Small Business Life

Owen from Cinemaworks on multi-award-winning home cinema design and that accurate replica Delorean

Lyzi wears black gridded top and beige trousers, sits on a pink sofa in a pink room, holding a magazine
Lyzi Unwin
Content Producer
Fervent blogger sharing signature Studio Cotton advice & small business stories
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I’ve got an Instagram pal called Karen who I regularly chat to (mainly about cats), and she happens to be married to a guy called Owen, who builds incredibly cool home cinemas. I never really thought about home cinemas before – I thought they were something only celebs have – but a home cinema is now an essential feature in my dream house.

Cinemaworks create a viewing experience in your own home which “immerses you in a world of adventure, excitement, thrill and suspense,” and also fits in with your personal aesthetics – whether you like things contemporary, cosy or futuristic.

Let’s find out more about this small business.

 

1. Why did you start Cinemaworks?

A few reasons really – I’d got to the limit of my job doing installations for a business in Surrey, and the only ‘up’ was to be the owner, so I decided that’d do. We’d just moved to Bristol from London, and the job options I could find didn’t look too attractive. But mostly, because I’ve always wanted to and it was time.

 

2. Tell us about your background before starting your small business

I’d been working for other small businesses in various roles, and the one that suited me best was designing and installing home cinemas for a business in South West London, where I developed my skills in technical drawing, the practical side of the tools, and in IT and Wi-fi networking.

 

Cinemaworks home cinema showroom in Bristol

 

3. How did you come up with the name of your small business?

Totally by accident. The first idea was ‘Connected’ but you can’t really SEO that or build any buzz around it (or I couldn’t anyway). The domain I went for was connected.works, so people started calling us Connectedworks, and eventually I realised that was our name, and that went well for a bit.

However in 2018 we won a major EMEA level design award for a home cinema project, and the penny dropped – this is what we do. So the year after we changed to Cinemaworks, and that has really worked for us.

 

4. What is your personal favourite product, collection or service, and why?

All we really do is home cinema rooms – and sometimes ‘media rooms’ which is the same idea, but in your lounge – and that’s all I ever want to make for people, so that’s it.

 

5. What’s the loveliest thing a customer or fan has said about Cinemaworks, that still makes you smile now?

The project we won that first award for, messaged me later to say he’d just taken his young son to the big cinema and it was rubbish compared to their system at home – picture, sound, lighting. I absolutely love that.

 

Cinemaworks showroom launch with champagne

 

6. What’s the loveliest part of running your small business?

The clients! We just have the absolute loveliest clients – we get homemade cake on the job sites, and recently one sent me a gourmet hamper in return for a pretty small favour I did them. Maybe I’m lucky, but the very best people seem to appreciate what we have to say and can do for them.

I also have great spider-senses from by my years in retail, so I know pretty quickly if we’re going to get on. We almost always do, and if not, I sort of steer myself gently out of the project – politely of course.

 

7. Tell us about a significant turning point that positively impacted Cinemaworks

The award in 2018 was amazing, and actually straight off the back of that we became the first company in the world – out of around 4,000 companies who are members of our trade body CEDIA (the global membership association that serves the smart home technology industry through advocacy, connection, and education) to achieve the designation ‘CEDIA Member of Excellence.’

This reflects excellence in craftsmanship, customer service and continuing education, all of which we have. That was really great, and helped me a bit with all the imposter syndrome I still suffer from.

 

CEDIA Best Media Room award

 

8. Sing the praises about an organisation or professional that helped you on your small business journey (and let us know how)

Oh wow there’s been loads. My trade body CEDIA have been amazing all the way through, my buddy Roddy Abbott from Cinema Build Systems has been my mentor, co-designer and top friend (sometimes I even help him in return) and my other buddy Ben Goff from London cinema specialists Cinema Lusso has really helped me raise my cinema design game.

Finally, a whole load of my pals drove up to Bristol to help out during the final week of my showroom fit out and got me over the line wonderfully well. I just have the best mates in the AV industry.

 

9. Tell us about a step you’ve taken to make Cinemaworks more lovely

Building the showroom. This year Fraser Besant who owns Fraser Besant Lighting and Ablectrics Ltd on Zetland Road contacted me – they’d just moved to a much bigger showroom and warehouse, which had an old boardroom sort of going spare, and asked if I wanted to collaborate with them on a cinema room showcase.

After thinking about it for half a second it was a definite yes, and we launched on October 7th and 8th – celebrating with a Back to the Future themed launch weekend. We even hired a screen-accurate replica Delorean. That was really lovely – everyone enjoyed it, and my industry buds turned up to support. I was proper overcome, me.

 

Replica Delorean from Back to the Future at the Cinemaworks showroom launch

 

10. What’s a lovely thing you have planned for the next 12 months of running your small business?

Firstly, CPD courses. One of my proudest moments as an industry volunteer was when I wrote the fully Royal Institute of British Architects approved CPD training course for architects and designers called ‘Designing Home Cinemas and Media Rooms,’ to help the design and build community better understand our engineering principles and enable them to work better with our industry.

It’s okay when you go round to their practices but much better delivered from a great home cinema – so now I’ve got one I’ll be doing a lot more teaching.

Secondly, I’ve just signed up to start working with Studio Cotton to make my website more lovely, so I can meet more lovely clients and help them with their fabulous cinema room plans. I owe the customers my best web game, so they don’t accidentally hire the wrong cinema designer 😀

 

11. As recommended by you

We asked Owen to recommend 3 podcasts, blogs, or Instagram accounts that he’d recommend to other small business owners…

@thejamiebrindle

Raise your rates, raise your game, grow from a freelancer to a small company. Also wicked funny.

@bambristol

Just because shop owner Fran is incredibly authentic and believable. Must actually go there sometime (eek)

@studio.cotton

Is it too crawly to say Studio Cotton? Ah well. They also have an excellent Slack community for small businesses and freelancers wrestling with their own websites, SEO and so on, which is amazing value at just £15/month. We support each other, and Aime + team support us.

You can find out more about the Studio Cotton membership here 🙂

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