Client Spotlight #1 Michael Man | Co-founder of ManMade Group

An award winning family from Reading who have a passion for telling stories through video production & photography

Their awards include:

  • Top3 Videographers in Reading
  • Regional winner of the 2019 Wedding Industry awards
  • National finalist of the 2019 Wedding Industry awards

We’re Berkshire-based videographers who tailor our video production and photography services to the specific needs of our clients. From highlight videos and talking heads to wedding films and celebration videos; the possibilities are truly endless.

So Michael tell us a little bit about yourself, and the story behind starting ManMade with your sister Sindy…

Answering these things can always be tough can’t they… I came from a background in marketing.

Actually I started out in telemarketing believe it or not, and I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to run a new digital department at the agency.

At the time I picked up photography as a hobby. We started to do a lot of work in the video space; and I ended up making the transition from digital marketing to videography.

On her 30th birthday, Sindy decided that she wanted a career change from nursing, and as she was also photographing as a hobby, I told her to come on board at another agency at the time… 1/1.5 years later, ManMade was born.

We felt we had the adequate skill to do something and we built it from the ground up with 0 investment. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into expanding our skill set and improving with every single shoot as we both didn’t study it for university or college. We just knew it was the right thing to do.

Can you tell us a bit more about what makes ManMade different?

First of all, is our approach as a video agency. We want to try and provide high quality video production to anyone who requires it, whether they be a blue chip organisation or a one man band, and we want the experience they have to be a great one – like you’re working with family members. No pressure, no ideas forced down your neck and just overall a team to work with.

My passion is in storytelling, but I also have the blood of a vibrant entrepreneur. I want to try new ideas all the time and I think that a lot of videographers aren’t business people. Marrying the two together means that we definitely have an edge when it comes to finding new clients, building relationships and putting new ideas into function.

Secondly, we always try to tell the story. Whether it be a wedding film or a promotional video, we want there to be emotion, we want there to be a story, and we want there to be an impact. Although it’s not always possible, we try our best to educate our clients on the power of storytelling and how it’s no longer a world of: “we’re great, we’re the best” and that kind of thing.

The company has seen you film events, TV ads and documentaries around the globe. Is that right?

That’s right! We’re currently working on 2 documentaries. One is a passion project of our gran which has taken us to Hong Kong and the other is on Mental Health which is just about the start shooting this month. Both are short but we enjoy docs very much. (Watching and making!) They can take a lot of time though.. Little Bride has taken us 2 years in the making and we’re still not finished.

When you have a small team, sometimes you have to prioritise what you’re going to work on. We’ve filmed events and weddings across different countries but most of our work is here in the UK.

Our storytelling has led us to win a wedding award and we’ve been fortunate to have been shortlisted as startup of the year and young entrepreneur of the year as well. We hope that we can continue to strive and continue to work with our passion on projects that excite us.

Does a favourite video/film come to mind?

For us, I think I have two favourites. First is a piece we did for Vodafone and Microsoft; which involved something a little more creative. We had to show the power of the Microsoft Surface Pro on 4G connectivity. It’s funny because the technology wasn’t even released yet so we had to wing it like a lot of these things. It involved quite a bit of pre-planning but overall the finished look was great and the clients were happy to.

The other was a piece we did with Fruitful Marketing. It was simply just a fun shoot that we will always remember… And of course Little Bride our documentary!

What’s been the most challenging video so far?

The most challenging was a TV advert we did near the beginning of our journey for a company named SureSet. They provide permeable paving and it required the colour of the floor to change. It was extremely tedious and really made it difficult to perfect it. Worked out well in the end and it was broadcast on Sky Living through a targeted ad!

Now that we know a bit more about ManMade, can you describe what does a typical day look like for you, as the business co-owner? And how does that differ to the other co-owner, your sister Sindy?

A typical day for us starts with a meeting. It’s a bit unique as we haven’t got much of a hierarchy structure here. Everyone contributes and everyone’s opinions are as a valued as each others. Although we only have a small team so it’s easier I guess!

