O2 Smarta 100 Alumni Interview: Folded Wing

We caught up with Karen Pearson, founder of 2012 winner Folded Wing to find out about how the awards boosted the profile of Folded Wing and about what has been a very successful year for the company

Karen, how did it feel to be named in the O2 Smarta 100?

Karen: Incredible! We were over the moon to be picked in the final 100, and to be amongst so many other exciting, innovative businesses. We were the only radio production company to be picked too, which was a great honour and a real sign of recognition that we're pushing boundaries and leading the way in the radio and branded content industry.

When you applied for the awards did you think you would win?

Karen: No, not at all. It was a real surprise! We know how many businesses apply for the Smarta 100 Awards each year, and the calibre of the companies that apply too. We knew we'd be up against some really stiff competition so it was amazing when we were picked.

Did you receive any publicity in the period after it that helped your business? Were you recognized by your peers or trade magazines?

Karen: Yes we did! As well as lots of fantastic support via Twitter and Facebook, there were some really nice articles of support in the radio and media press, as well as music sites, such as Jamie Cullum's fan sites (we produce Jamie's weekly show on BBC Radio 2).

Did winning the award help you gain new business or funding? Did you gain new connections thanks to being named in the awards?

Karen: Yes it really did. It helped spread the word about Folded Wing and what we do to people outside of the radio industry which is fantastic. We've since made lots of great new connections across a wide range of new business sectors, and had new business come in from around the world, including China, Japan, SE Asia, USA and beyond.

What success has your company achieved in the time following your being named in the O2 Smarta 100? Do you have any specific achievements you’d like us to share with readers online?

Karen: We do, the last 12 months has been incredible. Since being named in the Smarta 100, we won a competitive pitch to start producing the weekly Monki show on BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra. Monki is Radio 1's youngest, most exciting new talent and the BBC wanted a production company who would develop and nurture her, and help her to become a professional broadcaster. This is something we've been working hard on, and it's paid off because Monki's show is soon to be extended from 2 to 3 hours each week! Monki plays the very best in new underground dance music on Radio 1 & 1Xtra every Sunday night into Monday morning from 2-4am. Have a listen!

We also won Gold for 'Best Music Programme' at this year's Radio Academy Awards (the Oscar's of radio) for our Jamie Cullum jazz show on BBC Radio 2. A fantastic achievement for both Jamie and Folded Wing. Jamie's show also won the 'Jazz Media' award at this year's Parliamentary Jazz Awards, as well as his 5th trophy at the New York Festivals Radio Awards, and the show is now syndicated to over 12 countries around the world.

This week our programme The Selector for The British Council, presented by Goldierocks - a showcase for the best in new UK music - won Best 'Pop' show at the Mixcloud Online Radio Awards, and it also won runner up in the overall Best Online Radio show award. The Selector is syndicated to 43 countries every week, has over 4 million listeners, and just keeps getting bigger!

In February we launched a brand new monthly show 'Brasil Music Exchange' that showcases the best in new Brazilian music. It's presented by Brazilian music expert, Jody Gillett, and features on Mixcloud, the British Airways inflight entertainment system, Hoxton Radio and is syndicated around the world.

We've also recently launched our second SRA Selector initiative, which partners our show The Selector with the Student Radio Association (SRA). We give 6 student radio presenters the chance to present their own version of The Selector on their student station for 6 months, and the presenter who does the best job gets to visit and work at one of The Selector's sister stations around the world. Last year's winner, Jack Saunders of Fly FM at Nottingham Trent University, spent a week at Ibero 90.9 FM in Mexico City, and has just secured his own show on Kerrang! FM, which is fantastic. We hope this year's initiative will be just as successful, and more exciting new UK radio talent is discovered! 

This year we've also made our first programmes for BBC 5 live, 6 Music and BBC Radio 4, and have won more commissions for Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 4.

What plans do you have for the future?

Karen: Continuing to lead the way in the world of radio and branded content: connecting our clients with amazing artists, both new and established; producing only the highest quality content; building audiences for all our shows by partnering with new exciting new platforms and international syndication; and training and developing exciting new broadcasters.

What advice would you give to companies who are unsure if they should enter the awards?

Karen: Do it! The Smarta awards are fantastic and can really help promote your company to sectors beyond your own industry. It will really help get your name known on an international level and and not just grow your client base, but broaden it out into interesting new areas and sectors.

Finally – if you were judging the awards, what would you specifically look for in a company?

Karen: I'd look for a company that is genuinely unique and innovative. A company that has fresh ideas who are doing exciting new things within their industry, but who are also partnering with interesting new businesses outside of their sector, and making projects bigger by using an international perspective.

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