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Chris Hobbs

Chris Hobbs on turning history's pages

By Chris Hobbs

Founder - History Bombs

As founder of BAFTA award-winning education company, History Bombs, and Business Development Director and sixth generation in the family business, Hobbs The Printers, Chris Hobbs’ dual-professions draw upon the past, whilst applying modern methodologies.

After a Politics MA from The University of Edinburgh, and then qualifying as a Chartered Accountant whilst working for PwC and EY, Chris craved a more creative path and founded a production company to create engaging educational videos for children.

History Bombs has since won a BAFTA Children’s Award, been watched in thousands of schools across the world, created content for clients including BBC Learning, English Heritage, and Historic Royal Palaces, and generated a following of nearly 200,000 subscribers on YouTube.

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What inspired you to focus on history as a subject for History Bombs?

I think history is endlessly fascinating; I've had a lifelong interest in history. Introducing history with live action video is compelling because human nature hasn't changed in thousands of years. Once we understand the conditions of the time, we can really dial into people's motivations. We love thinking of ourselves in those settings and how we might react in those environments.

I also think that a lot of kids at school have the experience of not really enjoying history and it's typically something people come to later in life. Making history engaging for kids is something we're really passionate about. The feedback that I love the most is when kids make their own versions of our videos – that's super cool to see.

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Where would you like to take the project in the future?

Our focus is growing our educational website, historybombs.com, with schools and home schoolers. We’ve had good uptake in the US as well as the UK and we’d like to get more exposure in the UK and US markets and sell to many more schools.

Locally, I would love to make some videos to celebrate Southampton’s rich and diverse history. If there are any local businesses or organisations interested in sharing Southampton’s history, perhaps even sponsoring some video content, I would be excited to talk to them.

Do you think the concept could be applied to other subject areas?

Definitely. There’s no shortage of video content for kids, you can find so much on YouTube and elsewhere; I think the challenge is curating content and learning experiences that build knowledge in a systematic way. That’s the real opportunity – it’s not just about creating good quality content but framing that content so that there’s a structure to it. If we can get the structure right and deliver learning content in a more cohesive and effective way, we can help a lot of children.

"The challenge is curating learning experiences that build knowledge in a systematic way."

You’re also the Business Development Director for your family’s business Hobbs The Printers, what does the company specialise in?

We work with a wide range of national and international publishers. We print a variety of books and journals for the education market and the legal market; we also work with schools and universities and a range of professional organisations.

A key differentiator for us in the market is that we don’t just print, we also distribute. Something I’ve been looking at very closely is how we can integrate better with Amazon for example, and how we can make printing and distributing frictionless for publishers.

What is special about having such a rich family history within a business?

I’m the sixth generation of the Hobbs family to join the company. It was started by my great-great-great grandfather, William Hobbs, in 1884 and is one of Southampton’s oldest companies.

We have many members of staff who have worked here for many years. It’s a family company, not just in the context of our nuclear family, but also in the families who have worked for the company for many generations. There’s a genuine family ethos within the company.

I think customers like this because they know that we have a different dynamic: we’re not only driven by profit; we’re driven by doing the right things for our staff and customers in the long term. We’re a very trusted, safe pair of hands, which is important, especially in turbulent times.

How are you taking a company with such an extensive history into the modern era?

The speed of progress has accelerated dramatically. When my father joined the company, a key question was whether we were going to start printing in colour, whereas nowadays the questions increasingly relate to digital services, including ecommerce, eBooks and audiobooks.

It’s a fast-changing world but there is still a lot of value in the printed product, especially for education – a lot of people like having something physical to refer to.

Books are still really popular, but the ways in which we consume content and the ways in which publishers’ operate has changed significantly. There’s a big drive towards personalisation and print on demand, which is a growing part of what we do.

Moving to the future, we’ve got to keep listening to customers, responding to their needs, and being brave in adding new services – we’ve got to be courageous to change with the times.

"We have a different dynamic: we're not only driven by profit; we're driven by doing the right things for our staff and customers in the longer term."

Chris Hobbs - Founder, History Bombs

Hobbs has a mission to be the UK’s most sustainable print & delivery service, how are you working towards that?

Hobbs is one of the most sustainable printing companies in the country, as confirmed by our recent EcoVadis Gold Sustainability Rating (awarded to just 1% of companies in the printing industry).

We’ve set CO2 emissions targets with The Science Based Targets initiative and we have a clear plan to reach net zero. We’re working closely with our supply chain to achieve this.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I’m enjoying living in Southampton with my young family, having recently moved back to Hampshire following seven years living on a houseboat in London. I enjoy cycling; I cycle to work most days. I like kitesurfing, sailing, and triathlons – any outdoorsy sports really, preferably on the water!

If you could go back to any era in history, when would you like to visit?

Visiting Southampton in the 1370s, when great stone walls and towers were being constructed to support the latest military tech, called ‘cannons’, would have been exciting!

Chris Hobbs Portrait