This year’s winner of the Donegal Enterprise Awards Best Emerging Business, Peter Campbell of Lone Star State Ltd is a dynamo of the creative industries in the North West.
Lone Star State Ltd is a digital content creation company based in Donegal that publishes multi-platform graphic novels across digital media space.
Telling stories is at the core of Lone Star State’s business; so we asked Peter to tell us his story.
What were you doing (career wise) when you decided to create your own business?
I’d been in a start-up scenario before Lone Star State. In-between that and what I currently do, I had actually left the creative industries completely, due to a combination of factors and reasons. One of them being that it just didn’t appear to be the right time for what I was proposing to do.
The other two factors which seemed to be playing against me (at that time) was that the Creative, Digital, Media Industries in the North West of Ireland were in quite a fledgling state with very, very few opportunities, and supports. It was quite under the radar, both culturally and economically speaking, not really recognised as the employment creator and economic driver that it is viewed as now, and there were few opportunities.
A bit of disillusionment set in and I was beginning to feel like a dog chasing its own tail in a cul-de-sac! I ended up working in door-to door sales, selling utilities. This took me all around the country, but it also did something else, which I didn’t realise until it was behind me – that the experience of stepping away from Digital Media/Creative Industries had accidentally given me the distance I needed to regroup my thoughts. There was something in the back of my head telling that my departure from the Creative Industries wasn’t once and for all, because I had a lot of unfinished and unfulfilled challenges and projects that I just couldn’t set down for good, so I took my refreshed motivations, dusted off my plans and came back to it filled with a new vigour.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
I stumbled upon an ad for the New Frontiers Programme around March ’12. I applied and got onto Phase 1, consisting of an 8 week course. I then pitched for a place onto Phase 2 and got it. This was the catalyst that sent the wheels in motion. The timing was right, and my appetite for this challenge was there and I now had been granted a great opportunity to make a decent run at it. So, with New Frontiers starting in Sept last year, I set up the business and led me to the point where I am now.
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
I got assistance and support through the New Frontiers Programme, and this was a great enabler, as I met most of, if not all of my milestones that I’d set out for myself during that. In addition to this – and combined with it – I received help and supports from the Donegal Enterprise Board.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle thus far has been sourcing and finding the right people to fulfil very particular roles and skills that the business we are in calls for. I think because there wasn’t as many opportunities in the Creative Industries before as there are now, there was a bit of an exodus, either offshore or to Dublin. But, the good news is, that the word about the West is out, and the skills are trickling back.
Who supported you?
Since moving West I have been privy to so much hands-on help, positive encouragement and support from so many individuals based here, and to them all I am very grateful.
I have been the recipient of assistance from Programs such as the Creative Edge Programme the Northern Periphery Programme, Knowledge Cities and MEDIA-TIC, and from bodies and agencies such as LYIT, Ernact, the Western Development Commission, and the Donegal County Council Film Office.
Not only did I receive help Enterprise Ireland through the New Frontiers Programme, but I received an amazing amount of help from the Donegal Enterprise Board, who then acknowledged us with the great honour of being given the Award for Best Emerging Business this year.
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
I would say, from first incorporating as a Limited Company right through to launching our first phase of products, was 5/6months all told.
What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I have to say I do love being my own boss. And I have no difficulty adding to that by stating that starting, having and owning your business is, for me, one of the most gratifying and liberating things you can do. For me, having the freedom to determine the Creative Direction and Strategy of a project – and a business – is very satisfying, and I suppose it also lends itself very, very well to my make-up – free-thinking and independently minded.
Where do you work from and do you have employees?
I – and my business – Lone Star State Ltd are based in the Co-Lab facility in the grounds of LYIT in Letterkenny. We are currently made up of a team of two, with Catherine Browne looking after all Marketing, Sales and Social Media related activities.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models?
Since moving here, I have of become acquainted with many local and regional independent business people and entrepreneurs who I have the highest respect for, because of what they have achieved. On an international stage, it would have to be George Lucas. He was single minded and unwavering in his vision. And his vision for Star Wars was to for it to be a modern mythological fairy tale that would resonate with contemporary audience. He achieved that, in spades. Even after Star Wars was successful, the Hollywood Studio System established still turned their back on him; they even gave him a hefty fine for not putting the credits at the start of the Star Wars films. But all this is was what made him stronger, because he was forced to establish his own independent company (LucasFilm) and his own Special Effects house (I.L.M). By doing this away from L.A, up in San Francisco, he was able to remain in full control of the Star Wars Franchise. But, the mammoth undertaking of attempting to get a film like Star Wars made in 1975, and trying to sell the idea to the studios of the time that had absolutely no frame of reference for this kind of movie, is the lesson here, and is something which entrepreneurs experience every day in the challenges of trying to get across their own vision.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
I would always try and keep topped-up by either attending night-classes or by going to interesting talks and seminars. You can’t beat a well delivered, well-crafted presentation from a well-respected industry leader on an exciting , new area to get your inspiration flared. I would say that I am about 90% self-taught, with 100% of that 90% coming directly from rolling up your sleeves, accepting and embracing all the challenges that being an independent start-up throws at you. The other remaining 10% may just be sheer stubbornness!
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
I would have done it sooner, and the things I have achieved in the last year I would like to have seen materialise about three years ago. But, hey, they’re here now, so can’t complain!
What is your best selling item/service?
At first, it was the Digital Edition of our first publication; This was an App version which was compatible in NOOK Format (Nook Being the Digital Tablet released by Barnes & Noble to rival and compete against Amazon’s Kindle), but soon after the sales of our nice glossy Printed Edition superseded this.
Are you a Look Wester? Why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?
I had always wanted to, and had always intended to move back. It just took a little bit longer than I had either wanted or had anticipated. I went the long way round to get to the West, via many various places – but I got here eventually!
What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?
The lifestyle is good, the pace of life is good, it’s a healthy environment and it’s very peaceful. A beach and some pretty inspiring countryside, with many unique and stand-out geographical features are never more than ten minutes away – with even more amazing sights within reach in about twenty! To quote the most over-quoted song lyric : “The West is The Best!”
Lone Star State Ltd’s Flagship Product and Brand “LONE STAR SOUL” best described as a “Multi-Platform Graphic Novel Experience using Transmedia Storytelling” is available as a Digital Edition on Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Apple iBookstore, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Graphicly. It is available and compatible with all the latest Devices and Tablets, including Kindle, iPad, Nook, Kobo, and all Android Devices. LONE STAR SOUL BOOK ONE: SOLE INVITATION is also available as an exclusive Branded App on Google Apps and Google Play.
You can also buy the exclusive Printed Edition of “LONE STAR SOUL BOOK ONE: SOLE INVITATION” directly from the website www.thelonestarsoul.com