Tony has the art of great design and marketing
‘I have changed my business model – it is about helping each business to grow’
Over recent years Tony Parsons has changed not just his work life, but his whole life – losing more than four stone in weight and starting his own business from the Thatcham home he shares with his wife and two young children.
After nearly 20 years working in design for B2B and B2C customers across all sectors, the 48-year-old was given the push he needed to set up his own creative design and marketing agency when he was made redundant in 2007.
Born in Reading, Tony moved to West Berkshire with his family when he was eight and started at Francis Baily Primary School.
From there he moved to Turnpike secondary school and then Kennet School for sixth form.
“I always really enjoyed art and had a flair for it; I even won some competitions when I was younger,” he says.
“When I first joined Kennet I was doing a general vocational course, but the teacher saw that I was reasonably good at art so encouraged me to do graphical communication – which was technical drawing – and art A-levels in a year.”
After leaving school he went to the Berkshire School of Art, before moving to Northumbria University to study for a three-year degree in fine art at the start of the 1990s.
As well as the painting you would expect to be doing in a fine art degree, Tony says that while at university he was also able to study the computing side of his subject.
“Computers were pretty basic then,” he adds. “We were using really old Apple Macs to create posters for exhibitions.
“It is crazy to look at the speed and what machines can do.
“Now, in a day I can do what a team of five did over a week.
“It used to take about half-an- hour to save some of the largest photo files too.”
In 1997, Tony put that experience to good use when he went to work for a computer games developer, working mainly on magazine adverts, where he says he “didn’t realise it at the time, but I was given a pretty free reign”.
After a year there he moved to a company in Reading, building up his graphic design skills and working with clients such as British Gas and Prudential.
A more creative role working for Thames Valley Police then came up and Tony jumped at the chance.
He worked on all the promotional material for Neighbourhood Watch, as well as the touring exhibition van, posters and with the police museum at Sulhamstead.
“This gave me that creative role I wanted,” he says. “I had a lot of freedom on how it looked.”
Further jobs in website design followed before Tony took on a role as a senior designer at a local firm.
He was responsible for repackaging all of its fertiliser stock, creating graphic wraps for the first time, which made it far easier to recognise when it was stacked on shelves.
“The key rebrand was revolutionary,” he explains.
“Everything was branded up with really strong designs.
“It made the market-leading products look rubbish next to ours; it is amazing what good graphics can do.
“That was a really good thing to work on.”
In 2007, Tony moved to a Newbury-based design company, but shortly after sorting out some of the work left by a former employee, he was suddenly made redundant.
“It was pretty rubbish,” he says.
“It was one of those crazy times, when my wife was nine months pregnant and so I just had to get on and work.”
But suddenly Tony found he was able to use a PGCE he had completed at Bretton Hall, which is part of the University of Leeds, in the 1990s.
He began working, one day a week teaching art at Newbury College, while also working to build up his own business at the same time.
“I really enjoyed the teaching,” he says.
“There was a really wide mix of people – much older people and those straight out of school.
“The course was a really good mix of things that we taught the students too and they all did really well.
“But at the same time my own business had really started to take off and I was just too busy to carry on working at the college.”
The way Tony works has evolved since those early days of working for himself.
“Before, I was dependent on all the work coming from one big client, but now I work with a lot more SMEs,” he says.
“I have changed my business model and it is a lot more about helping each business to grow.
“I think now that I was letting some customers down before by concentrating on the bigger client.
“Now when they need my help, I can give it to them.
“I am also collaborating with other local businesses, such as a web designer and marketing business.”
Outside of work Tony’s love of art continues and during lockdown he has started painting again.
As well as changes in his work over the past few years, he has also made significant changes to his lifestyle, losing a staggering four-and-a-half stone in weight.
“I have completely changed my life,” he adds.
“I just thought if I don’t do something I will end up with health problems.
“So I thought no chocolate, no cake and I look at my body fat now. The technology available to help is crazy.
“I have always been into my martial arts and I have picked that up again too. I have got really fit.
“I am very lucky to be able to do what I do and I feel very rewarded when I see it transferred into results.
“Working for yourself you take everything very personally, so I always put everything into what I do.”