A local entrepreneur who quit her office job to focus on photography and videography just as lockdown hit has beaten the odds to build a successful media business, thanks to support from the Go For It Programme in association with Mid Ulster District Council.
The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
Former Media Studies student Francine Montgomery (25) came up with the idea of launching a photography and videography business – and the Go For It Programme allowed her to take the first steps to make it happen.
“I was always the person with the camera, everywhere I went on holiday. I did my first wedding in 2018 and then a couple of promo videos with local businesses and that just really kicked it off,” she says.
“I just decided to take the plunge because I knew what I wanted to do.”
Francine officially launched Franseen Media in October 2019 with partner Tiarnan O’Neill, offering photography, video, graphic and product design and CGI modelling and specialising in commercial, family photography and weddings.
She quit her office job in February 2020, with around 15 weddings booked for spring and summer – only for Covid to hit.
“I had about 15 weddings booked for spring and summer and a couple of them went ahead but the rest all decided to reschedule to next year. But actually, once everything came out of lockdown I found I was really busy with families who wanted portraits done,” she says.
“I found I had a lot of commercial work too, as a lot of businesses were investing in advertising and marketing. For example, we worked with I Am Beauty UK, a make-up brand from Northern Ireland, delivering a full promotional service with product design and two product launches.”
Navigating 2020 meant adapting her business strategies at the drop of a hat – but Francine admits she was relieved to have a business plan to support her, thanks to the Go For It Programme.
“In this climate you had to go with the flow and adapt every month because something was always changing, but the business plan was a good structure to have. When in doubt you always revert back to the plan,” she says.
“I knew that if the weddings didn’t happen, I would have to focus on the commercial side. And it meant we had more room to take on new clients. Every job was so diverse and it was good for building my skill set. Within the past year I think we’ve done around 200 videos – sometimes you surprise yourself!”
Francine pays tribute to the support she received from the Go For It Programme which provided her with expert advice and help with developing a business plan.
The Go For It programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors across all 11 Council areas of Northern Ireland. It provides expert advice and help with developing a robust business plan to help turn ideas into a commercial enterprise.
“I had the idea in my head, butI had no idea how to run a business or what it took to run a business, so I got to talk to somebody who was experienced and was able to give me that advice,” she says.
“I’m delighted that my business is now based in an office in Cookstown Enterprise Centre, who’s Business Advisor, Shauna Rooney, was extremely helpful in the development of my business plan.
“It’s probably one of the best things the council has offered and I would say that if anybody has an idea, just contact them – it will be the best decision you ever make.”
Councillor Cathal Mallaghan, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council said: “The Go For It Programme, delivered by Mid Ulster District Council, provides new entrepreneurs with accessible, free and tailored support in the start-up stage of their business in areas such as financial and business planning, and sales and marketing to help get their business up and running.
“I wish Francine every continued success in developing and growing her enterprise and encourage anyone thinking about starting their own business to get in touch with the Go For It Programme!”
Jim Eastwood, General Manager at Cookstown Enterprise Centre, said: “Francine is a very talented videographer and photographer and we are delighted to have been able to support Francine in the start-up stage of her business. We worked with Francine to develop a business plan, focusing on her goals and aspirations, as well practical elements such as licensing, insurance and financial forecasting. “It’s great to see Francine push on and make a success of the business.”
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It Programme on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com
It’s probably one of the best things the council has offered and I would say that if anybody has an idea, just contact them - it will be the best decision you ever make.