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How Patrick is shaping the world to his image

From the idyllic English countryside to Dubai and Copenhagen, where he’s building a growing content studio for startups, Patrick found his place in Denmark and is working to ensure that other internationals do, too.

Photographs: CoHo

Text: Michaela Medveďová

With a few businesses under his belt, you wouldn’t think that Patrick Bates could have ever felt like an outsider. But beginnings in a new country are always hard.

So now, he is working to create the Copenhagen he would have liked in the beginning—one full of opportunities for internationals.

As idyllic as it gets

“Patrick spent the first part of his life in the idyllic, classic English countryside. “I’m from the southwest of England. There were about 300 people in my village and just lots of greenery and fields. So, being a country boy, that really was my lifestyle. So that transition at 19 to go live in Dubai was a big one,” laughs Patrick.

Growing up in a village had its pros and cons. Patrick would go to school in a nearby bigger town, and all of his friends were there - but often, when they would do things in the evening, he would be stuck in the village unless his parents would take him. “It was kind of lonely at times, but you also have more freedom. My parents chose that place because it was safer, and I could just run around doing whatever I wanted. There was something beautiful about running around in the countryside fields and playing hide and seek in the village. All these little things you wouldn’t really have in a busy town.”

But even though the village only had 300 people in it, there was something right opposite Patrick’s house - a chocolate factory that made designer chocolate.”There was this big window facing the street where you could see the workers packaging the chocolate. And obviously, everyone knows everyone, so you’d always smile and wave, and they’d smile and wave back. You’d always go knock on their door during trick or treating, or they would sell these little one-pound bags of faulty chocolates they can’t sell,” remembers Patrick.

When he was 18, they were looking for someone to fill in for one of the workers, and Patrick was just taking his gap year. “So I took it up. It was long hours, from five or six in the morning, when the big lorries would drop off the pallets of chocolate beans and a late finish. But it was a fun new experience, and I started taking on more and more responsibility and doing everything they needed - so I negotiated a £2 an hour pay increase. They were shocked a young guy like me was this disruptive and knew his worth. Then suddenly, I was the highest-paid employee in the chocolate factory. We had to agree not to tell anyone about it.”

That was a sweet 8 months, but then, another opportunity came knocking.

Off the deep end in Dubai

Patrick’s brother knew a guy who started a video production company in Dubai, working with some of the biggest brands in the world. “We’d see the content on Instagram, and I always enjoyed the idea of filming and editing, even though I hadn’t done much before. So my brother connected me with his friend in Dubai so I could pitch to him that I’d work for him for free if he paid for the flights and accommodation.” He took him up on it - so Patrick boarded a flight to Dubai. That was the further he’d ever gone on a plane.

And he was really thrown in at the deep end - within three days of getting there, Patrick was instructed to clean the cameras of a six or seven-person crew. “I was so scared of touching them or even looking at them. The whole thing was intimidating - I mean, for a start, we were on the 43rd floor of a big skyrise on the Dubai Marina. The next day, he sent me out on my first shoot - and actually put the camera in my hand and said he wanted me to film as the second camera operator.” But what he found out was that he quickly knew what to do and had an eye for this kind of creative filming. “When I came back to the office, my boss looked at it and said: What the hell, you can actually shoot! Now, can you also edit it? He made me do the entire edit as well - and when we delivered the content, it was approved. Actually, the video was for Carlsberg,” smiles Patrick.

So from then on, Patrick started going on more and more shoots, becoming a full-time paid filmmaker and editor. “We travelled around the Middle East for projects, filming with some of the biggest brands and trying different things I could add to the resume.” While Patrick was only there for four months, the sheer number of projects he worked on was the perfect crash course for the industry. “I’m very thankful to my boss, who took me under his wing and mentored me. I experienced the whole entrepreneurial side of running the business with the pains and frustrations that go with it, and also the shooting side of things, and learning how to use a camera. It was the ultimate entrepreneurial filmmaking experience which basically meant I could build my own business off the back of what I did in those four months.”

"So I moved into a collegium in Copenhagen - 73 Danish people there, and they’ve never had a single foreigner living with them before. It was a proper cultural shift. And that was the start of my student lifestyle in 2019."

