Alumni Stories - Stefan Lewandowski
Name: Stefan Lewandowski
Job Title: Founder and Director of 3form.
Becoming Birmingham Young Professional of the Year, developing games for Mars and designing (websites) for Vivienne Westwood - it has certainly been work, play, but not a lot of rest for alumnus Stefan Lewandowski.
Stef Lewandowski (BSc Computer Science and Software Engineering 1999) has had a busy few years - as a founder and director of 3form - a graphic design, internet and software agency - he has received widespread recognition for his creativity originality and business know-how and established 3form as one of the brightest new businesses in the creative industries.
However, the foundations of 3form were actually laid during Stef's time at Birmingham. 'I came up with the idea of a loose umbrella organisation called 3form with people doing all sorts of creative projects such as animation, video graphics, dance and music and we decided to run events and shows at the Guild,' explains Stef, 'one day I was talking to Antonio Gould (BSc Maths and Artificial Intelligence 1998) and we realised that he was talented on the technical side and I was good at the free thinking ideas and design and so we decided to combine the two to offer a good service to people on the freelance model.'
After graduation, Stef and Antonio began to grow the company until in 2000 they got their first big break, the development of an early content management system for two friends. 'Our friends decided to travel across the States and wanted to document their trip - so we wrote a system in our spare time so they could go into an internet café, update their content and upload their photos. No-one had heard of this before and Creative Review called it one of the 50 Sites of the Year.'
The combination of high quality design and technical innovation proved to be a winning formula and within six months, 3form were working on projects for Sprite, Kitekat and Mars, before winning the pitch to design Vivienne Westwood's site. 'It was a really good opportunity for us,' says Stef, 'and enabled us to work directly with a client coming up with creative ideas. We have a rule that every project we do has to have something new in it - it's where we get our creative freedom.'
Indeed, Stef is keen to stress that creativity is an inherent part of business, exploding the myth that creative business cannot be successful. 'There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you are creative you won't make any money - the words creative and business seem to be mutually distinct but business is inherently creative - you constantly need to be thinking on your feet and coming up with products and ideas.'
It is this innovative and determined thinking that saw Stef named as part of the Channel 4 IDEASFACTORY Creative Class and win the Birmingham Young Professional of the Year Award, 'It was a surprise as the people who have won it before me were more experienced and from larger organisations.'
Not content with the success of 3form, Stef's spare time is taken up with his music label, Type Records and his new love of photography, 'I also like hill-walking, mountaineering and snowboarding - all the typical web designer clichés'
So what advice would he give to people who want to go it only with their own business? 'People often ask 'how do you take the risk and make that first step'? Well, there is a lot of support out there for people to start their own companies - the worst thing to think is that no-one is interested in your idea. If you have a good idea, people will listen.'
'The University's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre can offer you help and support and you can also utilise the network of contacts you make at University. One of the best things about Birmingham is the network that you develop, the people you come into contact with and the ideas that you can bounce around. Without the University experience I wouldn't be doing what I am doing now.'