Next Big Thing Recruitment: Anna Acton and Ben Hull

Find out about actors Anna Acton and Ben Hull's most challenging roles yet - running their own business

Anna Action and co-founder Ben Hull are working actors who between them have appeared in Hollyoaks, Family Affairs, Coronation Street, The Bill and several national theatre productions. However, as all thespians inevitably discover, the time between parts can be tough. Perhaps inspired by Anna’s entrepreneurial brother, they set up Next Big Thing Recruitment as a sideline to keep themselves and their fellow actors ticking over. Anna reveals why.

Company name: Next Big Thing Recruitment Founders: Anna Acton, Ben Hull Age: 29, 34 Based: London Date started: May 2006

Tell us about your businessWe provide large organisations and events companies with talented actors to host events (frequently as a particular character, Marilyn Monroe, a drunken lord etc), for promotional work or to coach public speaking and confidence building.

Where did the idea come from? No actor goes from job to job. We’ve both worked fairly solidly but hit a dry patch around the same time. I was temping and it became hard to make castings. We realised the need for actors to have a flexible second income, but also that confident natural performers could be an attractive proposition.

What planning and research did you do? We researched recruitment agencies and events companies and spoke to Spotlight. We realised our initial idea to place actors in standard tempting jobs was highly competitive so decided to focus on performance work.

What advice did you seek?My brother has started two successful businesses [Michael Smith co-founded gadget site Firebox and is MD of alternative gaming company Mind Candy]. We have a deal whereby I cook him supper and he gives me advice.

How have you funded the business?Ourselves. It’s modestly profitable without a salary for Ben or myself, but we’re now looking at approaching a bank to reach the next level.

You’re working from home, right? Yes. I get up early, walk the dogs and I’m at my desk by 9am. It’s great and there are no overheads, but we’ll need an office to take on staff.

How are you promoting the business? We had an ad in Spotlight; The Guardian ran a feature on us; and actor friends spread the word. We approached a lot of events companies but have relied on word of mouth, as we don’t have much budget.

How did you decide what to charge? We were embarrassingly unprofessional at first. A client asked how much we’d charge, and we asked ‘how much would you expect to pay?’ By speaking to actors and clients about their previous work, we soon established a price bracket.

What has been your biggest breakthrough? Companies coming back – it meant we were doing something right.

Is there anything you’d do differently?Originally we took on every actor that contacted us, but I wish we’d been more discernable. All our actors now are of a desired level and reliable.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?Much bigger and for the business to run on its own, while Ben and I act.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?Speak to as many entrepreneurs as you can. The honest ones will tell you about not only successes but also the dark times. It’s not easy!

Find out how to start a recruitment business.

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