If my soul had a sister, it would come in the form of Kate Tancred. You know those friends you can stay up with all night and – over a bottle of red wine – workshop the world? This is my relationship with Kate. Every time I say goodbye to her, my soul walks away warm and happy. Not sure whether it’s our wild curly hair, our shared love of live music, or our soft spot for rosé and steak at London’s Ladbroke Arms (Everyone must try!), but as soon as we met something clicked…and I have known a different kind of friendship ever since.
Kate is one of the smartest people I know – not just intellectually, but emotionally. I have learnt an infinite amount from her over the last 5 years since we re-met in London after both relocating there from Sydney. We were instant peas-in-a-pod, and although we are now on different sides of the world, each time I see her she continues to teach me something new. She’s an absolute rockstar when it comes to business and the world of content, so it’s no surprise that over the last few years she’s virtually given birth to a baby in her thriving company, The Smalls. I’m absolutely honoured and teeming with happiness to feature this interview with one of my most talented and very dearest friends on founding a start-up business, transforming the landscape of the short film industry and life in London. Enjoy!
What is The Smalls and how did you come to found the company?
Basically, we’re a video content marketplace. We connect a community of 12,000+ independent filmmakers and production companies with brands and agencies looking to generate video content via a digital platform. Born out of The Smalls Film Festival, which began in 2006, we offer a streamlined way of generating video content.
What is the most rewarding aspect of founding a start-up business?
I think it’s one of the most challenging experiences of my life – dramatic as it may sound, part of me feels like if I had known what was in store before I came on board, I probably wouldn’t have done it. That said the rewards are huge – like going through the hard times and then coming out the other end and starting to see things begin to work. It took me two years of believing and pushing things forward until I started to see any light at the end of the tunnel. I learnt a lot about myself, and what’s important to me, which when the chips are down always has a funny way of becoming clear. I learnt about business from a legal, financial and emotional perspective, which is highly rewarding. I studied business, but nothing can prepare you for the realities of starting one of your own.
What was the trajectory to you becoming co founder of The Smalls?
I grew up in a pro TV household; my father had been a journalist since he was 15 across TV, print and radio. When I was in primary school he read the 6pm news – it sounds cool now, but as kid trying to graft my own place out in the world I remember not really taking to the added attention.
As kids (I am the eldest of four girls) we started our day at the breakfast table with my father explaining what was going on the world and why it was important. I was very fortunate to grow up with a keen understanding of the media landscape and how it all fit together. When I finished university I went into advertising, like most people I was having a ball, but after a few years I remember thinking ‘I’m putting through multi-million dollar TV campaigns and I don’t have a TV and neither do any of my friends’. I started to think about the impact of streaming content on the traditional landscape and what impact that would have on the mechanism that funds it, the advertising industry. I quickly came to the conclusion that if I wanted to do anything big in this area I’d have to leave Australia for bigger and more tech advanced markets. After some research into my industry and getting a visa, it was a quick 3 weeks before I found myself bound for London.
You mentioned The Smalls holds a film festival each year – can you speak a bit about this?
I was lucky enough to inherit The Smalls Film Festival from my business partner, Anna Granger, who had been putting it on for many years before we met. The film festival is an integral part of our history as well as our future. In 2006 – back when the first video iPod had launched – the concept was to showcase small films for small screens. Anna took out space in an empty shop in London’s Covent Garden and displayed the films around the room like an exhibition – it was revolutionary at the time as video and short form content was really in its infancy. The event was a huge hit and following its success the festival was then put on annually – this year we celebrated our 10th anniversary. The festival has grown into a weeklong event full of master classes, panel discussions and screenings. It’s supported by some fantastic brands such as: Apple. Panasonic, Shutterstock, UKTV and Peroni (to name a few). It’s our way of celebrating a years’ worth of fantastic content from our community and has also become our biggest marketing tool, driving awareness of The Smalls in the filmmaking community enabling us to champion an authentic community of quality driven filmmakers.
What are some of the challenges you have faced with transforming the landscape of the short film industry?
Initially the challenge was to get people to trust the platform enough to try it. A lot of companies within the tech industry have the same problem, and that is usually that our products require re-educating or changing of preexisting behaviors. The Smalls was no different. Our challenge was to get brands and agencies to not use their current method of content creation (usually a creative agency) and to try The Smalls. We knew we could create content that was just as good (if not better) for less, and much faster, but crowdsourcing initially had negative preconceptions attached. Some of the other challenges for the business were what degree do we integrate technology as opposed to having a human touch. This was a huge point of contention for a long time.
What is something you want to try in the next year?
I want to try to travel more, it’s such a typical answer but I feel like I haven’t been able to stop and experience a new place in a few years. My business is now at a point where we are adding other senior members of staff to the team, which will allow me to switch off and reboot from time to time. There’s a very small part of me that wonders whether giving my twenties to The Smalls will feel worth it in years to come – I hope it will! Next year I’d like to have more of a balance – less focus on work and more focus on experiencing the other wonderful things life has to offer.
You moved to London almost 5 years ago now, what do you love about it?
I love London for so many reasons but writing this in the dark at 3:45pm isn’t one. London is incredibly diverse and full of opportunity. I have met the most interesting and inspiring people living here that have taught me so much. Like New York, it’s very fast paced and fueled by businesses so this element suits my life right now…but I can see that changing in the future.
What do you miss most about home?
The people, weather and nature. I still feel very tied to Australia and pine for my connection with nature at least once a week.
If you were giving someone who had never visited the city before a one-day itinerary, what would it look like?
Victoria Park for a walk with breakfast at Pavilion Cafe
Shopping around Oxfrord street and Covent Garden
Fernandez and Wells on Lexington street
Walk over tower bridge to Tate Modern
How do you relate to the word ‘ adrift’?
To me being adrift is your spirit developing and connecting whilst on any sort of personal journey. In life, I think we all float through stages – sometimes that means letting yourself go adrift and exploring your life physically or emotionally, and other times life is more cemented and planned-out. Whilst currently living in London I would describe this phase of my life as contemplating the emotional definition of adrift. I came to London to do something big with my career and even if The Smalls closed tomorrow I would feel like I achieved this.