Graduate clients of QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s incubator, Carbon Media, have gone from strength to strength with a recently commissioned series of videos for Sesame Street starring Jessica Mauboy that are screening worldwide. We talked to Wayne Denning, Carbon Media Founder and Managing Director to find out where they are now and what life was like in at CEA.
Tell us about your business, Carbon Media.
A “Carbon Media is an award winning full service creative media agency based in the vibrant Judith Wright Centre in Fortitude Valley. Our business has two arms – we produce everything from television commercials to apps and everything in between for a wide range of commercial clients including government, not-for-profit and the corporate sector and we also create our own content for children’s and factual television. We have a passion for working on social change projects, our own and others. Behind the scenes we have a highly creative, multi-skilled team who are uber talented and committed, helping to bring projects to life.”
What was your vision for Carbon Media, when you started up in 2006?
“Thankfully the vision for Carbon Media is the same today as it was when I started 8 years ago – to develop and create original, culturally diverse stories and deliver them in innovative and creative ways to Australia and the rest of the world.”
You have had some recent success with the 5-Kangaroos media-clip featuring Jessica Mauboy commissioned and aired on Sesame Street. Tell us about that?
“Early in 2013, Carbon Media successfully pitched the concept of a mixed media clip 5 Kangaroos, starring Indigenous Australian singer, Jessica Mauboy to global television giant, Sesame Street for its iconic Letters and Numbers segment. What followed made television history, with the clip the first to feature Australian Indigenous content in the show’s 44 year tenure airing in 140 countries. Its success propelled Carbon Media into a highly productive relationship with Sesame Street, having recently produced another 3 clips for Season 45 – a first for any Australian production company.
The outcome of our collaborative relationship with Sesame Street has been a definitive game changer. In addition to giving positive voice to Australian Indigenous content, it’s helped us build credibility, opening doors internationally and giving oxygen to our exciting development and production slate.”
And you also recently won the 2014 Screen Producers of Australia Breakthrough Business Award. How did it feel to win?
“In a word – fantastic! We’re delighted to be recognised by industry peers with this exciting award. It marks an important turning point for Carbon and confirms we’re making headway amongst a myriad of excellent competition. It says we’re on the right trajectory and in this intense industry, is very reassuring.”
Did you image you would have so much success when you started up 8-years ago?
“No, but then no one in business sets out to fail. I had passion and a steely determination to share unique stories with the world. It was innate. This made it easier to push through the difficult times, of which there are plenty and keep your eye on the end goal. My approach isn’t unique and applied to most businesses, will often bring success. You have to really want it, pursue it and then when it comes, take stock, be grateful but then quickly get back on the horse. There’s no room for complacency nor to believe your own PR.”
When did you move into the QUT Creative Enterprise Australia incubator? And why did you decide to join the incubator?
“We moved into the QUT Creative Enterprise Australia incubator in 2007. It was a logical next step from the dining room table! In all seriousness it was the ideal opportunity to work in a creative, professional environment giving us opportunity to access studios, production crews, meeting room facilities and support staff that in the very early stage of the business would’ve otherwise been out of reach.”
What services did you utilise while based in the QUT Creative Enterprise Australia incubator?
“Carbon Media achieved many firsts during our time at the incubator with the highlight producing Australia’s first Indigenous children’s game show, Letterbox (100 eps) that portrayed Indigenous culture and language on national television and included Indigenous contestants. We also produced a second game show Go Lingo (50 eps) that aired on ABC3 and NITV. Both these shows were filmed in the QUT television studios.
The incubator also provided us with a low interest loan to purchase equipment, which helped get us going.”
How do you think being in CEA’s incubator during startup, was different to renting a regular office?
“It was a ‘softer’ landing compared to investing in an independent commercial lease and all that goes with it – extensive investment in legal fees, capital and infrastructure etc. We also received administrative support, which was a big help. It takes time to generate and grow sustainable revenue as a creative services agency and so the incubator gave me valuable time to breath and focus on building the business.”
Why did you decide to it was time to “graduate” from CEA’s incubator?
“In any business there comes a time to become fully independent and in 2011, we’d been with the CEA incubator for four years. It was time to make way for others coming up the ranks and for us to stand completely on our own two feet. We had grown up, matured even!”
Would you recommend joining CEA’s incubator to other startups in the creative industries?
“Yes. It’s a great stepping-stone into the real world. It still requires you to do all the things you would in any business – pay rent, service debt, pursue growth etc however the incubator enables you walk before you need to run so to speak.”
What part did CEA played in your business development?
“The CEA environment helped foster access and availability to meet and work with like-minded people and in turn I was able to leverage the opportunity to generate new leads, ideas, resources etc.”
Do you have any other comments, feedback or advice?
“Definitely consider the QUT Creative Enterprise Australia incubator as a legitimate way to get out of your home office but make sure you start how you want to finish. Act as you would if you were in any commercial environment – know your service or product, have a solid strategic business plan, the right resources and a whole lot of chutzpah!”