Jonathan Catney - BSc (Hons) Applied Marine Sports Science

Current employer: Chimpsta

Current job title: Managing Director

Current location: Plymouth

“Being at Plymouth helped me to develop the skills I have today. It also helped me to find the things I enjoy outside of work. Most importantly, it has opened up pathways…with a great support network.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

It has been a rocky one to say the least. I managed to get a full time job straight out of University at a local creative agency heading up their events and sales. It was great; however, deep down I knew it wasn’t for me long term. I suppose this was because I had already dabbled in my own businesses and events and knew that, ideally, I’d end up running my own company. Ultimately, I have since ended up back running my own company and a year ago made the leap to go full time, focusing on building the business into something more sustainable.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

I wouldn’t have said my career path has changed, I would, however, say that the method of getting into my preferred position has varied considerably. I went from full-time sales and events to organising small events around Plymouth, through to delivering bouncy castles for a friend and, more recently, I was a part-time delivery boy for Domino’s Pizza. At one stage, I had three part-time jobs and was doing around 100 hours a week.

However, things changed when I decided to set up Instachimp. We were first introduced to the team at Plymouth Science Park through a connection at Plymouth University. We arranged a visit to look at the offices and I was very surprised at the facilities on offer, from fully fledged data centres to free client parking and also a whole range of support and mentoring available to tenants. As a start-up, we're always growing and it's great to know that we can go from a small office for two, right through to a self contained building that'll fit 60!

We’ve since expanded, have taken on more staff, rebranded, and are now called Chimpsta. We've built a client base throughout Europe and we’ve successfully delivered experiential marketing activations for some very well-known clients who keep coming back for more, which is extremely rewarding given how short it’s been since we started the business. It’s certainly exciting times ahead – with the addition of a new online, on-demand print store in the next couple of months and new tech coming soon. I'm extremely happy that we made the decision to move to Plymouth Science Park and look forward to being able to continue growing the company with the help of the team at the park.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Failure. This is quite simply the worst and most difficult thing to face. It is the defining moment which makes or breaks a person. My first big venture was to take over, renovate, and re-open a skate park. Ultimately, it failed and left me, personally, owing tens of thousands. It’s situations like this that wake you up to the reality of the game. At that point you either throw in the towel or man up and take the losses in the same stride as the wins. I took a gamble, pushed through it, worked three jobs paid off the debts and set another company up (Instachimp, now Chimpsta) at the same time… I was curious to see what was on the other side and in all honesty I didn’t think that I had much else to lose.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

The best part is going to work in a company that you love and are genuinely excited about being a part of. We’ve done loads of great activations for clients through Chimpsta but nothing beats the excitement you get when talking about your own business.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Being at Plymouth helped me to develop the skills I have today. It also helped me to find the things I enjoy outside of work. Most importantly, it has opened up pathways that have enabled me to take necessary risks for personal development with a great support network.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

Yes, I still speak to some of my old lecturers every now and again. Plymouth University are one of our clients, which helps, so I often bump into people at the events we are covering.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about our range of courses within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni are currently doing, please visit the marine, earth, geography and environment interest area.