We speak about what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by. We speak about our targets and our vision for the day. I try to avoid looking at my phone for the first hour of the day as part of my routine, but sometimes you can’t help it. It then begins and we work until whatever time we finish hitting our goals from a professional and personal perspective – and that way each day we know we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do. We both aren’t planning type of people so we like to take each day as it comes. But by setting the goals it helps us to create that vision we really need. If we have a shoot, we get up and go and then come back and edit or maybe it’s just an editing day. It varies quite a lot!

Sindy is much more relaxed than I am, and procrastinates a lot less; and knows what we have to do. She’s the whip cracker of the team…

Starting a business in the beginning is seen by many as daunting. Did you feel daunted? And if so how did you stay focused, positive and determined to make it a success?

You know it is daunting. We weren’t allowed to take any customers with us so we started literally from ground zero. We were fearful but in my heart I knew what we were capable of. My past experience lead me to take a company to 5x it’s revenue within a year, so I knew that we could do it. I think it’s just about having that confidence that you will succeed.

Sometimes there are hard times and we still have them hard times today. I think all businesses do. But in order to keep going… First of all, you need to define what success means to you. Is it making a billion pounds or is it just the fact that you can survive month to month making profit and doing what you love?

Everyone’s definition is different and it’s important to remember that someone else’s success is different from your own. Don’t start comparing with people you know. Richard Branson is very successful, but that’s not to say that we aren’t even though we’re not at that same level. Then it’s about understanding what motivates you, and what keeps doing what you enjoy doing. Motivation can be really hard; even I struggle with this at times. You need to find the will power and a lot of the time, it’s the team that helps me pull through and crack the whip. Once you start going, it’s hard to stop the momentum. Last but not least it’s about the work life balance. I’ve learned this the hard way, but burnout is a real thing.

You shouldn’t have to feel guilty for not doing a piece of work at that very moment. Without health, there is no money and no business; so you need to value that as much as possible. So spend time with your family and break as much as you need to. It’s swings and roundabouts because you know some weeks you’re doing 100+ hours.

What tips or recommendations would you tell your former self, on day one of co-creating ManMade?

Like above, I think the health part. It’s important to place that above everything else because without it, you can’t enjoy any of the money you make or enjoy the time you’re having.

Even if you love doing what you do, there’s only so much before it becomes a ‘task’. Noone wants that and so take care of your health young Michael!

Also remember that everyone you speak to is only human, regardless of their seniority!

What’s a favourite ‘failure’ or difficult barrier/hurdle you have had to overcome in the business?

We started the business with no plan, and somehow we launched into something successful and have now been running for 3 years. It’s not technically a failure but we honestly had no strategy, no foresight, no insight, no nothing. We just took our experiences, blended them together and somehow it worked out okay.

I think most people reading this would have a headache just thinking about doing it like that, but sometimes it’s about going to get it.

So I guess that was one of the biggest hurdles and I think it has lead to more problems like processes and that kind of thing. Here we are though somehow…!

What’s it like having the Dead Simple Accounting team involved with your business?

Not only is James a master of business, he’s also extremely communicative and prompts me with all the things that needed. Regular contact is always provided and we needed someone who would just do the things we needed to get done. James is honestly a great accountant and we always recommend him to everyone we know starting out. He makes the hard things easy!

You’ve been using Xero even before working with Dead Simple Accounting – what features do you particularly like?

I think it’s just everything in one place, our invoices, accounts, reporting, payroll, you name it. It’s also a great interface and easy to work out, with plenty of instructions on how to do things. We were recommended it at the start of our journey and it’s become even better since.

Shameless plug: we’re a certified Xero Advisor, click on the pic to view our Xero profile

So tell us a little about where you’d like ManMade to take you?

ManMade is a group and we intend to start more businesses as the years come. But for the immediate future, we hope we can continue to travel around the globe and the UK doing what we love; working for businesses that love to tell stories as well.

We want to turn this boat into a ship and work as hard as possible to achieve our dreams. Hopefully that’ll be great.

Anyone reading this can get a 20% off voucher off their first video or animation with us by using the DSA20 code when speaking with us!

What’s your main goal for 2019?

Double our turnover… Release Little Bride for the world to view! 

I’m sure you’ll smash both those goals! Thank you for your time Michael

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