Passionate about video production and drones, after 15 years working in the surveying world, Mike Woods traded in his company car and big salary for a drone and went on an intensive course to learn how to fly it safely and legally. Mike began by doing roof surveys when a local designer told him this hobby could be a great business. Next thing he knew Sara was calling local businesses offering their drone services. In 2016, with Sara, he took the leap and set up Solent Sky Services – an aerial video and drone photography company.
Mike Woods said: “We had seen other businesses thrive in Portsmouth and it felt like the perfect place.”
The combination of support from local businesses, collaborations with local creatives and Portsmouth being a photogenic city really motivated Mike and Sara and gave them the confidence to move forward. By December 2019 they have moved into their first premises and had taken on two apprentices.
The pandemic was a challenge. They had to return to working from home with only two members of staff (Mike and Sara) and their new baby, but they did manage to help one of their apprentices complete their apprenticeship. Mike also began a project filming small highlight videos of people’s lockdowns that ended up as their documentary ‘A Different Perspective of Portsmouth.’ Mike describes the pandemic as a “scary time,” but they also saw a boom in their business as customers were looking for alternative means to create film for digital use due to social distancing challenges.
After almost a year working from home Mike and Sara got back on the wagon with the help of the council’s Business Support team.
They said, “Without the council’s help we wouldn’t have survived.”
With the council’s business support help, Solent Sky Services took on two people from the Kickstarter scheme and received business grants that meant that they could build a website to showcase their work. A grant also led to Mike taking a thermography course to expand their expertise.
The first grant was a “huge relief” and meant that they “could survive.” These grants and the council’s hands-on approach to their problems such as finding suitable low-cost premises (they are now located at the council operated Victory Business Centre) meant that Mike and Sara had the confidence to take on bigger projects. They have since worked with international brand Burberry and have develop their filming services further to include FPV (first person video).
The sky’s the limit for Mike and Sara. Their next steps will be to find gaps in the market that they can help fill and continue to innovate with their FPV drones. They are also planning to build up their team by investing in the right people to help their business to grow.
They will of course continue to capture amazing film of Portsmouth and support local businesses and creatives.