Flipping the coin

Before Patrick moved to Dubai, he worked at a lot of different jobs during his gap year - not just in the chocolate factory, but he was also a door-to-door milk salesman, worked at a storage unit, and as a security guard at concerts. “I wanted to get a job at IBM and become a business analyst at 18. It would come with a great salary, and my vision was to start a property business where I would buy properties, rent them out, and build my portfolio that way. I actually got offered that IBM job - and then the Dubai opportunity came.”

So when the initial time was up in Dubai, the choice was again there: to stay there and continue building his filmmaking career, to work at IBM back home in England, or to try another country, get a degree, and try out the student life.

Patrick had also applied to study at CBS in Copenhagen and got in. “I really struggled with the decision for a long time. But then I thought: I tried the UK already, and I don’t see myself in a corporate role. I tried Dubai, and even though I was there only for a short time if I came back later, they would probably give me the same role because I was a pretty big asset to the team. So I said screw it, let’s do Copenhagen.”

It was not as random a choice as it might have seemed - Patrick is actually half-Danish, as his mom moved to the UK from Jutland in the 1980s. “So I moved into a collegium in Copenhagen - 73 Danish people there, and they’ve never had a single foreigner living with them before. It was a proper cultural shift. And that was the start of my student lifestyle in 2019.”

But even though he has roots in Denmark, Patrick never really felt Danish - nor did he learn how to speak it. “The first six to ten months, I felt like a massive outsider. People would start talking in English but then switch to Danish during the dinner clubs in the evenings. It was just really tough. At the time, I considered leaving because feeling like a social outsider can be quite tricky, especially if you’re so young and you just expect people to accommodate you. But I quickly had to push my ego aside and realize I was in their country, in their territory. It was fair they didn’t have to talk in English all the time. It was not personal. Realizing this was a turning point for me, I started building up my confidence more from then on.”

Five years later, Patrick has a Danish girlfriend and a Danish dog (in his words), some of his old collegium friends are among his closest friends, and he feels like he fits in much more.

Venturing out on your own

Patrick always had an entrepreneurial side to him - and his experience in Dubai motivated him even more to want to do his own thing. “I basically spent the first year in Denmark putting my SU into a bucket to slowly save up the money to buy a good camera. And after a lot of rejections from applying for jobs at bars, I finally found a job at a little boat bar in Nyhavn so it was extra money in my pocket to help save up for a camera.”

After he got one, Patrick would sit in the back at his university lectures and email all little startups in Copenhagen, asking them if he could film for them for free - just to build a reputation and a portfolio for himself. “I had hundreds reject me, hundreds that went bankrupt, but a few actually said yes.” He did three videos for three brands, and his company, 4V Films, started from there, basically from his dorm room,

Overall, Denmark - and Copenhagen - is a good place to start a business in. The only barrier Patrick discovered was the networking side of it. “The attitude often was Danish or nothing else. But when you’re trying to create contacts and connections, you need to do it in English - it’s way harder to build those connections in broken Danish.”

So, to help bring about change, he started a group called Expat Entrepreneurs in Copenhagen - a free Facebook group where they would do regular events for free for entrepreneurs in English just to provide a platform for those who want to network and grow together. “It quickly got a lot of traction and that means a lot of people wanted this concept. Within a year, we had about a thousand people, and now it’s at about 1400.”

When Patrick started 4V Films in his dorm room, it was just him. After he met his girlfriend, she also jumped on the project to help him. Slowly, he started hiring a team and ultimately grew the company to 5 employees.

“In the last couple of years, I transitioned from the shooting side to running the business instead. It’s been a long time since I have picked up a camera. And I don’t really miss it - I think I used the camera as the tool or the vehicle to get to entrepreneurship. I much prefer building something people can benefit from, and that can scale and grow and have an impact on the world.”

One of the struggles, though? The financial side of running a business. “All of Skat was in Danish up until recently. Finance has always been a massive challenge. Luckily, now I have a bookkeeper who I can just write on WhatsApp and screenshot my e-Boks messages.”

Actually, if there is one thing that Patrick learned about moving to Denmark, it’s that you should take your e-Boks seriously.

