We could have gone to banks for a business loan, but the problem there is that they want you to provide a business plan –forecasts, projections and all that sort of stuff. There was a Barclays Media bank that had a division to specifically understand creative companies and be more helpful so we wrote a business plan. But they pretty much declined us; we were too small, a start-up and no great trading record (which if we had have had we wouldn’t have needed to go there in the first place) .
We also filled out mountains of forms for Slate funding from the EU. Thing is, the paperwork is so long and onerous – and the amount of time it takes is so ridiculous – that if you’re turned down, as we were, then you’ve wasted a hell of a lot of work. You’d be better off putting all that effort into trying to drum up sales!
While we resisted an investor at every turn because we started this company to work for ourselves, there was a point when a serious cash injection was needed. We’d won a multi-million pound contract to create ‘Jungle Junction’ for Disney, but needed to buy £500,000 worth of equipment to do it. We had a legal, signed contract from Disney and took that to banks asking for a loan to fulfil it – but even with that guaranteed contract and 10 years of good trading every single one turned us down. They didn’t even really give us reasons.
I think there’s a big problem for media companies, because we’re making creative products and not tractors or spades. Financiers’ can’t see the tangible worth in what we’re doing, they don’t understand IP and aren’t interested in long-term good, shelf life products that take more than three years to start paying dividends.
Nonetheless, there are opportunities out there. EIS, regional grants and good old Co-production. You just need to get inventive!