Aidan O’Rourke – Writer / Photographer / Guide / Linguist / Tutor – Business Profile
Introduce your business and tell us what you’ve been up to recently?
I am a creative mind, an independent freelancer, writer, photographer, guide, linguist and tutor. I help people to succeed. I teach photography and languages, including English as a Foreign Language. I write a weekly column in the Manchester Evening News, with photos and editorial. I’ve co-authored and contributed to local books. I’m developing my writing portfolio with a new photo manual and an Anglo-Chinese educational fantasy novel set in Cheshire.
What makes you different from other similar businesses in the area?
I am a creative individual, but some of the activities I do generate revenue, teaching, online advertising revenue from my site, sales of books and ebooks. I’m different because of my very unusual combination of skills and talents. I have a different perspective, influenced by my time abroad and knowledge of languages.
What flexibility does being an independent business give you over a national chain / business?
Well, as I am an independent person, I can develop what I do in ways that would be impossible as part of a larger organisation. I can combine teaching in languages and photography, which would be unheard of in an educational institution with its rigid guidelines and bureaucracy. I can be flexible and work on unusual projects. When I respond to people who book onto my photo walks in Manchester and Liverpool, I am able to reply personally 7 days a week. I can be a campaigner for local development without worrying about what the boss might think. I have not had a ‘boss’ for nearly 20 years.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for small businesses at the moment?
To find the best way to promote and spread the word about what you do. There are so many confusing and potentially destructive offerings out there. I know, I’ve been led down a false path a few times. You have to test things out and see what works but that’s not always easy to do. Organisations make false promises and try to impose their one-size-fits-all solutions on you.
Looking back, which piece of advice would you give to somebody setting up their own business today?
I can’t give anybody else advice on what they do as I’m not familiar with their activity. There is too much misleading and misinformed ‘advice’ out there, which often is of no use whatsoever. My advice is not to rely on others, but on yourself. Become an expert yourself, go out and research things, get a clear picture of what’s happening. Treat every piece of ‘advice’ you read online with scepticism!
Which are the best networking groups you regularly attend and why?
I don’t use networking groups as the people I would like to work with – tutoring clients – generally don’t go to them. However from time to time I go to Simply Networking as it’s interesting to meet people there and I can say hello to some of the people I know. I’ve also been to the Manchester China forum in connection with my Anglo-Chinese fiction project.
What part does Social Media play in your business?
I enjoy using Twitter, it’s my favourite. I often get into really interesting, fun conversations with people though I have never found any tutoring clients through Twitter. I use Facebook just to maintain a presence and keep in touch with people. I have a page AidanEyewitness and my personal account AidanPhotoLinguist. I am very dissatisfied with Facebook. I use it regularly, but I don’t use it all the time.
What is your biggest passion outside business?
My biggest passion IS my business, which is writing, photography, languages, being a guide and tutoring. Work is very enjoyable and fulfilling, in fact I get so much from it personally, it’s not work, it’s an integral part of my life, I just have to do it. I’m lucky to be able to enjoy this lifestyle, though there are downsides as well, principally lack of a salary and benefits.
What was the last book you read? (for business or pleasure)
The last book I read was my own book, Stargirl of the Edge, my Anglo-Chinese coming-of-age educational novel. I had to read it over again to carry out the final edits. I am very pleased with it. It draws on many experiences and mixes fantasy and fairy tale with contemporary life in Cheshire. I’m currently looking for ways to take the completed book forward to a UK, worldwide and Chinese audience.
Which is your all time favourite film? And who would play yourself in a movie of your life?
My favourite film is 2001, which I saw again recently at the Cornerhouse. My favourite locally based film is A Taste of Honey. I wouldn’t like to make a movie of my life. I would prefer to make a real life documentary of what I do, including the photography, the writing, travels around Manchester, Liverpool and the North West, my giving full rein to my opinions and criticisms. I will be playing myself. I am actually planning YouTube videos on this theme, and hope to present them soon.
Where are your favourite places to eat out / take out?
I don’t eat out very often but when I do, it’s with the family at a Chinese buffet. I also enjoy eating out on the Curry Mile at various restaurants. We have a very good chip shop round the corner, called the Davenport and across the road is a very nice Chinese takeaway called Fortune Garden. I have to admit, I also use McDonalds a lot because of the free wifi. I usually have a coffee and a deli sandwich without the fries.
Which is your favourite pub or bar and why?
Currently the Waterhouse on Princess St Manchester as it’s centrally located and the beer is very good and not too expensive! I also like to visit the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road and the Crown and Kettle, Oldham Road. I like the Muse café in the Manchester Museum on Oxford Road. In the past, I’ve gone to the Romper on the south side of Manchester Airport, just off the A538.
Which is your essential must visit high street independent shop?
That has to be the Filipino and Oriental grocery shop on Wellington Road south, Adastra Pacific. The business is run by Tess from the Philippines and her husband Tony. They have really worked hard to develop the shop and they have also built up a very effective online shop as well. They are at the centre of the Filipino and Oriental community in the Stockport area. They are living proof of the value of an independent shop and how it can be beneficial to the community. www.adastrapacific.co.uk
What’s been the most impressive new business you’ve seen open in the past 12 months?
I am impressed by Big Exposure Print, an independent printing service based near Disley. I’ve worked with proprietor Garry Lomas for many years and I’m impressed with his dedication and skill. He has made canvas versions of many of my photographs and they are of the highest standard. He is also a very talented photographer and has built up a huge portfolio of wildlife photography taken around Lyme Park and surrounding countryside. www.bigexposureprint.co.uk And I’d also like to mention his wife’s new business. Her name Sharon Lomas and she runs For The Love of Vintage. More info at www.fortheloveofvintage.co.uk
In an ideal world which major improvement would you like to see happen in your area / town ?
I’d like to see an improvement in public transport. The division of Greater Manchester into areas dominated by one or other private bus companies is in my opinion very unsatisfactory. We are way behind Germany and the Netherlands in public transport and it seems we always will be, to the detriment of the local economy.
Finally if we want to find out more – what is your website address and social media profiles?
My main site is www.aidan.co.uk or just search for ‘Aidan Manchester’ and my social media profiles are Twitter @AidanEyewitness FB AidanEyewitness and AidanPhotoLinguist.