Supporting Story Juice through a trio creative programmes

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In the first of our company profile series, we sit down with Hannah Wood, founder of Story Juice, a pioneering creative studio specialising in original interactive, immersive and game projects. We hear about how Creative England’s Ideate Plymouth mentoring, Creative Enterprise Female Founders Scaleup programme, and Creative Enterprise New Ideas Fund all helped Hannah take Story Juice to the next level, when the surrounding economy was down on its luck. 

Tell us more about what the studio is working on at the moment… 

Hannah: Story Juice is currently making a feminist punk augmented reality game for mobile called The Glass Ceiling Games and a crime drama narrative game called Underland. Our current major client project is an Audience of the Future demonstrator project, where we’re creating an original physical-digital immersive experience that combines live theatre and mixed-reality gaming in partnership with the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Magic Leap, Almeida Theatre, Factory 42, Sky and others.

Why is now such an exciting time to be working in immersive tech?

Hannah: We’re excited by the opportunity immersive technologies offer for audiences to engage and interact with new stories, but for us the technology is always in the service of the storytelling, how we want the audience to feel and why. You can’t sustain audiences with the novelty of technology; it’s the story, characters and what audiences are asked to do in an immersive experience that will move and engage them. What we’re most excited about is how immersive technology can help give an audience an embodied narrative perspective that can offer moments of courage, vulnerability and insight, which can have an impact beyond the magic circle of the experience itself. The other exciting aspect is the ability to reach a large, global audience as the technology is more widely adopted.

What has the support of Creative England helped you to achieve?

Hannah: Story Juice has been involved in three creative programmes in the past year that have transformed the business. Ideate Plymouth offered mentoring that enabled us to develop a clearer understanding of our audience and market for The Glass Ceiling Games and how to reach them.

The New Ideas Fund provided investment that enabled us to hire an Audience Development Manager and complete business safeguarding and cybersecurity training to protect us from GamerGate harassment, something which is an unfortunate consequence of making a feminist game. We’re using that training to develop a workshop in online self defence, in partnership with Limina Immersive – another company passionate about supporting women and diverse genders in the creative industries.

The Female Founders Scale Up Programme has supported us in hiring our first two members of staff beyond me and our contractors, which is a really exciting change we needed to make to scale up. It’s also provided clarity on how we work with clients to maximise IP and prompted us to rebrand the business (a work in progress), so that our online profile better reflects the work we do. We’ve completely refreshed our business model and financial planning and reached a tipping point where we can move forward on strong foundations confident in how to grow the business further. The impact on our business is hard to quantify because it is myriad and far-reaching, probably in ways we don’t even know whilst still in the midst of it.

What would you say are the most valuable benefits of joining a community like ours?

Hannah: Much of our client work was in location-based immersive experiences so when COVID struck, we instantly lost that income. This encouraged us to focus on the digital, immersive and video game side of our business, which each of the Creative England programmes I mentioned above has supported. The mentoring, coaching and network of peers have been a valuable source of advice and insight as we shift our focus. It has also helped us feel connected to a wider community of creatives, many with shared interests, which has meant we’ve felt less isolated, and has also created new opportunities for collaboration and partnership for us. We’re really grateful to Creative England for the support and community these programmes have given us access to; I’d encourage other creative businesses to jump on any opportunity to get involved. You’ll find a supportive, inspiring and ambitious community, be challenged and have fun in the process.

Whats next for Story Juice?

Hannah: We’re working towards the launch of our crowdfunding campaign for The Glass Ceiling Games in July, which will help support our pitches to publishers and investors for funds to complete the game’s development. We’re also looking forward to the launch of the Audience of the Future project in the autumn and sharing the next stage of development on our narrative game Underland.

Find out more about Ideate Plymouth and how to apply for mentoring here. 

Female Founders is open for applications until 21st July, learn more and apply here.

This activity is part of the iMayflower project and has been supported by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who fund the Cultural Development Fund which is administered by Arts Council England.

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