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Photography training platform Engage aims to be the Business

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by Startacus Admin

Ever wanted to take your passion for photography and turn it into a living and breathing business reality which makes money?!

Looking to bridge the gap for the wannabe professional photographer and the realities they would face in running a trading business is In essence it is an online training platform that offers free live classes, in-person workshops and online photography training platformmentoring to enhance your skills and accelerate the growth of your photography business. We caught up with Founder Donal Doherty to find out about his own background, the reasons behind and how mentoring has indeed shaped his own business growth and journey.

First up Donal - talk to us about - give us your business pitch!

Engage is an online training platform for Photographers. We live stream online workshops from world class trainers, which are free if you watch when they are live or you can buy on demand access to watch and download. We also offer in person workshops for photographers and 1-2-1 online mentoring sessions with trainers on the platform.

What inspired you to set up in the first place?

When I became a photographer I found that there was a lack of accessible training for photographers. The online training on offer was more geared towards the American market and was not as online photography training platform Engage relevant to the UK/European market and the live workshops were on when we are asleep on this side of the pond. I felt there was a need for a blended approach, with European voices joining leading US based educators.

As Engagelive is all about skills development, can you tell us a little about how your skills as a photographer have come in handy in creating a digital platform?

My background was in marketing before I had a career change five years ago to become a photographer. For three years before making the change to photography I ran my own business which was like doing the most intense MBA you can imagine. At the end of 2009 I was shortlisted as online photography training classesEntrepreneur of the Year for that business, but I know I made so many mistakes and after an acquisition by another company fell apart, I knew it was time for me to move on.

I started again with my photography business and took the lessons I’d learnt from my previous experience to create one of the UK’s leading photography businesses before starting Engage.

This powerful combination of skills and experience has enabled me to understand photographers and their needs and to bring my knowledge of marketing to drive Engage forward.

You are based in Derry and recently have gone through the Growing the Digital Economy programme - how did the programme support your endeavours?

The Digital Economy Programme has been incredible. I met Rosalind Young who helped me to identify the skills gaps which we have and the type of mentoring which would make a significant impact on the business. We were assigned two consultants, Christopher Murphy from University of Ulster and Naomh McElhatton from Rua Digital.

The first session with Christopher blew my mind and he confirmed some of my assumptions, challenged others and shined a light into areas I hadn't considered before with regards to our business model. We are planning to raise venture capital funding and as he has been through this process himself, he guided me through this process.

Naomh’s input was radical, and her expert advice on digital marketing strategy enabled us to create a plan which will enable us to get more eyeballs on the content we’re producing, enter new markets and to grow sales online as a consequence.

Give us two key advantages of getting a business mentor and also what part of the mentoring process did you find most challenging?

The high calibre of the mentors provided through the programme was fantastic, with both mentors possessing real world experience of starting and growing successful digital businesses.

Having a fresh set of eyes look at the business from the outside is invaluable and often they can identify opportunities and issues someone so close to the business cannot.

The most challenging, but ultimately the most valuable aspect is the fact that their constructive criticism has enabled me to make our service and the business better. The mentoring received has had a significant impact on the business and it has made our business model better.

What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur?

The most important thing is to believe in yourself and your business. Make sure to research your market, understand your USP and to work hard to validate and develop your business model. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes early on, if you learn from them you and your business will evolve and improve.

What's next on the agenda for

As part of the feedback from the mentoring process we have added in-person workshops and mentoring to our services. We have been accepted onto an incubator programme and will be moving into an incredible new hub which is pretty exciting and we’re building out the team. Our users are growing month on month so it’s looking really positive for the future.

Good luck Donal and we look forward to hearing more about Engage over the coming months.

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Published on: 27th May 2015

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