In our new regular series, our Community Manager Daisy interviews new arrivals at Sussex Innovation about their business, why they joined, and their plans for growth. Today she chats with Tom Aiton and Tom Duke from The Toms Content.
What is The Toms Content?
Tom D: We started off making articles and content and films about classic cars and now we’re starting to think a bit bigger than that and try and find a way that we can start involving digital technology in the way that people use and enjoy their classics. At the moment the way things are going with social media and small digital platforms, like your phone for example, a lot of people are just digitising old style of content…
Tom A: …It’s all about the change in the way that people are consuming stories… The problem, or the thing that we’ve indentified, is that the content that you consume in a magazine, in print, you can’t just put it on a 2 dimensional space like your phone because that experience is totally different. What we’re trying to do is make something for people who want something that is a bit more engaging than the fast paced 5 second stuff..the Facebook videos… but doesn’t just put a magazine on a phone.
Tom D: I think that’s fair.
So you’ve identified this problem and now you’re trying to solve it?
Tom A: Yeah.
Tom D: I think to sum it up, the smartphone is a very powerful tool, and it’s not really being fully utilised by people who are interested in cars. If you look at health and fitness, Nike have a wristband and an app that you can use but no one’s really doing the same thing for cars.
Tom A: The key word to think about [and] the backbone of every single piece of content is story. …You can be really blatant about it and say well the story is this and I’ve written it and it’s 2000 words and it appears here with some nice pictures, or is the concept of a story a bit more fluid than that? Can you share a journey or something about what you’re doing in your life [with] more than just a picture and a status? Not to say that that isn’t good but it’s again going back to the higher engagement levels that you get from traditional content sources.
This is a work in progress?
Tom A: [Yes.] We’ve spent most of our time making content for online publications. We believe in the high quality, in depth, stories that happen…there’s a lot to say about a man who set up the first Afro-Caribbean club in London, there’s a lot to say about the man that’s driven his Morris Minor half way round the world to go and study in Morocco…There’s more than just what you can see at face value which is why we’ve always believed in trying to go beyond that sort of instantaneous hit. I hope you’d agree [Tom D], that the reason that we’re trying to do this is because we’ve seen the failings from online publishing and we just want to take it to another level.
Tom A: I know! I know!
So how did you find each other?
Tom A: Tinder!
Tom D: We used to play in bands in school…
Tom A: …we did a Blues Brothers cover band…
Tom D: …then 5 years later we said let’s go down the pub….
Tom A: …then we realised that we had all this common ground.
Tom A: Cars and taking pictures…and yeah, then we were friends again.
Tom D: We went and did this photoshoot with Tom A’s mini and we quite enjoyed it and then we decided to keep doing it so we started doing the articles…that was about 18 months ago.
Tom A: We had a blog that got picked up by DRIVETRIBE and we became one of their founding content creators for the website, one of 25 including Clarkson, Hammond and May…
That’s amazing in less than 18 months…
Tom A: It was only this time last year that we said right we’re going to do a 9 to 5…
Tom D:…try and treat it as a job.
Tom A: I made pizzas for money.
Tom D: And I worked at BHASVIC. So in August we started blogging, at the same time we applied for DRIVETRIBE…then in March we started working for DRIVETRIBE properly…and it’s great! Now DRIVETRIBE are starting to think about their next step and we’re sort of doing the same.
One of my questions was going to be “what’s been your biggest success so far”, but surely that’s got to be it?
Tom A: Biggest success has got to be [doing] a shoot with Richard Hammond. We basically went round to his house and spent the day just hanging out.
Tom D: It was a bit surreal!
Tom Aiton: He’s actually a really nice guy.
Tom D: He’s very genuine, he’s got a lot of energy.
And what was the hardest thing you found about setting up your own business?
Tom A: Making it a job. This office is the first thing that we’ve done for our sanity that kind of means that we’re not just working at home and blending work and home life together. That’s been the hardest thing, trying to separate the two.
You’re about 2 weeks in now [as members of Sussex Innovation], are you getting your work-life balance sorted?
Tom D: Well I’ve had a week here and a week in the Czech Republic, so it’s working out ok! It’s really cool being able to show up somewhere at 8 and then leave and not have to think about work…that’s why this is happening.
Is this the main reason you moved in?
Tom A: My girlfriend, came here to uni…
Tom D: …I did some work for one of the companies that used to be here a while ago as well.
Who was that?
Tom D: Maths Doctor. So it’s always sort of been subtly on the radar and then your girlfriend came home from uni one day and was like you need to go here…
Tom A: …and we Googled it and were like yes!
Tom D: The thing is that we sort of recognised that what we’re trying to sell to people isn’t just the pictures and the words and whatever, we’re trying to sell a vision and a set of ideas and I think that we’re struggling with how to turn the ideas into something else, something with a bit more longevity. So yeah, I think we’re here to try and think about the future and actually build something bigger than just being photographers or whatever…
Tom A: Yeah I think that’s it, that’s us!