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Vivid is a brand and creative agency for the tourism and place sector based in Manchester. Founded in 2000 they had ambitious growth plans including expansion beyond the UK market, so signed up for the Creative Scale-Up programme to gain the skills and knowledge needed to achieve this growth.

However, the impact of Covid-19 and lockdown on the tourism industry meant that their plans had to be put on hold to focus on their business and supporting their clients through a period of unprecedented challenge. With the help of the modules on the Creative Scale-Up programme and guidance and support from advisors, Vivid has been able to get through a 12 months like no other and are now ready to look to the future and get their growth plans back on track.

Hub support helps Vivid Creative through the shutdown of the tourism sector and prepare for global scale-up

Founded in 2000, Vivid is a mutli award-winning brand and creative agency for the tourism and place sector, built around their model of Vision, Ideas and Victory. Last year they took part in the Creative Scale-Up programme with ambitions of expanding beyond the UK into a more global marketplace, but the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism sector left them focusing on getting through this period and looking after their clients. Managing Director Rachel Emson tells us how working with the Hub has helped them get through a challenging year and prepare to get back to their plans for growth.

Covid has presented some real challenges and delays

This last year has been a hard one. COVID hit within weeks of starting the programme, and in all honesty the plan for medium-long term growth converted into a plan for short term survival, along with the rest of our client base of tourism and culture. However, being on the Creative Scale-Up programme was really helpful. There was structure, ideas sharing, and lots and lots of guidance. Our Hub advisor has been fantastic as a mentor, meeting him has been one of the main benefits we’ve received from Creative Scale-Up.

Without his guidance I’m not sure we would have held our nerve and made such clear-headed decisions to get us where we are today. We are now back to where we were 12 months ago, growth is back on the agenda and we’re in a position of real strength. We couldn’t have grown last year because our clients were thrown into crisis mode. We looked after our people and our clients through lockdown, made the right decisions and didn’t panic, which was in part due to our access to John.

To thrive as a business, you need to be able to adapt

Vivid has been trading for 21 years now, having started out in a very different world as a hybrid between full-service agencies and the smaller design shops. Throughout the first five years we capitalised on the IT industry boom at the start of the 00s, without a particular niche. We took the work that was available, did a great job on it, but gradually moved towards the public sector as that was where a lot of regional contracts were available in the North West. However, after the 2010 election a lot of that work disappeared overnight. That left us needing to find a new direction urgently.

We went down the tourism route having delivered a great tourism campaign for the Northwest Regional Development Agency, which had won several awards. So we decided to focus on what we were really good at. Soon we picked up accounts like Mersey Ferries and various attraction-led accounts around the country and that is what we’d been doing very successfully right up until Covid.

We’ve never experienced anything like this

Tourism is still our focus, despite Covid. We’re not moving away from our passion for tourism, but we’ve never experienced anything like this before; we’ve never seen the world close. It’s been a real struggle. We dealt with the impact on the industry after 9/11, we dealt with budget cuts, airlines collapsing, changes in consumer behaviours and recessions but this has been a whole new challenge.

Our first reaction was that we needed to look after our clients and help them get through this. We went through our archives of everything we’ve done for them, even with lapsed clients, and started to look at how we could keep awareness up for those destinations. Our focus was to instil in our clients the understanding that the world will open up again at some point, but that it will be much more competitive. I don’t think people are seeing that yet. There are a lot of choices for how we spend our valuable holiday time when we’re able to, even if you are just looking at staycations in the UK. We’ve had to work smarter because our budgets have been cut but we’ve done a lot of consumer insight work for our clients to make sure that awareness is kept up so that consumers can be confident and ready to come back.

Creative Scale-Up has helped us survive

We became involved with GC Business Growth Hub around December 2019, so it was before we had any idea what was around the corner in terms of Covid. At that time, our plans were very different to how things have played out and we were on a massive high with huge growth and ambitions to really go global. We were very determined to grow and joined Creative Scale-Up with that in mind. I can’t claim that we have been able to scale up yet, but what this programme has given us so far has been survival with a view to scaling up when the world re-opens.

The programme was very useful especially the leadership and motivational modules. Enabling many of our team members to join these workshops has also been incredibly helpful in terms of upskilling them in many areas, which will definitely help us in the future. I can’t say enough though about how important our Hub advisor has been to us. He’s emailed every week with updates, saving us from looking around for information, whether it’s about opening up the office again or sources of funding.

He has become a mentor and valued support and having him there collating that information and bringing it to the table has left us able to focus on the clients and the business has made an enormous difference to us. The cohort and collaboration with other businesses has been really beneficial, giving us the chance to talk about our problems and realise that it’s not just us dealing with these issues. Looking forwards, we’ve also been able to take on an Apprentice Developer and Junior Designer to help us focus on innovation as we set our sights on that global growth in a post-Covid world.

Creative Scale-Up has enabled us to survive and to look at what the future will be for us so we can recommence that scale-up at some point.