We caught up with animation sound specialists Bigmouth Audio ahead of next month's HSBC Scottish Export Awards in association with Scottish Enterprise to find out how they managed to export so soon after the launch of their business.
What does your company do?
At Bigmouth Audio we work closely with our animation and film production clients to help bring their characters to life, we help create believable worlds and environments and ultimately bring the extra 50% of emotion and story to the table that can only be achieved when great sound design meets outstanding visuals. Our services cover voice casting & production, sound design, foley & original music composition.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
Creative Director Steve Scott launched our company in Spring 2013. He formed Bigmouth Audio to specialise in sound post for the animation and children’s media industries because he became aware that many producers working within animation, children’s and daytime television were not completely happy with their audio post suppliers, feeling that their productions where not being given the same level of attention and enthusiasm as other projects such as high end TV dramas or feature films. He also noticed that children’s television, particularly animation, was increasingly requiring a much more sophisticated sound in terms of the audio design and music scores. This coupled with Steve’s interest in story telling via animation and his expertise in audio production led to Bigmouth Audio being born!
How long has the company been exporting?
The company has been exporting almost since the very start. As localisation is a key requirement within our target market the opportunities to provide an English dubbing service have always existed from day one. Gigglebug Entertainment in Finland approached us during our first year to provide these services and we have continued to work with them since.
What do you currently export, and where to?
We currently export English language voice over production or English re-dubbing as well as original music composition and sound design services. We are also working with a business partner in San Francisco to help us export our own IP – an audio cartoon created with visually impaired children at its heart. As well as this, we have recently partnered with a company in Toronto, Junior Joe, who specialise in music for animation and children’s media – exclusively supplying their sound design services. This has allowed us to establish our business in Toronto and access the market in Canada.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
Our main motivation for selling overseas was to tap into the market in Canada. Canada is currently a hub for animation production due to the very favourable tax breaks and government incentives available to producers. Given that this our target market we felt we needed to create a ‘route to market’ for Canada eventually partnering with Junior Joe. We spent about 15 months looking for the best possible partner in the Toronto area and eventually met with Junior Joe in February 2016 while attending the Kidscreen Summit in Miami (with help from Creative Scotland and UKTI). Since then we have been slowly putting together the partnership and already have a few potential projects in the pipeline.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
It’s hard to think of anything easy about exporting really. It’s a tough nut to crack and we’re still working on it! I would say that help and advice from Scottish Enterprise has made life easier for us overall and I guess having to spend time in places like Toronto, Miami and New York over the last few years wasn’t bad at all!
And the most challenging part?
Probably getting your company known in overseas markets and then physically having to be there. For us the best solution to that has been to partner up with a suitable company in your target export market rather than trying to go in alone into an already crowded market place.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
The short answer to this is no. Our main export market is Canada which is English speaking, this is obviously helpful and important to consider when looking for an export market. Similarly, we have a few clients in Finland now since working with Gigglebug Entertainment and because English is spoken so well in Scandinavia there has really been no problems with the language barrier.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We have received support from UKTI [now Department for International Trade] and Creative Scotland several times to help attend international conferences which are so important for the success of our business. We also received support from Scottish Enterprise when we attended a trade mission to Toronto with them in 2014. Scottish Enterprise have also been great with us in terms of advice and are able to partner you with an export advisor. All of this helps reach our export market greatly.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Well, if you are a Scottish based company speak to Scottish Enterprise first. Be very ambitious with your expected results (this will help access more support). Speak to UKTI [now Department for International Trade] as they often support international events and can provide advice, contacts and funding. Obviously be clear about why you are exporting and what makes your company unique, do plenty of market research and jump on a plane every now and then – get out there and see your market, meet people and connect. I would suggest looking at the option of partnering with another company in your service area or one that compliments what you offer.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
Although we are in the early stages of our Canadian journey we are already looking to the US market. We are working with a company in San Francisco to help export our own IP project and will also use this opportunity to try and export our production services. In 5 years time we see ourselves having a base in the USA, Canada and the UK.
Interested in international trade in Scotland? The HSBC Scottish Export Awards in association with Scottish Enterprise is taking place on 22 March at the Hilton Glasgow. Book your place now to attend the awards dinner and celebrate international trade across Scotland.