How did the idea for the business come about?
I was working as the Art Director at Midway Games’ Gateshead studio when, in July 2009, Midway Games folded and the studio was closed. My wife and I were expecting our first baby anytime so I needed to think of a plan that would keep a roof over our heads without the disruption of having to relocate. I’d always had an ambition to start my own studio creating digital art and design for games and films, so with nothing much to lose, I persuaded three members of my team to join me in starting Atomhawk.
When was the company first established?
We were first established in July 2009.
How is the business doing?
The business is currently performing better than ever. 2017 has been an exciting year for us as in July we were acquired by Sheffield based company, Sumo Digital, and shortly after we opened a new studio in Vancouver. We’re still growing our teams in Canada and the UK to service a growing international client base as well as new work from established clients such as Warner Brother, Microsoft and Lego.
Over the last few years we’ve made a lot of changes to improve our reporting and systems without compromising on the quality of our work and we’re now really seeing the results in terms of efficiencies, profits and business development.
Since the company began, what has been the biggest challenge?
Likewise, as the founder of a business, it can be a real challenge to let go of some aspects of what you’ve created and to empower other people to take responsibility for them.
What makes you stand out from your competitors?
From a client’s perspective, we always pride ourselves on the quality of our work but I think what makes us stand out from our competitors is that we also have a very robust production and management team which means we can offer high quality client service and project management as well as world-class art and design. Artists are not known for being organised but we have managed to find the perfect balance of creativity and delivery.
From an employee’s perspective, we offer everyone the training and development they need to be awesome at their job and pride ourselves on our team parties!
What’s been your best business decision?
To stop working in the business and start working on the business. When you’re a small start-up you have to get involved in every aspect of the business to get it off the ground. I even used to secretly clean the office when everyone else had gone home. But as soon as you can afford to grow your management team, the survival of the business is going to depend on someone taking responsibility for looking to the future in terms of business development and strategy. In Atomhawk’s case, as the founder of the business and the person who knew all its workings inside out, that person was me!
What is next for Atomhawk?
We’re looking forward to growing our Vancouver team and to carrying on embracing new technologies and markets. Our design team have worked on a number of virtual reality projects over the last couple of years and we’re seeing more and more work coming through in this space. On the back of the recent work we did for Warner Brothers Injustice 2 game, we’re expanding our animation service with some exciting new projects currently underway. We’ve also recently started creating concept art for theme parks which is a really exciting part of the entertainment industry that we’re loving getting involved with.
If you could help one business now with a single piece of advice, what would it be?
Look after your people and yourselves. As an art studio our people are what makes us and we’ve recently put a lot of thought into our company culture and how to foster a supportive team environment with a positive work-life balance where we can help to make people happy personally and professionally.
Stress and burn-out are all too common in the modern workplace and it’s important that business owners also look after themselves physically and mentally and understand that what we do at work is only a part of what makes us who we are.
Finally, what is your favourite biscuit?
Difficult to choose, but I’m going to go with the chocolate hobnob.