South Yorkshire production company launches with celebrity backing

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Two Rotherham entrepreneurs have turned their passion for producing, writing and acting into a successful celebrity backed production company – with passion project ‘Simply Ken’ already being pitched to top TV channels.

Gratso Productions was founded by Craig Shepherd, a Rotherham College drama teacher and local actor who has featured in When Saturday Comes amongst other titles, alongside his childhood friend, Robert Sadler.

Launched in 2023, Gratso Productions accessed tailored business support from RiDO’s Launchpad team. Support included one-to-one guidance, specialist workshops on digital marketing and assistance in applying for a UKSE kickstart grant to allow for the editing and pitching of the pilot episode of its first production, ‘Simply Ken’ a modern sitcom about successful businessman Ken Codd who suddenly loses his job, house and wife all on the same day.

The duo has also received invaluable support from Acting legends Hi-de-Hi’s Jeffrey Holland and General Hospital’s Judy Buxton, who both star in Simply Ken. Looking to the future Gratso already has plans for the production of a one-man touring play, Laurel & Hardy inspired ’The Fiddle and The Bow’.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support and advise we have received out the gate for Gratso Productions. Our main goal is to cultivate local talent out of South Yorkshire, with Craig also teaching drama at Rotherham College, we have been able to offer some amazing experience for the students. We are incredibly grateful for the grant from UKSE which has allowed us to speed along the process of our very first production.”

Robert Sadler, Gratso Productions

“The RiDO team were delighted to be able to provide support to such an interesting business and be able to assist them in accessing this funding. Looking forward to seeing this completed sitcom on TV”.

Darren McDool, Business Advisor

“We’re thrilled to be supporting such an exciting business within the South Yorkshire region, Robert and Craig’s passion for bringing the arts back to the region is truly exciting. We wish them all the best moving forward and can’t wait to see Gratso Productions make it to the big screen.”

Steve Lyon, Area Manager at UKSE

The services provided by RiDO’s Launchpad team are free of charge and include a fast-track start-up workshop programme, expert workshops on wide variety of business topics and one-to-one mentoring to help people in Rotherham start and grow successful businesses.

UKSE provides loan and equity finance of up to £1.5m to existing companies which are growing, particularly those creating jobs – for further information please contact the team on 0800 915 1188.

To find out more about how the Launchpad team could help with starting or growing your business please enquire with one of RiDO’s business advisors at or call 01709 331111.

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