LocationScotland: A picture perfect start-up

An air stewardess for nine years, Marie Owen wanted a change of scenery and chose to set up a business in the Scottish countryside. Marie now runs a multi-national production company with offices in Edinburgh and New York. She told BQ how she got started in business.

Launched by entrepreneur Marie Owen in 2006, LocationScotland (LS) is planning to open its third office later this year and now employs 14 full-time members of staff.

The company offers a range of production services from producing TV commercials, music videos and fashion editorial's to simple photoshoots.

With a list of blue chip clients and high-end fashion brands, the company has grown to become Scotland’s largest high-end service production company for moving image and stills shoots.

Marie told BQ: “People come to us with a concept for their shoot; we provide inspiration and source a suitable location, providing full service production wherever they choose.

“Our clients include 02, BMW, NBC, Johnnie Walker, Stella McCartney, Chanel, H&M, Elle US and Vanity Fair.

“The idea for the business came from my husband; he’s a photographer and has travelled to many incredible places for work.

“When we married he moved to Scotland and was staggered by its beauty, and thought there was potential for a Scottish production company that played on the advantages of the local landscape.”

Marie’s entrepreneurial spirit coupled with her husband’s dream of creating an agency that made the most of the stunning aesthetics of the Scottish countryside, led to her making the leap into self-employment.

She said: “LS was a self funded project. I basically had an idea, set up a website and did some very minimal marketing to begin with, which all came from personal finance of around £15,000.”

Following this, she sought help from a number of business support organisations across Scotland including Scottish Enterprise.

Marie said: “Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International are great at providing support; they’ve been since the beginning.

“I’m also part of the private leadership group Vistage, which I often look to for advice. I always feel inspired after meeting like-minded business leaders at their annual networking events.

“We also have a non-executive member of the LS team who is incredibly knowledgeable and a great source of business advice.”

When asked what her biggest challenge was to date, Marie said: “I definitely find it a challenge to juggle everything I want to do for the business while looking after my family, it’s taken me a while to realise the importance of finding the time to slow down!”

On the back of six years of continued growth, the company is now looking to expand further across the UK having already jumped across the pond into the US market.

She added: “At the moment we’re focusing on extending our service production to the creative industries, and to the whole of the UK.

“In order to achieve this we’re currently working hard to develop our in-house location library, so as to include backdrops for shoots and campaigns outside of Scotland.

“Our goal is to grow our network enough to be able to shoot anywhere our client wishes – whether that’s in the UK, the East Coast of the USA or elsewhere.

“We’ll have a LS base in London from the end of summer 2015, which will help us facilitate this even further. It’s a very exciting time for the company!”

Having battled through the start-up stage and turned the dream into a reality, Marie learnt a lot throughout her first year in business.

“The best thing about being a start-up is seeing all of my original ideas come to fruition. It’s so rewarding to work on something from the brainstorming stage all the way through to the finished project.

“I’ve accrued so much knowledge since this process began; start-ups are great for learning as you grow, figuring out what works best for you and your business.

“The downside of a start-up business is the amount of work and risk involved at the beginning stages.

“I really took a chance for I hadn’t had any previous experience in the industry – I had been an air stewardess for nine years, before leaving work for four and a half years so as to look after my children. It seems to have paid off, though!

“One of the most important things I’ve realised in this process is to try not to worry about the company all the time, it’s important to switch off and take some time out for yourself.”

When asked what made LS standout from other production companies, Marie pointed to the Scottish countryside as the key factor in helping them leap ahead of their competition.

She added: “LS is definitely unique in the sense that there’s no other production or service agency like us at the moment, particularly in Scotland.

“We’re lucky to have our base here. Although it’s a relatively small country there aren’t many places in the world with so much diversity; we have rocky cliffs, stunning beaches, lush green plains, rolling hills, beautiful seascapes, amazing architecture and cities steeped in culture.

“There aren’t many production companies with such exceptional backdrops on their doorstep!”

Going forward, Marie said: “we’d love to work with even more high-end fashion houses and blue chip companies.

“It’s great to work with British and international brands, ones who know our country well and others who perhaps have never visited or shot here before.

“Our motion department is relatively young but we’ve already worked with some fantastic people (producers, directors, crew) – so the focus is to keep expanding and bringing in new, exciting clients. Any repeat business from a client is always flattering too!”

BQ will continue to cover the story of Marie and LS as the company continues to grow and looks to expand into other areas.