“Working with Fortus has been pretty lifechanging." Anthony Sheret, Co-founder & Director, Colophon FoundryFind out more
Colophon Foundry's an international, award-winning type foundry based in London, turning over £5m a year. So what's the story behind their incredible success and what role does Fortus play in supporting the business?
‘TYPE FOUNDRY’ meaning: to create, publish, and distribute high-quality retail and custom typefaces for analog and digital media.
QUITTING BECOMES THE BEGINNING
Anthony Sheret, now Co-founder & Director of an international, award-winning type foundry business with presence in the UK and US, discovered his love for graphic design when he was 15 years young.
He confesses to being part of some terrible bands with school friends back in the day, and those terrible bands needed record sleeves and a website designing. So that’s what Anthony did.
Leaving his school band days behind him, Anthony continued designing and went on to complete his A-levels in Business, Art, History and IT. By this point, he knew he wanted to be a graphic designer so he published his own website and soon enough, was getting featured in acclaimed design magazines at 17.
Next up, a move to Frankfurt to work for Leo Burnett – the global creative advertising agency with offices in over 100 countries around the world. He stayed there for four months, then quit.
“One day, it just hit me. I was grateful for the opportunity but I simply didn’t want to work in advertising,” says Anthony.
Deciding the ad world wasn’t for him, Anthony made a move to HORT. HORT, also known as ‘Eikes grafischer HORT’ is a studio specialising in art direction, branding, creative consultancy, editorial design, graphic design and illustration, founded by Creative Director Eike König.
During his time at HORT, Anthony became close friends with Eike.
“Eike took me under his wing as the first real mentor I had. He’s always been a huge advocate for collaborative working processes and would always be finding people he could work with, and more importantly, learn from. I really respect him – he’s a world-renowned creative genius.
Aside from Eike, of course my parents and friends have always cheered me on from the sideline through every decision I’ve made – whether it was the right one or not.”
A CREATIVE ENTENTE
On moving back to the UK from Germany, Anthony enrolled onto a Graphic Design Foundation course at University of the Arts London (UAL) – London College of Communication (LCC) before heading to Brighton Uni in 2006.
That’s where he met Edd Harrington.
The pair had formed a tight-knit friendship at Brighton Uni. Edd suggested they take a few weeks out to travel to Japan during their Easter break and it was there (over a few drinks), their business idea presented itself. They talked about how they’d love to leave education behind, become business partners and set up their own studio…
…it wasn’t just the alcohol talking.
Two years into his degree at Brighton, Anthony really found himself at a loose end. He wanted that conversation in Japan to be more than just an inebriated dream. He wanted to start his own studio – with Edd.
“We had no idea how to do it and had no clients, but we knew we wanted to start something special.”
So, they started their typographic (ad)venture in a small shared studio space in Brighton, and after thirteen years of relentless hard work , you’ll now find Anthony and Edd crafting striking typefaces from their studio in North London.
They called it Colophon Foundry – ‘Colophon’ being the statement you’ll find at the end of a book containing information about its production; publication rights, typefaces etc.
Anthony says, “Whilst we didn’t have experience in running a studio, our skills complemented one another – we collaborated and made things. Starting out we created a series of promo pieces based on different ideas, pulled some money together, printed 500 items and sent them out to people we thought would be interested. We got a few jobs from that outreach approach – I don’t think trawling the internet for contacts and essentially cold calling would work quite as well today!”
Our first real project that kept us busy for three to four months was a new council-funded South London Art Map , designed to promote the visual arts in South London from Bankside to Greenwich. We’d get involved in many initiatives like this to keep the revenue going, learning as we were doing.”
The creative entente of two is now a team of eight – half based in the London studio, half working remotely, including Benjamin, an external close collaborator, who’s based out in LA.
But their team extends way beyond their team of eight. Colophon Foundry has a sizeable network of companies, digital agencies, writers and illustrators they collaborate with on numerous creative projects.
