Duke Studios expands with second premises

Creative business space Duke Studios is expanding to new premises after leasing a 10,000 sq ft building, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Duke Studios (L-R) Rosanna Martlew, Clint Sheldon, Laura Wellington and James Abbott-Donnelly

Duke Studios was launched in 2011 by Laura Wellington and James Abbott-Donnelly. Located in Leeds’ Munro House, the 6,500 sq ft space is home to 45 companies with turnover of £1.75m.

It offers co-working space, desk rentals, meeting room hire and support services, such as access to photography studios, vinyl and laser cutting facilities, and has seen 45 per cent growth year-on-year.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Its second premises, Duke Studios 2, will be based in a 10,000 sq ft property on Sheaf Street.

In addition to the services at its current premises, Duke Studios 2 will include events space, private and semi-private workspace and capacity to host larger companies.

Ms Wellington told The Yorkshire Post: “Duke 2 will be a grow-on space for Duke 1. The companies in there have been growing like wildfire.

“We want it to be diverse, exciting, creative, with companies of different types, in different fields and across different sectors.

“We’ll be offering conferencing facilities in an event space, and hopefully some cultural things too, with a really high level of creative output.

“It’s not just about putting Duke on the map, but about putting Leeds on the map as well.”

Duke Studios grew out of a lack of suitable studio space available in the city. Designer Ms Wellington and Mr Abott-Donnelly, a photographer, developed the concept to go beyond simply renting space.

She said: “If companies are in Duke, they’re bigger by-proxy. They can say, ‘I’ve got a laser cutter’, or access to photographic services. You’re instantly able to offer more to customers.

“We develop space on an application basis, we don’t just accept anyone and we don’t just sell square footage. It’s about carefully curating the companies and helping them to grow.”

The mix of companies in Duke Studios has been carefully balanced to support partnership and collaboration, she said.

“We have a mix of businesses of different ages; it means everyone’s at different stages of their career, they can help and support each other.

“Companies have formed from being in the space together and there’s been some big contracts won that wouldn’t have been if these businesses hadn’t had the opportunity to work together.”

Duke Studios at Munro House is an open-plan space designed and constructed in-house, using cardboard to build studio areas and an “outdoor-indoor” area.

The aim is to provide an “inspirational space”, Ms Wellington said.

“All of the big .com companies have amazing offices that are really great to work in, but you have to work for those companies to experience that,” she said.

“We wanted to recreate that, to make the spaces exciting.”

While Duke Studios currently houses companies of between one and eight people, Duke Studios 2 will have the capacity for firms with between one and 15 staff.

It is expected around 20 companies will be added to the Duke Studios roster. Two of Duke’s current tenants are planning to expand into Sheaf Street in January.

Duke Studios has leased the Sheaf Street property from King & Co.

King & Co said: “There is a wealth of entrepreneurial talent that needs to be retained if Leeds is going to remain competitive. Pioneering companies like Duke Studios that are passionate about the service they offer and in touch with the requirements of this growing industry need to be supported.

Sheaf Street is a rewarding project on an number of levels and Duke Studios have been a great partner. We wish to continue our investment in the city by bringing forward other imaginative projects and are actively seeking new opportunities.”

The original Duke Studios is located in one of Leeds’ most recognisable buildings, Munro House.

Built in 1886, the red-brick property was previously known as Unecol House and was occupied by the United Yeast Company.

Since then, it has housed everything from motorcycle dealerships, tailoring businesses and magazine offices.

It is now considered to be at the heart of Leeds’ Art Quarter and is home to Leeds Gallery.