This case study charts the development of an Irish animation company from small, unambitious beginnings to becoming an award-winning, globally recognized company with a growing list of international clients nearly ten years later. It describes how the enterprise emerged at a time of demographic and cultural change in Ireland, and how the withdrawal of significant investment in the animation sector created entrepreneurial opportunities. Having charted the issues that underpinned Brown Bag’s early success and acclaim, the case ends by highlighting a set of strategic decisions which the directors faced eight years after an ‘accidental’ beginning in 1994.
2. The position of the case
This case provides an opportunity to examine the evolution of a small enterprise which was very much a ‘labor of love’ in its start-up phase rather than a profit-oriented business. It tells the story of how a small start-up begins by explaining the socio-cultural background which predated the establishment of Brown Bag. The genesis of the firm is described in terms which unearths the unique cultural, demographic and market conditions which influenced the directors, and the forces within the animation market, and the global and Irish national economies which shaped these. The case explores some of the detail behind the firm’s initial projects and the rationales which presented to the directors and encouraged them to change their strategic direction.
3. Learning objectives
The Brown Bag case study is intended to provide a business case that is in many respects typical of entrepreneurial start-up companies who reach their goals and need to re-think strategy to survive and compete. It is written in a straightforward fashion which attempts to unpack the social, cultural and economic factors which led to the growth of the Irish animation sector and takes the reader through Brown Bag’s gradual accumulation of a structure and a strategy. The case provides an opportunity to conduct strategic analyses, e.g. employing competence analysis, PESTEL and SWOT analyses.
The case can be used as follows:
• To conduct a strategic analysis and review the options available to the firm at a particular strategic juncture • To provide an example of a post-startup scenario often faced by entrepreneurs.
4. Teaching process
The case is suitable for undergraduate and MBA students as an introduction to some of the basic concepts and techniques associated with strategy. A suggested learning sequence might be as follows: • Students individually read and consider the case prior to the case session • Students may then be provided with the case questions and form groups to consider all of the questions while specializing in one of the questions in order to develop a brief class presentation • Each class presentation is followed by a wider class discussion. This structure provides a logical development for a case session.
5. Questions for discussion
Some of the tasks and questions that might be asked include: 1. Conduct competence, PESTEL and SWOT analyses on Brown Bag Films. 2. How should the directors capitalize on their Oscar nomination? 3. What should the key elements of Brown Bag’s strategy for enlargement be? 4. How can Brown Bag overcome its lack of investment capital? 5. How can the directors increase their understanding of business management issues? 6. Should the company be restructured? If so, how? If not, why not? 7. How typical is this case of the experience of directors of SMEs? 8. If Brown Bag could hire one extra person as a member of its core staff, what role should that person hold?
6. Case analysis
6.1 Conduct competence, PESTEL and SWOT analyses on Brown Bag Films Competence Analysis
• Proven ability to deliver quality product to a growing base of commercial clients. • Access to experienced talent pool and appropriate technology. • Commercially oriented management team.