THIS week’s High Flyer is Ali MacFarlane, founder of award winning Belfast digital agency Sugar Rush Creative and its sister company Animate Studios.
What was your first job?
Junior designer in the studio of a Belfast advertising agency. I worked on low level design projects and was general tea boy.
What qualifications do you have?
HND from Rupert Stanley College and degree in Visual Communications from Belfast’s Art College. I am a qualified chartered designer from Chartered Society of Designers in London.
What do you attribute your success to?
I founded Sugar Rush Creative in 2003 and our agency is consistently a forerunner of digital innovation and transformation, which I attribute to the talented team I work alongside together with old fashioned hard graft.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
Respectful to others, positive in nature and I try not to take myself too seriously.
Who do you look up to in business?
My unofficial mentor is Jim Johnston, former chairman of Johnston Campbell and CBMC. He’s given me a steer in so many aspects of business and taught me to always conduct business with integrity and values. Jim is my Warren Buffett.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
Empowerment to allow others to voice their ideas and opinions. The success of Sugar Rush is down to the incredible team I work with, everyone brings high energy and raw talent to the table.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
I’d change two things. We’d have a functioning government and I’d love to see more support for owner-led businesses.
What website or app could you not do without?
As the owner of a digital agency producing award-winning and life-saving apps for clients there are several apps I couldn’t do without, but Twitter is my favourite. I don’t post much, but reading instant news posts or stories from around the world feeds an addiction.
What was the last book you read?
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman examining the life of a Gen Xer.
What car do you drive?
My pride and joy is my red 1980’s BMW 635csi
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
I was lucky enough to go on a rugby tour to South Africa – a great way to explore an amazing country.
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
I’m a petrol head and love my sports. Huge rugby fan and lucky enough to have an Ulster Rugby season ticket. Rugby World Cup is this year so I’ll be in my element!