“Fortus have been more than we could’ve hoped for and have been a huge support in recent months. They’ve given us the added layer of confidence we needed and there are so many things we don’t have to worry about now – Fortus are just dealing with it. You can’t put a price on that feeling."
Anthony Sheret, Co-founder & Director
Bespoke projects of pride
You’ll see from their lengthy alphabetized list, Colophon Foundry’s worked with recognised brands, from household names Tesco and Tripadvisor, to major industry names like Burberry and Jaguar.
Anthony says he’s most proud of the work they’ve been doing most recently with Facebook and Meta. “It’s a really exciting project involving 40-50 people across eight different companies and we’ve taken the lead. It’s undoubtedly our biggest achievement to date.”
CHALLENGE AMONGST SUCCESS
Whilst the Colophon team’s had incredible success, it’s not come without its challenges.
“Trying to find the right people with the right mentality has been really difficult. As Founder of your own business, your expectation of people is quite high because ultimately these people are responsible for bringing your vision to life and you want to take them on a journey with you. We need to hire strategically, taking into consideration how senior they need to be, how much experience they have and where they’ll sit within how we work.
Covid actually brought about some real positives for us. We were one of the very few lucky companies that could refocus the need for strong design and creative work – it’s such an important part of modern business. Looking back 10-15 years ago when we started out, ‘design’ was considered a bit of a wrapper, superfluous, but now it’s essential and all-encompassing.”
A FUTURE OF STRATEGIC & MEANINGFUL COLLABORATION
Anthony and Edd’s future vision is to grow the team to 10 in the next year (revenue dependent), and kickstart a joint venture with another company so they’re growing upwards and sideways in tandem.
“For us, growth isn’t just about revenues and the numbers – though of course it’s important! Growth can also relate to projects we’re getting involved in, the new expertise and people we’re bringing in as well as pushing things further. We’ll continue to build on what we’ve created and at the same time renovate our eCommerce experience.
When things gets boring, and we’re not being challenged, we should probably stop what we’re doing. Until then…”
In addition to his parents cheering him on from the sideline and Creative Director Eike König as mentor, Anthony shares how Fortus has also become part of the business’s important support network.
“We found ourselves in a really difficult position with our previous accountants. We were seeing such success that we felt we’d outgrown our previous accountant and wanted to find a collaborative partner who shared our passion for the creative industry and what we do.
“Working with Fortus has been pretty lifechanging.”
“Fortus have been more than we could’ve hoped for and have been a huge support in recent months, particularly Rob, Vasu, Euan and Emma. They’ve given us the added layer of confidence we needed and there are so many things we don’t have to worry about now – Fortus are just dealing with it. You can’t put a price on that feeling.
We were impressed by Fortus’ Creative Industries sector offering and the real breadth of services they have under ‘one roof’. They took care of our compliance to begin with but this has since expanded out to innovation tax reliefs and a specific Corporate Finance project which involved some tax advisory aspects. This project was quite intense, giving me and Edd the opportunity to understand, analyse and value our business in a great level of detail – much more so than we had previously.
When we’ve got a new idea, Fortus are the first people we’ll pick up the phone to. They’re our soundboard. Plus it’s quite lonely running a business sometimes, so it’s a great support to have. We’ll have a chat, identify challenges, opportunities and synergies, then call on Fortus’ experienced in-house team or wider network to help us out.”
“I remember the very first phone call..."
“We’ve gone through a lot since that initial phone call. I’ve so much respect for how they’ve embraced the advice we’ve given and how they’ve kept an open mind in wanting to improve and to learn. It’s reflected in how effective our working relationship’s been to date and as Anthony says, it’s a great collaboration – one that’s giving the Colophon Foundry team the rewards they deserve.”
“Moving forward we’re totally energised about growing together - it’s a real partnership.”
Anthony Sheret, Co-founder & Director Colophon Foundry