We spoke to Ali Mehrkar about the rise and rise of Origins
He launched the company with friends in his final year at Bath
Ali started Origins in September 2012 in Bath, after finishing a third year placement at Morgan Stanley (OTC collateral). The Tab met up with Ali to find out how it all started.
Ali had always been interested in dance music, but he says: “I didn’t realise the extent that other people in Bath were interested. There were people running dance music nights but Bath needed a big, all-inclusive party.”
“There were good parties going on, but we wanted to open up dance music to wider community.
“Before, those who went to student club nights wouldn’t have gone to dance nights.
“Moles [a club that burnt down] and The Porter had underground nights, ‘Recall’ and ‘Metripolis’, but it was for a very specific crowd.”
There were no dance night for Bath Uni students, and Ali saw a gap in the market.
The Porter Cellar Bar had a cancellation, leaving the Origins team an opening for their first night.
“Commercial nights centred around going drinking and fraternising – Origins focused on a big party and around seeing a new credible dance music artist, in an intimate venue. Something that you wouldn’t expect to happen in a city like Bath”
Ali says: “Most entrepreneurs plan for ages, but often this is proves detrimental as there are too many worries and concerns.
They didn’t want to take an ‘alternative or different’ angle at Bath, because it’s just far too commercial.
“We focused on a final year crowd, willing to try new things and after four parties, we realised we were onto something.”
Research came after that, Ali says. “It was and still is important to bring in DJ’s who are up and coming.”
The Origins team started off small, “it was mainly DJs we knew personally, or those we’d message on SoundCloud.
“We used to get £80 per party at The Porter, all this money would go to DJs and their travel.
“The first DJ collective we booked was Eton Messy, and Applebottom followed soon after.”
It wasn’t long before word of mouth helped to spread the popularity and attract the big names. “The hardest thing was marketing ourselves with a small budget, trying to make the night appealing.”
One of their main priorities was being different each time. Origins will rarely have the same act twice in Bath.
“We’d have the same residents warm-up DJs, but our main showpiece always has to be something different”.
Ben Pearce was their first commercially recognised name. “Moles supported us financially for the bigger artists in the beginning, which was brilliant – so we have a lot to thank them for. From the time we were booking acts like Dusky, Sidney Charles, Bondax, we were paying for the shows ourselves. Often hedging about 4K on an event”.
Ali’s advice is as follows:
“Get a strong idea of what you are offering, and key to keep your customer interested and coming back for more.
“If you have an idea that you think will be a success, run with it and try it. You’ll never know until you fail or get fucked over.
“Be ready to be fucked over by those who either copy your idea or are jealous of your success and learn to take it as motivational factor.
“Realise that any attempt to copy you or put you down should be motivation.
“When things go wrong, don’t let it stop you.
“‘The party must go on’ – this was our motto after Moles burnt down and the issues we faced as a result.”
After Graduation, Joe and Ali stayed in Bath working on the nightlife and Origins but also Origins Sound the artist. “We struggled with our finances, paying rent and paying for the DJs out of our own pocket.” Origins Sound really propelled Origins, releasing on 10 recognised Dance Music labels.
Ali took a graduate job at Accenture, but realised it wasn’t for him.
When asked if Accenture helped him set up and run a business, Ali’s reply was: “I don’t actually know if I learnt anything from Accenture with regards to running a business.
“They have a very strict way of doing things and although they encourage you to deviate and be innovative, a lot of the time they aren’t as supportive as you would think.”
Ali very quickly got sick of the “stupidly long hours” and the atmosphere he encountered working there.
The mentality is different nowadays as university students are far more likely to forgo a career at a multinational to take a chance at starting their own company. On average, a staggering 80 companies are born each hour in 2016, according to The Telegraph.
Speaking at the event:
Ajaz Ahmed, Founder of AKQA
Huib Van Bockel, Ex-Head of Marketing at Red Bull
Magnus Gaarder, Venture Capitalist at Naute Capital
George Marangos-Gilks, founder of The Tab
Alison Edgar, top 10 UK Business Advisors
There will also be exclusive goodie-bags given out containing:
2 Entrepreneurship Books (RRP £25)
1 Packet of Propercorn
Bath Entrepreneurs and Enactus stash
and much more…
There will also be food from Hotcha, a Thai restaurant in town.
The event organisers say: “Young people are now happy to go it on their own and not so concerned with following the trend that their parents expect them to follow”.
One piece of advice for those who want to start their own thing: “Spend less time thinking about what you want to do, do what you think could work and won’t expect it to work at first.
“Often the most successful people haven’t been successful with their first venture but it’s the one that’s taught them the most and made their second, third or fourth attempt at success.”