Switch turn 30

Anniversary for Birmingham agency.

Stephen Eldred and Richard Pope, who embarked on the former Enterprise Allowance Scheme for £40 a week in 1985, are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Birmingham-based design and communications agency, Switch, this month.

The businessmen met while studying Graphic Design at Coventry Polytechnic and, after graduating, followed in their fathers’ footsteps to set up their own business.
Switch is now a million-pound firm, employing 14 and located in the city’s Jewellery Quarter. The agency boasts an impressive portfolio of clients ranging from the UK’s biggest water, power and waste utility company to charities, a family-owned butchers and international projects in Dubai and New York.

Steve said: “Whilst most of our contemporaries headed for the bright lights of London, Richard and I decided we should stay in the West Midlands and build our own company. We were turned down by The Prince’s Trust as our business plan is too well prepared but we kept trying and eventually qualified for the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. After a short spell working from Richard’s flat in Kenilworth we decided to base ourselves in Birmingham.”

Richard added: “When we started out we established ourselves as a little hot shop for the bigger advertising agencies in the city centre. We’d knock on doors during the day taking briefs from the likes of Charles Barker Black & Gross, Solomon Oakley and Humphrey Bull Johnson Woodier and we’d work through the night to deliver design work for the next day.

“They loved us and before long we had a portfolio that featured brands like Denim Aftershave and Draper Tools. Our big break came when one of the creative magazines came up from London to interview us! Things went crazy with the agencies and we found ourselves working with Jaguar, L’Oreal, Land Rover and Estee Lauder … dream brands that contributed to a portfolio that we could now confidently go out to prospects direct and say ‘We did this’.”

Stephen and Richard put the success of Switch down to drive and hard work. “We were young, hungry and wanted to be at the front all the time. Nothing phased us or the people that worked at Switch. We were handling print, 3D, exhibitions, conferences, TV commercials, websites, we even got involved in product design.

“It’s an ethos that sticks with us today. We provide communication solutions, whether that’s a brand thing, a sales campaign, something to look at, hold up or listen to…we design and create great things that people engage with and learn from,” Richard explained.

“Our instinct to build our business here was spot-on and Birmingham continues to give us a rich environment to work within. The last few years have been challenging given the economic climate, but with the support of our staff, suppliers and other stakeholders, we’re out the other side, older and wiser!”