Meet the 18-year-old who dropped out of school to set up his dream business
Elliot Baines dropped out of school at the age of 14 and was homeschooled after his lighting design venture took off.
Mr Baines created Halifax-based Spiralstagelighting in order to pursue his passion for lighting productions.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “Me and my family used to go to quite a lot of festivals. We’re a very musical family.
“When we went to shows, I used to always be interested in lights. I really started out at a young age.”
He would put incense sticks and torches in the fireplace and pretend that it was a stage.
Mr Baines added: “By the time I was eight I started collecting disco lights because me and my dad went to a venue in Bradford called Rio’s where he was playing at the time. That’s where I had a go at the lighting desk and fell in love with it.”
While his teachers were accommodating enough to let him pursue his passion, it came to a point where it started getting in the way of his school lessons.
He said: “I felt sorry because I did have some nice teachers and they were starting to get a bit annoyed because I was always taking time off.
“It really started to take off when I was in high school. We met up with the headteacher to think of what we could do. He turned around and said ‘get home-schooled’.”
Mr Baines believes that careers advice should do more to help young people turn their passion into a business.
“There’s business studies and things like that but that’s just teaching you business studies,” he says. “It’s not showing you how to make your passion into a job.”
Mr Baines was unable to formally register Spralstagelighting as a business until October 2019. However, he had already begun working in the industry. The young entrepreneur was looking forward to a busy 2020 but just as he thought Spiralstagelighting was about to properly take off, the pandemic hit.
Mr Baines said: “I was only 16 and we had all these shows that year that were fully confirmed. I was so excited and then the pandemic came. Every ten minutes a project would drop out.”
He added: “It was so confusing. I was quite nervous – I’d dropped out of school and I thought what am I supposed to do now?”
The 18-year-old decided to take stock and work on his business during the pandemic after realising that a lot of others had completely left the industry. It also reminded Mr Baines of why he got into the lighting game in the first place.
Mr Baines said: “Although the industry is very business-minded and competitive, we’re just a bunch of people that like doing lighting. Everyone in the industry is not in the industry for money.
“I’m doing lighting because I like lighting. Everyone in the industry is in it for the fun of it. They enjoy it. It’s their passion.”
Last year, live events came back with a vengeance. Mr Baines said: “It might not have seemed it for a lot of the general public but companies that are in the industry really experienced a lot of clients coming back and a lot of new clients also coming on board.”
Mr Baines has worked with the likes of rappers Skepta and Aitch, lighting the main stages at Reading and Leeds Festivals for the latter.
“We’ve also done work in Dubai on exhibitions and also designed lighting for a few church installations in the US,” he said.
Spiralstagelighting is also working with Don Papa Rum.
Establishing his dream venture
Elliot Baines credits people within the industry for helping him establish his dream venture.
The 18-year-old has been mentored by experienced industry professionals along the way.
When it comes to learning the ins and outs of using software to design lighting for shows, Mr Baines is “self taught”.
“I didn’t really have to take that much training because YouTube has so many videos on there,” he said.
Spiralstagelighting works with freelancers and suppliers, sending them the specifications, who help realise the firm’s vision.
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