Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Conrad Allan, Co-Founder and CEO of MattePaint, located in Brisbane, Australia.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

MattePaint is a provider of high-quality photography for film, television, video games, and other forms of visual media. Our customers primarily include artists, designers, and creative professionals who are seeking high-quality digital assets for their visual projects. This includes professionals in the film and television industry, video game developers, architectural visualization studios, and visual effects artists, among others.

By providing a large and constantly expanding selection of pre-made digital environments that can be easily customized to meet specific project requirements, We help our customers to streamline their creative workflows, save time and money, and produce higher-quality results. Additionally, the company offers a range of helpful resources and tutorials to help upcoming VFX artists break into or improve their skills in the field.

Tell us about yourself

I have over 15 years of experience working on major film and television productions, primarily working as a Matte Painter. Matte Painters are primarily responsible for the mid-ground and background elements of a shot in a TV or Film production, and as a result, they typically need a lot of high-resolution and high-quality photography.

I first started working on MattePaint, recognizing a complete lack of suitable assets to use in my work. I saw an opportunity to create a platform that could provide artists and designers with an efficient, cost-effective way to access the high-quality environments they needed for their projects.

As for what motivates me each day to do what I do, it is primarily my passion for visual effects and the film industry that drives me. However, like probably most other entrepreneurs, I thoroughly enjoy the innovation process and the opportunity to disrupt traditional processes and raise the bar of what people think is possible.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

There are several verticals I could pull from which would be quality for answering this. Do I consider the general success of MattePaint? My impact on the many artists I've helped get into the industry? Or having our assets play a key role in Oscar-winning VFX films?

Overall, I think what makes me feel most accomplished day to day is the impact we have on artists. Both in the professional sense - providing artists with tools and assets to really push their creativity - and in the educational sense by helping, artists get into the industry. Having built a successful growing business is, by comparison, just the cherry on top.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things is the constant pressure to make decisions that will impact the success of the business. As a CEO, you're responsible for navigating through uncertainty, taking calculated risks, and making tough choices that can affect the company's financial stability, reputation, and future growth.

Additionally, in the early days, you often have to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, including managing employees, developing and implementing business strategies, overseeing financials, and handling customer relationships. This requires a diverse set of skills and is time-consuming and mentally taxing.

Managing stress and maintaining a work-life balance is not always possible. I continued working full-time as a VFX Artist for the first two years of building MattePaint. I worked 100-hour weeks during this time just to keep everything on track. At the time, I didn't really see the effect of the stress on my life because all the work was necessary to keep the idea alive.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

My top tip is simple but crucial: only start a business if you feel compelled to do so. The process of starting a business is so taxing and exhausting that if you're not doing it because you're truly passionate about it, you'll likely give up or fail. This is something that is often taught in Silicon Valley, and it's a lesson that has proven true time and time again.

Secondly, find a co-founder; this is really important. When I was starting out, I would have given up very quickly if it weren't for my co-founder. Having someone to share the workload and provide support during tough times can be invaluable.

Lastly, focus on creating moments of joy for your customers. This doesn't necessarily have to be within your product itself. In the early days of MattePaint, we sent baskets of chocolate to studios that signed up with us. This small gesture helped us stand out and created a sense of goodwill and appreciation among our customers.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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