Face to face: Stephen Mollinson

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to antipodean entrepreneur Stephen Mollinson, who set up Graphic Design and Print at Holt earlier this year.

In her latest Face to Face interview, KAREN BETHELL talks to antipodean entrepreneur Stephen Mollinson, who set up Graphic Design and Print at Holt earlier this year. The community interest company, which supports people with learning disabilities, is already raking in business, and Stephen's dream now is to set up satellite versions around the country . . .

Born the middle child of 7 in Brisbane, Australia, Stephen trained as a graphic designer before taking time out to travel around Europe.

He met future wife Lillian at Nottingham, where she was manager of a home for people with learning disabilities, fell “madly in love” and, less than a year later, the couple were married and living in Brisbane, where Lillian began training as a social worker.

After returning to the UK, Stephen worked for a Bedfordshire print and design company before he and Lillian decided to escape the rat race to run a bed and breakfast in a tiny village on the Isle of Skye.

Workaholic Stephen, however, ended up setting up a graphics project for people with learning difficulties at the island's only print company, while Lillian spent her days visiting social work clients.

By now both in their forties, the couple had given up hope of having children. But, 3 years ago, they were thrilled to discover that Lillian was pregnant.

Most Read

After the birth of son Daniel, which saw the pair make a 240 mile round trip to Inverness Hospital, they decided to return to England to be near Lillian's parents in Cambridgeshire.

They moved to Thornage 18 months ago and, earlier this year, Stephen realised his dream of setting up a community interest company (CIC) - a social enterprise where profits and assets are used for the public good.

Graphic Design and Print, which provides services ranging from graphic and website design to digital print and project management, offers individually tailored taster sessions for adults and young people with learning disabilities.

Those signing up, who can be referred by social services, parents and carers or other agencies, are taught by graphic design tutor Sarah Wickham, with Lillian taking care of the social work side.

Stephen plans to take on 3 full-time apprentices this year and eventually hopes to set up similar schemes in other areas.

For more information, visit www.gdpcic.com

What is the best thing about your job?

Being able to create an environment that enables people with learning disabilities to have chances of real employment. They are the most socially isolated and discriminated against people in society today and my passion is to help them feel valued by paying skilled wages and showing them the real world, rather than a subsidised version.

And the worst?

Having to work 24 hours a day!

What one possession would you save if your house was on fire?

My laptop, because it is attached to my body! Having it is great as it means that I can work wherever I am, but it also means that a holiday is never really a holiday as I always take it with me.

Where do you go to unwind?

The beaches along the north Norfolk coast with our two collies Cassie and Bobbob. They are happy now, but had a sad start in life as they are both rescue dogs. When we got them, Cassie had cigarette burns and Bobbob had been abandoned in a house after the owners moved away.

What is you favourite Norfolk building?

The Forum. It is the biggest meeting place for people in Norwich, it encapsulates community involvement and the actual building is awe-inspiring.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

I once bungee jumped off a Victorian railway bridge over a gorge in Queenstown, New Zealand. It was pretty scary as there was a fast-flowing river at the bottom.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I once had a Ned Kelly beard and I'd like to try that again, but I think I'd scare people too much!

What is your proudest moment?

Holding my son Daniel just after he was born; he fell asleep on my chest and we stayed like that for hours.

And your greatest achievement?

Making Graphic Design and Print a reality through hard work and dedication. There have been lots of high points and low points and, because of the pitfalls, there were plenty of times when I thought I'd be better off just getting a job, but we got there in the end.

Who do you most admire?

The author Terry Pratchett, for his unique writing skills and his ability to create a completely different world - even in the face of adversity.

Do you have any fears or phobias?

I have dreamt of being naked in public, but I'm always too tired to dream nowadays.

What makes you angry?

The decline of British industry in general and the way it has all gone to other countries. The quality of the products we are offered back is so poor that it affects all our lives.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

Book: anything in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, film: Mad Max with Mel Gibson, and my favourite TV show would have to be the BBC series Coast as it shows parts of the country you wouldn't normally get to see.

How would you like to be remembered?

As being brave enough to wear shorts in public in the UK!