Prudhoe Business Magazine : From Kickstart to business owner…

Nov 1, 2023

Prudhoe Business designer Nathan Cockburn has launched his first business, just over a year after completing the government’s Kickstart employment programme.

In late 2021, Nathan found himself unemployed just before his twentieth birthday. A few months later, he was introduced to the Kickstart programme, which offered six months of funded employment opportunities for 16-24 year olds.

Nathan has been with AS Design, at Marquis Court, since February 2022 and it’s safe to say he’s been on a bit of an adventure.

PB: You’ve been with AS Design for nearly two years, does that surprise you? NC: I’m not that surprised actually. A few months after I first started, owner Alan and I worked on what we called a ‘Battle Plan’, which was a progression matrix to take me up to the end of January 2024, so I knew there was a job for me here up to and beyond then.

PB: Are you doing the same job you were when you started? NC: Not at all. We have a few sister companies based in the same unit as us, mainly production and ecommerce based, my job when I started was just to work in those. Now I’m a full-time web and graphic designer.

PB: AS Design took on your younger brother too – tell us about that… NC: Josh was 15 at the time and about to start his last summer holidays before Sixth Form. He came in for a week of paid work experience., That turned into two weeks, then a summer job, then a permanent job, and he’s just launched his own website to earn extra money too.
PB: You also launched a new venture yourself, didn’t you? NC: Yeah, Alan and I have set up an offshoot of AS Design, called SNAC Digital, where we can generate income from non-design work like hosting, maintenance and passive projects. It’s quite exciting to be involved in my first proper business venture and becoming a director at 21.

PB: What have you’ve learned about business? NC: I’ve learned a lot about money and finances, especially taxes and all of the things businesses have to plan for and pay out. I’ve also learned the difference between cost and value. In a small business like ours if we put the work in we can take the rewards out and that’s not always money.

If we finish everything we’d planned to do for the day or the week then we take time off, go out for lunch or just chat about future ideas. As long as the work’s being done we can be relaxed and flexible about where and when we do it.

By the end of 2023 I’ll have taken my first dividends as a company director so definitely the biggest thing I’ve learned is that working for yourself or in a very small business can be very rewarding very quickly if you work for it.

PB: And what have you learned about yourself? NC: That I can pick things up really quickly. When I started I was printing t-shirts and packing orders, now I’m building websites and designing for print and digital. I’ve also edited videos and created my own illustrations. I used to struggle to think of ideas when starting new projects but now I always have a picture in my head of how I want things to look, so I’ve learned how to use a kind of creativity I didn’t even know I had.

PB: What’s been your stand out moment since starting work? NC: When I first started, I created a digital packshot for a box set of our client Toyah Willcox’s album Anthem. I didn’t work on the release itself as it was done before I started, but I worked on the follow up, The Changeling.

Lots of previously unseen black and white photos, that had been lost for 40 years, were found in a box. The album’s original cover was tinted by hand and we wanted to recolour some of the unseen ones. I did these in Photoshop, taking up to six hours per image, sometimes going right down to single pixels to get the variations in colour and texture right.

When the box set got announced in July, there was loads of great comments from Toyah’s fans saying how amazing they thought it looked and Toyah did a thank-you video to me which went out on her Instagram. So thousands of fans watched her personally mention me – that a was a proud stand out moment.