Colin Williams

Sixteen South

Business Purpose

Sixteen South is a leading children’s television production company that creates and produces programming for broadcasters across the globe, including BBC, Nickelodeon, US cable giant Sprout and ABC Australia.  Their shows are broadcast in over 100 countries, into over 300 million homes worldwide.


Personal Bio

Colin is the founder and Creative Director of Sixteen South Television, making quality television for children all over the world. Colin’s shows are broadcast in over 100 countries, into over 300 million homes across the globe.  Colin works at the top of his game and already has partnered with the biggest global names in children’s television including Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company.  He has already won over 20 major creative and business awards and is very happy to be spending his career doing what he loves.

Graduating with a first class honours degree in graphic design, Colin worked in advertising before setting up his first business:  Inferno, a leading post production company.  From the outset, Colin’s business mantra has been simple:  Do some good, make some money, have some fun.

Colin is also the Visiting Professor at University of Ulster’s School of Art, where he is working to bring international attention to the school.  He is also a trustee at Storehouse North Down, a food bank that he and some others set up in 2012 to alleviate poverty in North Down.  He is married and most of all loves being a Dad to Sophie and Ben.


Company Profile

We’re passionate about creating and producing compelling television for children in every part of the world.  We create comedy, drama and entertainment, working in animation, live action and puppetry.

We love telling stories. Stories that make our young and not-so-young audiences stop and gaze at the awe and wonder all around them.  Stories that entertain, bring a thrill and a new perspective on life.

Founded five years ago in 2008, we’re based in Belfast, Northern Ireland – a city reborn with a new spirit, a creative determination, a passion for quality and a lot of pride in our creative community.  100% of our work is produced in Northern Ireland and 100% is made for export.

In our short history, we’ve already partnered with the biggest and most respected names in children’s entertainment around the globe, producing shows with Sesame Workshop, The Jim Henson Company and the BBC.

We have produced over 200 episodes of premium children’s television, which air across the world.  Our shows include Sesame Tree, Big City Park, Big and Small, Pajanimals and Driftwood Bay.

We are a Creative Business, which means both parts of that term really matter – the Creative and the Business.  Our children’s shows have already won over a dozen major international creative television awards including an IFTA, a BAFTA and a current nomination for two EMMY® awards – recognising quality in story and production.  And, in business, we are ranked among the UK’s top indie producers by Televisual and we have won the Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Star award in both 2011 and 2012.  We’ve always been in profit, had healthy turnover and have no debt.  We’re also one of the biggest employers in the Creative Industries with each of our productions creating in the region of 55 new jobs.

Pajanimals, our fourth production is a preschool show aimed at 2-3 year olds to help young children settle down to sleep.  It’s a partnership with The Jim Henson Company and the broadcaster; Sprout (an NBC channel).  It was completely produced in Belfast but airs in every home in the US on Saturday mornings on NBC, across Australia on ABC, across Europe on Disney Europe and in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. It’s currently estimated to be in excess of 300 million homes and the Pajanimals publishing and product range is available across the US and Australia.

We’re currently in production with our fifth show, Driftwood Bay, a mixed media animated preschool show about a little girl called Lily who lives in a beach hut with her Dad and goes on imaginary adventures to an island across the way called Driftwood Bay.  It is a wholly owned and home-grown IP and we have already sold the show to lead broadcasters in the UK, Ireland, US, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Israel and the Middle East.  We have a distributor on-board and are currently negotiating global publishing and Consumer Products deals for the brand.

We believe in giving back and actively support some charities that aim to bring life to children who need it.



What vision prompted you to start-up your business?

I had been running a successful commercial production and post production company and while it was doing well, I was unhappy that the work we were producing was all about selling stuff to people who didn’t want to buy it.  I wanted to create content that would make a difference and be seen, enjoyed and remembered in years to come.  Children’s television was exactly that.  I love it.


What were the best & worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?

Three pieces of worst advice:  Being told by my Biology A-level teacher that I was a waste of space and wouldn’t do anything with my life.  Being told by a tutor at Art College that animated media was too hard and wouldn’t catch on.  And being told by a local broadcaster not to think about getting into children’s television because it was impossible to get into and too hard to succeed.

The best advice was something I scribbled down myself as an ideal, way back before making the leap, and is still something that defines what we do:  ‘Do some good, make some money, have some fun’.


How did you secure your first investment?

I went to the bank and asked them to remortgage my house to raise some money to buy some equipment and pay the bills.


What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?

I was in a partnership before working for myself and I realised that it was not a good place to be.  I needed to leave, and without another job, a mortgage and a new born baby, it would’ve been too easy to choose a safe option.  Instead, I set up my own business.


What moment or deal would you identify as the “game changer” for the company?

I think that the game keeps changing and there are lots of game changing moments, which constantly move us to bigger opportunities and bigger challenges.  Starting the game producing Sesame Tree in partnership with Sesame Workshop at the time was massive – and made me wonder if we could grow from there.  Pajanimals, our fourth show in partnership with The Jim Henson Company and the broadcaster, Sprout brought us into the global market and our work into over 300 million homes.  And Driftwood Bay, our new show has had an incredible response from the market, gaining us independent credibility.


What are the biggest challenges you face now?

I love challenges and it’s what drives me.  I see them as positives!  Our biggest challenge is to get a large-scale children’s drama off the ground while juggling all the other shows and development that we are doing!


What is your greatest business achievement to date?

I believe in bringing life to the city.  To be able to create so many jobs in the city I love is the single biggest satisfaction there is.  To be able to create shows that children might look back on and remember fondly is really quite an incredible feeling.


What top tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?

Be passionate.  Believe you can do it.  And a ‘no’ doesn’t always mean ‘no’.


Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?

You would need to ask my Mum and Dad.


Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?

Absolutely.  I’m a Belfast boy and proud to be so.  It does not matter what colour you were born under, there’s no getting away from the fact that the people of Ireland as a whole are unique.  As a people, we’re natural storytellers.  We’re warm, honest, passionate, genuine and caring.  It’s no surprise that Ireland is doing so well in children’s entertainment with characteristics like this.


When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?

People of passion.

Year: 2013
Category: Emerging
Sector: Media