Your Business: Putting aside old ways key to new venture

By Gill South

Serena Stevenson believes people come to you, you've just got to put it out there and people will hear it. Photo / Richard Robinson
Serena Stevenson believes people come to you, you've just got to put it out there and people will hear it. Photo / Richard Robinson

Serena Stevenson's company Big VOICE, a global creative multi-platform production firm, has been going for only four months but she's been planning it for three years and knows just what she wants it to do.

"Big VOICE is about combining digital technology and story-telling to create multimedia photography and film that provides a voice for businesses, individuals, groups and organisations," says Stevenson.

The entrepreneur, who won the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers' Photographer of the Year award in 2000 and Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year in 2006, has had a successful freelance career.

She was one of the photographers selected for the popular M.I.L.K books and is about to premier a documentary feature length film, Stories of our Own, set in a diverse region in India, the northeast.

Stevenson's film will be distributed through multi-platforms - it will be an exhibition, music, a book, and it can be screened proportionately.

Big VOICE is one of 13 companies to be chosen out of 55 applicants by the Arts Regional Council for its year-long creative enterprise accelerator programme, Art Venture 2010. The programme is giving her new business seed money and it has also put her in touch with influential business advisers and potential mentors.

The businesswoman has been inspired in particular by Jillian de Beer, a business strategist and international speaker, who works internationally on economic and community transformation. The anthropologist who works in the creative sector has an interesting concept around the new business model, says Stevenson.

The photographer/film-maker is, meanwhile, spending her time enlightening corporates, advertising agencies, organisations and individuals about the possibilities the multimedia world contains.

"You have to take the old way of thinking and put it aside," she says. "Look at how our environment is changing, how businesses are also part of the community."

There is no reason why a corporate website shouldn't have music, imaging and a short presentation to camera which truly gives people an idea of who they are, says Stevenson.

"It will not be someone sitting behind a desk," she says. "It's a chance to do some story-telling on your business or cause. Stories are in everything. Take someone on a journey with your website," she says. And then distribute it everywhere from YouTube to digital billboard and mobile phones.

"It's about positive story-telling, the David Attenborough way of telling a story," she says. "He shows us how magical our world is, to give us a sense of belonging, and the power to conserve the magic we live in."

The launch of Big VOICE and the support from Art Venture 2010 has given Stevenson the impetus to find a business partner. She has asked an old school friend, who has risen to senior levels in a large multinational in Australia, to join her business in New Zealand. "She will be extending our contacts with businesses," says the director.

More employees will follow. "I'm open to building a team. I believe that people come to you, you've just got to put it out there and people will hear it."

The businesswoman has been working with a small team of AUT graduates in filming the stories of each of the ART Venture programme winners and the LIFEWISE Big Sleepout in October. She enjoyed having a team, however temporary. "They have a similar ethos. I would love to have them on board full time."

Her vision is ambitious. "My goal is global and we are already doing global work." Big VOICE's international client list includes Mini in Germany, Thai Airways and Intrepid Travel.

- NZ Herald

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