Nadine Bates was working as an in-house writer at Network Ten when she met producer Kristen Souvlis. Together they launched Like A Photon Creative in 2014, a multi award-winning production company specialising in creating content for children. Today the Brisbane-based company makes film and television for some of the largest names in the entertainment industry, including Sesame Street USA and Disney.
“More recently, we signed a deal to produce 10 animated feature films for worldwide cinematic release - that’s never been done before in Australia,” Nadine says.
“Kristen and I just made sense together as creative partners,” she adds. “Everything we make is forged out of the absolute joy we get out of working together and with our amazing staff.”
In 2018 Like A Photon launched its first app, Kindergo, an interactive reading platform designed for children aged 2 to 7 years, which has already received more than 40,000 downloads across 28 countries.
What is your role in the business?
I am co-founder and co-CEO.
What is your professional background?
I have a Bachelor of Education (Sec. English/Drama) and a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Drama). I taught high school for a few years, had my two sons and decided that I wanted to create stories for them that were full of role models that I couldn’t see in the existing content for kids. Kindness, empathy, empowerment and responsibility are all traits that we consciously weave into our business and our productions.
How many employees do you have?
Between 70 to 100, depending on what stage of the production cycle we’re in.
Where is your business located?
Rocklea. We needed room to fit a serious number of animators, as well as cinema space and room to dream big. Rocklea offers warehouse space that is perfect for us.
How did you raise capital to finance your venture?
We pitched our business idea to Brisbane Angels investors and they saw our vision. We then matched funds with the Queensland Business Development Fund.
What value do you place in business plans?
They’re invaluable. Without a plan, you are not heading to a destination, you are not being proactive, and you are just swinging wildly.
What are some unexpected benefits of owning a small business?
Mastering a million different skills that I didn’t know I could! Human relations, stakeholder management, investment pitching, financials – you have to be across it all.
How do you market your business?
Kristen and I are the ‘face’ of the company. More often than not, we are speaking on industry panels, doing interviews and attending conferences to sell the company. We do have a social media presence, but we let the quality of our work speak for us.
What has been the best financial investment you’ve made in your business?
Our staff – people live and die by the staff they have in their company. When we first started, we couldn’t afford to pay ourselves, but we paid our staff first. They are the ones that make the company what it is.
How do you stay up to date with the latest business information?
I read the trade rags daily, listen to podcasts and try to meet with international peers regularly throughout the year.
What is the biggest challenge in running this type of business?
We have gone from Kristen and I as co-founders and the only two members of staff to managing more than 120 staff and being valued as a $20 million company. Our growth has been phenomenal. The day-to-day pace of what we do is hectic, and finding the right kind of people to throw themselves in 100% is really difficult.
Who do you seek advice from for your business?
Our lawyer, brand extension consultant and our chief technology officer and chief financial officer. We also seek advice from trusted industry experts, particularly our agency connections such as Screen Queensland.
Where do you see your business in a year’s time? Five years’ time?
In a year, we’ll be valued at $50 million and two of our first feature films will have premiered in cinemas worldwide. We will also possibly have four or five more projects in production and be going from strength to strength.
In five years’ time, we’ll be valued at $100 million and we’d like to be a legitimate player in the international content industry and be the go-to specialists in the content we create.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned in business?
Back yourself. The ‘man in the arena’ speech (Theodore Roosevelt) is one of my favourites.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
No, not a single thing.