings with huge household names, we now enjoy long-term relationships with these clients based on the high quality of the work we produce, our creativity and of course, customer care.
Yet you see, whenever I talk to our international clients, they always talk about London; it’s as if everything we produce in the UK comes out of that one place alone. Granted, it’s our capital city and I am very proud of that, but take a look further up the country and you will come into contact with some amazing companies. Indeed, GVA of the digital economy in the North of England is second only to London.
There has been a lot said about the Northern Powerhouse, will it work or won’t it? Well, this might come as bit of a surprise, but up North we have always worked together in order to better our regions; not only local councils, but also private businesses, working together to win business.
Let’s be honest, the more we do together, the more it benefits us all. These alliances have already benefited the North; we have seen huge growth in areas like Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. In fact, the North is giving London a run for its money, with the region emerging as a creative cluster, providing services from IT all the way through to digital marketing.
We have just as good a skill-set as the folks down South, and in my experience, have the ability to charge for our services at less cost than many businesses based in London. This competitive value for money is certainly something that is appealing to our customers. And the reality is that our customers don’t mind where their agency is based. They just want the best agency. And here in the Northern Powerhouse we certainly have the talent and skills to lead the way.
Sadly, as a country we have seen a decline within heavy manufacturing industries; the North East was synonymous with ship and tank building for generations. We were once known around the world as one of the best places to build heavy industry. These are the industries that built our great nation, and attracted contracts from around the world.
But with the emergence of creative clusters outside of London, rather than exporting coal, we’re now exporting code and other creative concepts. Our region has a range of digital sector expertise, from games in Liverpool, healthtech in Leeds, software development in Hull and e-commerce in Newcastle.
There are also growing communities in areas like Bradford, York and Cheshire. Having being born and raised in the North East, it was a natural progression to launch Blue Kangaroo Design in the place that I call home. The bright lights of London never tempted me away, and I’m immensely proud to be part of the burgeoning creative scene here in our region.
There are plenty of positive things happening in the UK; as a whole our country was the second fastest growing export market in Europe in 2015. The north east of England was the fastest growing exporter in the UK for the same period.
The digital age has taken a hold of the region, from our colleges, universities, and new start-ups to established businesses. We are certainly a very talented bunch in the North East and know how to play to our strengths – just look at the number of start-up digital businesses launching in the region – it’s beginning to rival Silicon Valley state-side and Shoreditch down South. Now, digital companies account for around 17% of businesses in the region.
At Blue Kangaroo Design alone, we have seen a huge increase in both new business as well as existing business from repeat customers. We have seen a steep increase in turnover, which has enabled us to take on more employees and grow our business further. Our exporting work to the US has certainly played a part in our success. And because we’re continuing to grow, it means we’ve also been able to give our suppliers more work, who as you will have guessed, are all Northern based companies too.
Our success has been done without huge fanfare or us constantly banging the drum. You see, up North we are fairly modest and tend just to get on with things. We love to share our successes and to work with other local companies to show the world that the North is the place to be. Yes, we need to look at our infrastructure and the modernisation of the roads and the railways, but that’s only a small part of the bigger picture.
There are currently over 283,000 people employed within the North East digital sector and that is just a small part of the Northern Powerhouse. So if you’re asking me what I think, I think the Northern Powerhouse can only continue to grow and become more powerful.