“Because I am half-Danish, I qualified for Danish military conscription. But when I moved here, I was already 20, older than the usual age. So, one summer, I was heading back to England and was stopped at the airport. They were looking at my passport for a bit too long and then said: ‘You’re wanted by the Danish police. You were sent a letter into your e-Boks about the military conscription, and you did not turn up to the trials. That’s illegal here in Denmark. So you’re gonna have to go to prison now.’ I always thought e-Boks was for boring tax information and surveys, so I didn’t check it that often. So then, three armed policemen escorted me through the whole airport, baggage reclaim, and through arrivals, where everyone was waving their Danish flag. They handed me over, put me into a car, and drove me into the main prison in Copenhagen. I underwent the whole thing - strip, search, getting thrown into a prison cell. And I was there for 23 hours and sat there doing nothing. I ended up carving my initials into the wall with a plastic knife. The next day, they took me to the camp, did the medical test, and then sat me down and started speaking Danish. I said, look, I don’t speak any Danish, I don’t know what’s going on. And they said, well, you can’t be in the army if you don’t speak Danish, you’re free to go. So I had to drag my suitcase with a broken handle through the fields to a bus stop to try and get myself back to Copenhagen. I had to make sure I didn’t have a criminal record. The whole thing cost me about 9 thousand kroner and 34 hours in prison - because I didn’t check my e-Boks.”

Content house

Luckily, Patrick was able to put this episode behind him and go on to have his entrepreneurial journey in Denmark.

After a few years of growing 4V Films, the team was working with bigger and bigger brands. But this did not quite fit with their original mission statement - to help startups and small brands compete against larger corporations with great, accessible content. “It was much more fulfilling because there was more of an impact when we were helping a small business. One video can absolutely change their business. Whereas a video for Audi is like a drop in the ocean.”

So the team looked back and thought: What can they do to help small businesses? Creating great content, it’s expensive, time-consuming, and overwhelming. To do it long-term is difficult for small companies. Out of that, the idea for CoHo - or Content House - was born. “We tested the idea of a studio where companies would pay for a membership. They could get unlimited access and book it whenever they wanted. It really works for busy startup founders as we become this plug-and-play content solution.” Alongside meeting their content needs, CoHo introduces a community for the founders.

Patrick knew they had a unique idea on their hands, so they doubled down on it, and spent the first six months testing the concept right in the apartment where he lives with his girlfriend. The concept proved to be right on the money - about 20 brands used it, and when the team found a cool studio space in Frederiksberg and started selling spots, they sold out their offer within three minutes. “We were only selling five annual memberships, but that was enough for us to fund the expansion without having to use our own money or look for investors. So we basically managed to crowdfund the concept.”

Now, they are a team of seven, with 16 clients on the annual membership. The goal is to get to 60 by the end of the year, expand to a bigger studio next year, and have a thousand members within several CoHos in different cities around the world.

Don't leave too early

Now, Patrick really thinks he is getting the best out of Denmark. “I don’t feel like an outsider anymore. Even though I still can’t speak Danish, I throw what I know into my conversations sometimes. It’s important to show you can try.” When it comes to building a business, Patrick’s advice for overcoming the language barrier is to have Danes in your team who can help you navigate the cultural side of the business. “But ultimately, my goal is to keep pushing for a more international Copenhagen and more opportunities for English-speaking people, especially on the entrepreneurial side - and I think we’re getting closer to that.”

Ultimately, he couldn’t be happier that he did not go through with his plan to abandon ship when life was tough during his first year in Denmark. “I think a lot of expats feel like that in the beginning - like an outsider, like a victim. But I think what it really takes is having that conversation with yourself where you can take a step back, put your ego aside, build your confidence to keep going, and just throw yourself into that experience. Because you’ll thank yourself. I’d really regret leaving too early."

CoHo – The Content House is a dynamic, modern studio based in Copenhagen. Patrick's team is a big mix of cultures. It naturally attracts internationals as well as Danes, and now they have an awesome 50/50 mix of both that works really well! If you're looking for a community and would like to become a member, visit their website to find out more:

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Truly Inspiring!

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