Case study

Growing with
University support

We talked to Ben Collison from video and photography firm, Goldbox Productions, about how the University’s business support has helped his company to grow since 2020.

From student business to fully fledged firm

Ben Collison, Josh Spaticchia, James Heaney, and Odhran Taylor made their first short film together during the second year of their Film Production course at the University of Derby. They didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the first of many. 

“On the way back from the Birmingham Film Festival,” says Ben, “we said, what if we made a production company? And then it extended into, how about we make it a business and go full-time?” This is how Goldbox Productions was born. 

The team of four initially ran it while completing their degrees. The business did well and so after they graduated, the University encouraged them to join Innovation Hothouse: a University-run support network and co-working space for self-employed Derby students and graduates.

From there they moved to the University’s incubation unit for creative industries, Banks Mill, and in the last few months, they’ve moved into offices in the University’s Enterprise Centre on Bridge Street in Derby.

“Our relationship with the University has just blossomed,” says Ben. “We’ve met all these wonderful people — from the Marketing team, from Events, and more senior managers too — and they’ve all been incredibly supportive.”

“In Banks Mill, it was good to meet other creatives and be in a proper work environment; it was a nice step up. We also started to receive more official business support from the University there. But ultimately, the Enterprise Centre space was more suited to what we need. We feel really comfortable here now.”

In the last couple of years, the team at Goldbox have enjoyed working on a wide range of projects: for local businesses such as Marketing Derby, Derby Theatre, and Cosy Direct, as well as for big names across the UK, such as Bear Grylls, Matt Willis and the Beta Squad.

Mentoring and business strategy support 

One benefit of being based at the Enterprise Centre, is that they are close to their new mentor, Professor Mark Gilman. Mark is Professor of Economics and leads the University's Regional Economic Observatory. He’s also an accredited business coach and consultant, who specialises in SME performance and growth. 

“We started by completing Mark’s business health-check tool, which gave him lots of information about where our business currently is,” explains Ben. “Now he’s doing a series of face-to-face coaching sessions to help us define our purpose, vision and values, and develop a business strategy with clear objectives.”

Ben is clear about the impact of this support:

“We all now understand our individual roles, we feel we know where we are going, and it all aligns with the work we find fulfilling. This will help with how we market our company, how we conduct work, and how we interact with customers. It’s laying the right foundations and ensuring we are all on the same page. It all feels really positive.” 

The Goldbox team in their office with Professor Mark Gilman
Left to right: Ben Collison, James Heaney, Professor Mark Gilman, Odhran Taylor, Josh Spaticchia

Looking ahead

In the short-term, the team at Goldbox plan to finish the sessions with Mark and strengthen their relationship with the University further, as Ben explains: “We’re hoping to agree a formal strategic partnership with the University, which will be beneficial to both parties. In return for us being brand ambassadors — talking to prospective students at open days, and speaking at employment events, etc — the University will provide us with our office, as well as ongoing support and mentoring.”

Longer-term, the company’s plan is to grow but retain their strong ‘Goldbox culture’ as they employ more people. “Our main aim is just to continue working on new, exciting projects,” says Ben. “We want everyone to be doing what they do best and what they love, and that comes from a collaborative and creative work culture. We’re laying all the foundations for that now with Mark, so that when we start to employ people, we will have these good practices in place.”

Goldbox Productions — Showreel 2022

Close up of a lady performing with her hands outstretched.

View Goldbox Productions — Showreel 2022 video transcript