- Job title:
- Managing Director
Chris began his career in stage management in children’s theatre. He went on to set up a business, where he was able to transfer his skills to live corporate events. Here he leant to work with notable clients and to communicate their brands directly to consumers, including children.
In 2001, he set up a company called Bluw with the concept to produce stories and design products around them. Having a vision for a global market for his company, Chris went to China to set up the production design division that specialised in producing novelty gifts for large global retailers such as Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Woolworths. His investors at the time were not so interested in Chris’s vision for storytelling but wanted to focus on the product, so Chris sold his shares to them, whilst keeping design agency Bluw Creative.
Chris attended a presentation of a film project that mixed live action and animation, and through this met Jamie Badminton and was introduced to his work. At this time Chris looking to develop an idea based on a product he had acquired that featured ponies. As Chris has always been keen to encourage and work with talented graduates, he hired Jamie to work with him on producing a book, which became Hairy Ponies and Friends. Chris then set up Karrot Publishing, self published the book and sold it through Amazon and at equestrian markets. Through this project Chris was able to build a strong relationship with Jamie and his friend Tim who had brought creative advice to the project.
Chris’s vision at this point was storytelling for children. Chris was asked to pitch on a project for CBBC, he asked Jamie and Tim to pitch, which they did and were successful. Chris then founded Karrot Animation in 2008 to produce the series One Minute Wonders, bringing Jamie and Tim on board as partners.
“My vision for the business was that if we were to be successful we had to play in the premiere division. We had to work on a world market and we had to be talking to the best broadcasters on the planet.”
Given his previous experiences of working with big brands and large retailers, Chris wanted to replicate this with children’s media. When he looked at the market he aspired to the model of Astley Baker Davies who produce Peppa Pig, and have captured the imagination of children with the brand and have a similar business model of a producer working with two creative.
Chris decided to invest in the team and to spend a year developing shows, with a goal to develop five pre-school shows and five shows for older children. During the year Chris and Jamie went out into the market with the ten ideas and met with buyers, broadcasters and production companies. Out of this exhaustive process it became clear that Sarah & Duck had potential and was picked up by CBeebies.
“We were a young company, our show had been on air for less than two years, and we were already winning a Kidscreen Award and a BAFTA Award. It gives you a huge amount of confidence to be labelled as an award winning company. We still have to keep our feet firmly on the ground. It’s a tough business.”
Chris is the strategist for the business. He has to balance the company’s ambitions and desire to grow with managing the risks. He has to be strict with the creative team about what money can be spent and what crew they can afford to hire.
Part of Chris’ strategy as the managing director is to plan ahead for the company and ensure that Karrot continues to be funded. To do this Chris has to take risks, as with any business, and has to manage those risks. As the only person tasked with the business side of the creative company he has external resources, accountants and lawyers to support him.
Chris’s aims for Karrot is for it to be a boutique creative company in a global market, through retaining the breadth of their clients, varied animation styles and their openness to a variety of IP to take to the market. Their focus will stay with animation and although they are known for pre-school series, and this is a good area to drive commercial reward through licensing and merchandising, they want to balance this with a few strong shows for older children, reinvesting the money from the pre-school series into supporting the development of these shows.
Karrot has recently produced a pilot for Amazon Studios who are looking to grow content on Amazon Prime globally. Amazon approached them in 2014 and asked Karrot to develop an idea created by two American writers, with the main character design by another American creative, working with the writers and artist to produce it.
As Karrot is effective at developing its own shows, Chris’s ambition for the company going forward is to produce shows where Karrot has a large stake in the production and can better reap the benefits from holding onto the IP. After the third season of Sarah & Duck wraps in 2017, unless there is an appetite for another series, by 2018 Chris hopes to be working on Karrot’s own properties full time.