unLTD caught up with Laura Blackburn, the founder and creative director of B Animated, to delve into the world of animation and creativity. B Animated Ltd, headquartered at the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley, is making waves in the realm of 2D animation and design with their work being showcased across the region – and even all the way out to New York! Laura spoke with Phil Turner last month to share her insights into the business, its unique approach, recent projects, and balancing out running a company with looking after her young children.
Could you give us a brief description of B Animated and the services you offer?
B Animated Ltd is a 2D animation and design studio, based at the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley. Our mission is simple: to use our expertise in animation to help businesses get the best results. We can help with everything from explaining a product or service in clear and simple terms with one of our animated ‘explainer’ videos, to designing eye-catching graphics for social media, or creating an animated logo to make brand stands out.
In a constantly shifting marketplace, how do you differentiate your business to give it an edge over others?
We pride ourselves on being ‘small but mighty’ and having that personal touch. We don’t supply off-the-shelf content to our clients. We help organisations tell their stories through bespoke high-quality 2D animation that really connects with their audience.
We work not just to complete a project, but to knock it out of the park, and we achieve this by really getting to know our clients. We understand that every organisation is unique, so we get to know them, their sticking points and how we can use our skills and expertise to help them reach the top level in their creative content. By tapping into their brand to find their voice, we successfully tell their stories in a way that really reflects them and engages with their audience.
What have you been working on recently, and do any projects stand out?
We’ve been working with a lot of white-label clients over the past year, so I’m not able to go into too much detail about those jobs. Aside from that, we’ve been working on a lot of sports graphics with huge clients such as Science in Sport (SiS), creating animations for the pitchside LED advertising screens at the Yankee Stadium in New York and the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. We’ve had quite a few big-name clients come on board this year, which is great!
Closer to home, we’re also very proud of a local project we worked on for The Seam – Barnsley’s Digital Campus – who held the very first Tech Summit in Yorkshire at Barnsley IMAX Cineworld towards the end of last year. This was the biggest screen we have produced content for to date. As a digital business ourselves, it felt like a great personal success to champion other businesses within the region as well as receive positive client feedback.
We spoke to you in an earlier issue about your inspiration in setting up the business and your aspirations for the company. Has that journey been similar to the one you anticipated when starting out?
There have certainly been challenges along the way. The very first week I started trading, my grandad died. We were really close, so it was a difficult time, but he was really interested in what I did and wanted me to go on and do well in it. I did it for him really. So, right from the start there were difficult periods, but I managed to get that first contract in and it’s all grown from there – to be honest, probably a lot faster than I anticipated! I never thought I’d be working with some of the companies that I work with today and I’ve never really had to go looking for work in the last five years. Most jobs have come through referrals.
What do you put that success down to?
I think our expertise in animation is quite niche. Rolling back to about seven years ago, I remember sitting with Ben from Enterprise Barnsley, telling him about how I wanted to open a creative studio to do websites, animation, logo and graphic design, etc, and I remember him saying there were plenty of companies doing that and I needed a niche. Not many of those companies could animate, so I built it around that key focus. That said, when people tell me how well I’m doing, I still get imposter syndrome and can’t seem to see it myself!
That’s interesting. Why do you think that is?
I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s built into me? Even though I know I’m talented at what I do, I always think I’ve got to do better – but that’s been with me going right back to university, college and even my GCSEs. However, as my confidence has grown over the years, I’ve managed to get to the point where I can run and grow a business. I think sometimes I need a bit of a break from work, then after a bit of time away from it, I can step back and appreciate what I’ve done more.
On that note, do you think perhaps it’s easier to become more self-critical when running your own business?
I think it’s more that sometimes you can end up drowning a little bit. If you’re employed for a company, it’s often easier to finish at the end of a working day, shut your laptop, and switch off a bit. It tends to be a bit more difficult when you’re running a business. Sometimes after I’ve put the kids to bed, I’ll open the computer again and start doing my accounts. Or get back onto checking and answering emails on my phone. It can feel a bit more non-stop.
On the flip side of that, what are the biggest positives you take from being self-employed?
Flexibility. Especially when it comes to childcare: the lack of it and how expensive it is. I’ve got an eight-year-old and a two-year-old, so everything I do is working around my kids. I’m open with my clients about that, but I’ve never missed a deadline yet, so it’s never been an issue for me in terms of getting the work done. There might be times when I have to draft in some freelance people to help out on certain jobs, but if that’s the way to make it work, so be it.
In terms of that flexibility and the juggling of work and childcare, what might an average working day look like?
An average day will involve dropping my eldest off at school before working nine ‘til two-thirty, and then heading out on the school run again. After that, it’ll be getting the teas ready, bedtime for the kids, and once that’s done I’ll open my laptop and work a couple of extra hours in the evening. I still fit in the working hours, but I’m able to work it around the day. It’s never been an issue for my clients, especially when you consider how flexible working has become far more popular since Covid. It can be difficult, of course, but I get it done and use trusted freelancers if there’s a situation with the kids that means I need to step away from work for a bit.
You also are active in charity work with a number of causes. Could you talk a bit about how and why you got involved in that?
Yeah, I just think it’s important to give back, especially when the charities are close to our hearts. We’ve donated around £10,000 worth of working time for chosen charities in the past year. One is for Resolute, a domestic abuse charity; and the other is Healthwatch, which is an organisation dedicated to improving standards in health and social care. Every November it’s World Prematurity Day, so around that time I’ll do work for certain charities and create animated social media posts to raise awareness around that.
What are the visions for the future of the business? Do you envisage bringing some people in full-time, or growing the company in other ways?
I do want to grow the business a bit more. That said, I’m happy with the clients I’ve got at the moment, and I genuinely enjoy doing what I do. I’m not motivated by money; the most important thing to me is that I like my job and enjoy showing off our work. Seeing your work on huge screens at worldwide stadiums – that’s an incredible feeling and keeps me coming back for more.