Write Image was founded during the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020. A turbulent and very uncertain time for everyone as I am sure you will remember. Needless to say things have changed a great deal since then. Some businesses have thrived while other struggled through.  So many went under or “phoenixed” to re emerge as a new entity in the hope of carrying on.

Our approach was slightly different. The project to create content to help businesses pivot or adapt to more modern, online, ways of communicating was effectively shelved while we got on with more pressing business as lockdown eased. We learned a great deal through exploring opportunities and making contacts outside our normal orbit.

One of the most interesting lessons was that there is a parallel universe of social enterprises, community interest companies and charities that operate alongside the traditional commercial business models. They are often indistinguishable at first glance, providing goods and services as expected but with a different ethos behind the scenes. The idea of a non profit business may seem like a contradiction in terms but no profit does not mean no good. Quite the opposite in fact.

Shifting focus.

Through a convoluted process that I will not bore you with, I was invited to submit a proposal to support third sector activities in Renfrewshire. The idea was to apply for funding to support five different charities or social enterprises with photography as content for their web and social media presence. The overarching theme was to promote Renfrewshire as a great place to live and work. Although I’m an Ayrshire man to the core my better half had lived in Renfrewshire since she was a baby. We lived and played there for over 20 years and our own kids entire schooling was in Renfrewshire. You could say that connections were strong although we had been back in Ayrshire for a few years at this point.

Our proposal was able to hit most of the criteria required and was very well received. The fly in the ointment was that we were not a social enterprise so we were last in the queue for funding. It does not matter how socially minded a company, or individual is, charities and social enterprises come first and to be honest that’s pretty fair.

There is a massive gap though that can be filled by creative individuals in particular, however there appears to be no way around that. I know because I have looked, sought advice, created alliances and had help exploring all the options. There is work afoot to change the rules to plug that gap and support micro business but that is a long and difficult road.

It is a road that is very scenic, attractive and rewarding to travel but life’s demands meant that it was a route for the future. We considered becoming a charity or social enterprise in our own right but there were two major obstacles.

  1. Becoming a charity would be so time intensive  we would need a team or have no time left to actually offer a photography service.
  2. A couple or family group cannot form a social enterprise. The rules say no!

The whole idea was just too difficult to do.

Good News.

The good news was that the initial proposal was so well received that there were indirect spin off projects offered. Funding for those came through smaller organisations with a need for photography but without the skills, equipment or time available to produce what they needed.

In truth all projects who receive public money have an obligation to show how that money is being spent and what impact it is making in the community.

Similarly funds and fund management groups have an obligation to show that the cash from the public purse, including National Lottery funds  are spending the money wisely. They rely on projects to report back and show what they are doing. The flow of shareable images is a painfully meagre trickle in most cases. Why? because charities and social enterprises, exactly like their purely commercial cousins are so busy doing what they do that publicity is an afterthought at best.

Funders are usually happy to include photography and marketing services in the budget for this very reason. One set of images fulfils both functions. Supporting the enterprise itself and the needs of the funding providers.

I had an absolute ball working with those projects, primarily in Lochwinnoch. Fantastic people from a wide variety of backgrounds doing amazing things to support locals and the economy. It’s definitely a great sector to work in.

How can we make it happen?

That question remained a background detail in the bigger picture of making a living as a photographer. As our network grew I had the good fortune of meeting a rising star in the business world whose name is Katie Trotter. The first time our paths crossed I did not get to speak to her directly but yet she made an impression. Her background as a marketer and social media expert was a perfect alliance for a photographer.

We met and discussed business and life in general. Katie’s achievements became even more impressive and as it turned out I used to work beside her father. Small world. Katie did some work for me which proved very useful as well as being (another) practical demonstration that she know what she is talking about.

I watched her work and influence progress as I kept busy with my core business until one day a conversation with another business owner, Steven Fegan of Believe In, sparked a connection. The potential answer to the question of how can we make it happen!

New Beginnings.

I reached out to Katie to see if she might be interested in forming a partnership as a social enterprise. It was clear from watching her work and our initial meeting that we saw the world in a similar way and that our values aligned neatly.I outlined the idea as described above and we met again to discuss in more detail.

I am delighted to say that we are now in the process of formally structuring a partnership to deliver the much needed visibility and marketing services to charities and social enterprises in Ayrshire this time, our shared home county.

Write Image will be the vehicle however Katie and I will be full partners in delivering services to highlight and support the work of charities and social enterprises in Ayrshire.

We both look forward to our work having a more significant social impact rather than a purely commercial one. We all have bills to pay but profits will go back into our community.

The road ahead is an exciting one. I’m sure we will meet somewhere along.

 

Stay awesome.  James.

Location photography Lancaster bomber visits Ayrshire

Lancaster bomber of Battle of Britain memorial flight RAF.