Having first launched his business in the Netherlands in 2014, Feri Zsolnai of 25/7 Design Studio faced the challenges of a new market, rules and regulations when he moved to Scotland in 2018. He talks to us about the support he received from the Business & IP Centre at The Mitchell Library, and why it was invaluable when relocating his business to Scotland.
Tell us a bit about your background
Originally a special care teacher (25 years ago), I switched careers at the age of 25 to become a graphic designer, and later on, a 3D generalist, going back and forth between the marketing and the game developer industry in Hungary.
I started to train 3D artists and graphic designers part-time in 2003, and I founded 25/7 Design Studio in October 2014 in the Netherlands, where I lived at the time.
I started 25/7 as a design studio (hence the name), and planned to keep teaching as one of its services, but by the time I moved to Germany in 2016, it was quite clear that primarily it turned out to be a training provider. I also added design counselling to the active services, which started to be a big business in the US, but it hasn’t exactly arrived to Europe, so it never bloomed. I discarded this service in 2019.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I’ve had an interesting career in Hungary being part of two very different industries, and my last employment there was a top-level management role, which showed me that I wasn’t exactly a career-oriented person, because I didn’t enjoy one minute of the endless meetings and representative events, I only felt happy when I was with my team, mentoring them and developing or optimising the pipeline.
Then I got a job in Amsterdam, at a Japanese corporation, to be the successor of the head of the DTP team (which, then unbeknownst to me, in Japanese work culture actually means to start at the bottom of the hierarchy and slowly rise up to the top during a 3 to 5 year long period), and after a few months of that, I found myself visiting a career coach, because I felt stuck and unmotivated. She quickly found out about my teaching past and my somewhat abandoned dream of becoming a psychotherapist, and she encouraged me to explore what were the options about these areas. A few months later, when my contract expired, I was ready to start my own business and begin studying counselling.
Tell us a little bit about your business
I currently work as a sole trader, so it’s rather a one-man-show. I developed the curriculum to compete with university education and prestigous design schools, and I use a rare teaching method (which I call the 25/7 method), that only works with individual students, so I teach 1:1 exclusively.
I have two masterclasses, for the two industries I’ve been involved with for so many years: a Graphic Design masterclass and a 3D Graphics masterclass. Both consist of 8—8 interdependent modules, with 4 modules in the General studies, and 4 modules in the Advanced studies part of the curriculum.
Because the process is strictly 1:1, we have the opportunity to tailor the process and be exceptionally flexible with it. This approach creates a rich playground that supports talent recognition, skill development, and personal inspiration. The projects we go through with each student were designed to improve skills and problem solving methods that are relevant in real-life situations, and their outcome is capable of showcasing the unique style and professional skillset of the students, especially because the subject of the creative projects is always picked by the student, not myself. These portfolio-building projects open an entrance to the industry, where finding a job is mainly based on the contents of one’s portfolio, not one’s educational pedigree.
25/7 Design Studio offers every part of the education as live sessions, there is no pre-recorded material, everything happens in real-time, and since the sessions take place online, students have the option to get the recording of each session so they don’t need to take notes and can keep the whole process on video for good.
What makes 25/7 a competition against universities and high-end design schools are the following attributes.
- These courses can be completed while having a dayjob
- The pacing is comforming to the actual student, not to the slowest one in the classroom
- The tools and methods are up-to-date, and the projects and examples represent the industry
expectations quite realistically
- The modularity of the masterclasses make the curriculum exceptionally flexible, letting every
student choose the relevant modules, since there is no credit requirement that would call for
- And the price is much more affordable than full-time education, especially, because it can be
supported by a full-time job that does not interfere with it.
Business & IP Centre Glasgow
How did you hear about BIPC @ The Mitchell?
I moved to Scotland in early 2018 and relocated the business again. Struggling with the new market and rules, a friend of mine mentioned Business Gateway, and my first seminar was in the Mitchell Library, about IP and copyright, and that is how I met the BIPC and started to follow the various events and seminars they organise.
What steps did you take to get involved with the BIPC?
After my IP seminar, I wrote an email to Ruth Hunter, who turned out to be a most dedicated, kind and supportive person, who’s been helping me a lot ever since.
What resources have you used at BIPC?
I’ve been using COBRA and found it very useful, especially when I did the research during the development of my digital marketing strategy, and my business plan. Since my business is not B2B, I can’t really benefit from MINT, at least when it comes to direct marketing, although I find it to be a very good service.
Have you attended any events or one-to-ones at BIPC?
I attended quite a few workshops already, and I also had an Entrepreneur in Residence session which provided valuable feedback about my online presence. I also visited the Start-Up Day last year, it was a good opportunity to see a few presentations, do a bit of networking, and that’s also how I met Project Scotland, where I am now volunteering as a mentor.
How did BIPC help you start and/or grow your business?
Trying to establish a business in two different countries before arriving to Scotland, I am continuously amazed about the amount and quality of free support this country offers to startup businesses. The information one needs about running a business usually took months and months of research and guesswork in other countries, and here it was handed over me on a plate. I feel privileged that I am invited to use the services of the BIPC, the library, and Business Gateway. My confidence that I can actually run a successful business has grown tremendously because I always know that when in doubt, there is someone I can ask, who will provide me with the answer or the direction I need to look at. This kind of support is literally invaluable.
What are your business goals for the next 2 years?
- To maximise the number of students and with it, profits, of course.
- To gain some presence as a viable option for career starters and career switchers in the UK and in
- To get accreditation that is recognized as a Level 5 diploma to make my courses even more valuable.
- To create a long-term plan regarding the possible scalement of a one-man business into a company.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about starting their own business but doesn’t know where to begin?
Everything starts with information. Go to BIPC and Business Gateway and don’t be shy to ask even the most basic questions, even if they sound irrelevant.
Find out more about 25/7 Design Studio at https://257designstudio.com/