There is probably no better example of what creative leadership looks like than that exhibited by Ace. A multi-dimensional creative and musician, he is a million things at once. As the guitarist and songwriter of Skunk Anansie for the past 28 years, as well as being a musical educator and Head of Industry Partnerships at ICMP, what could have been more fitting than adding something else to his repertoire with the Ace Accelerator Programme. We sat down with Ace and Sean Arkless, this year’s winner, to talk about their journeys, creative responsibility and what they think is next.
Design District (DD): With a CV as long as yours Ace, it would be interesting to hear and almost figure out how you ended up doing, well everything you do today?
Ace: I started off working in design studios after completing college studying graphic design in the 1980s, but alongside this, I was always in bands and obsessive about playing the guitar, writing songs, doing gigs and becoming a successful musician.
(DD): What were some of the biggest sources of support/help when you were building your business?
Ace: As a portfolio musician, I have a few different businesses all happening at the same time! Across my career it’s always been people more and their willingness to share knowledge that has been the biggest support in what I’ve achieved and this is true across, Ace Guitar Academy, with my manager and agent in my musical career and the sponsors and brands I work with at ICMP.
(DD): What have been some of your best experiences with the Bureau?
Ace: Being able to start the Ace Accelerator Programme has been an amazing honour and pleasure. Awarding the students the prize and seeing them start to thrive within the bureau, has been an immensely satisfying process.
(DD): What would you like to share with the rest of the Bureau community?
Ace: Everything really; knowledge, networking, contacts and friendship! (also, it's the best lunch on the Peninsula… But I think you know that already. I want to hand over the mike a bit to Sean Arkless who is obviously this year’s winner!
(DD): Sean, anything you want to tell us off the bat?
(Sean): My name is Sean, I was born in Wales, grew up in New Zealand and came to London with £400 to my name in 2019 to pursue music – I didn’t ever imagine myself starting a project management company! SJARK is its name. I specialise in facilitation, communication, problem solving, project management and team building. I love working as a live sound engineer and I front a very loud rock band called ‘Hello Amnesia’.
(DD): Now we know you ended up winning the Ace Accelerator Programme but how did you hear about it in the first place?
(Sean): I was fortunate enough to get a tip from the careers and industry hub at ICMP as we were already in discussions about how I would best develop the future of my company SJARK. They must have thought the office space would be a good fit for us and they were right!
(DD): Was there anything about the chance to be at the Bureau that had caught your eye in particular?
(Sean): The prestige of having an office means we can go after higher profile clients, the network of talented entrepreneurs in the office is an invaluable resource – especially for idea generation and potential collaborations.
(DD): Have you been feeling the positive ripples of being in such a collaborative environment so far?
(Sean): Well, it’s already given us such great exposure to successful, hardworking individuals who inspire us on a daily basis. The two biggest career defining factors of the office are the network, and also the real world experience that most students with a start-up would never be able to have which has seriously accelerated our growth and goals but most importantly, our perspective on what it actually means to be in business.
(DD): What are the big goals, both professional and personal?
(Sean): We want to be a company that aids in the revolutionization of creative industry, creating experiences for our clients and team members that leave a positive, lasting impact on their lives. We want to inspire young people to follow their passions, providing inspirations and tools to aid in their professional development. Having our first of many SJARKHubs (creative community centres) set up and running in 12 months. We intend to have a strong network of creative freelancers in every major city in the UK within 2 years and eventually we intend to be present in multiple countries – providing bespoke creative solutions for major festivals, big corporations and beyond!
The Ace Accelerator Programme will be open to third year Music Business and Entrepreneurship students and the next winner will get the place by submitting a pitch for their business/business idea to the Design District in June 2022. The recipient of the support will have the chance to access a fully serviced studio in Bureau including access to meeting spaces, restaurant and fast internet connection.
Find out more here.