How Ellis went from fine art to football to multi-award-winning gin

Graduate, Ellis McKeown, talks about his career as a social media executive, content creator and entrepreneur.

Ellis initially wanted to study graphic design, but after coming to an open day at the University of Central Lancashire, he decided he wanted a course that gave him more room to experiment and applied to our BA (Hons) Fine Art course. “The freedom within the course really appealed to me as I liked to explore new ways to be creative,” he said. “I found that the best way for me was to go digital with my work.”

After completing his degree, Ellis wasn’t ready to leave us just yet and stayed on to work in the Marketing Team. He said: “During my final year project, I became interested in transferring my creative skills into a different sector that was digital based. I applied for a year-long social media internship at UCLan and was accepted!”

A year later, Ellis landed his first job as Social Media Executive at Eleven Sports Media whilst he was still studying for a MSc Digital Marketing Communications. He said: “The online course allowed me to work full-time as well as study and I enjoyed that balance.”

From Eleven Sports Media, Ellis moved on to Social Chain, again working mainly on social media and content creation for sports brands. Then, in early 2020, Ellis found his perfect job working for a Premier League football club. “I joined Liverpool F.C. just as they were crowned Premier League champions, which, despite being an Everton fan, was a fantastic experience to be part of.”

"My time at UCLan taught me that you can do anything if you put the effort in; all you have to do is believe in yourself."

Ellis McKeown, BA (Hons) Fine Art and MSc Digital Marketing Communications

As if joining Liverpool F.C. wasn’t exciting enough, Ellis had also just started a business - Fairham Gin. He said: “Me and my business partner, Liam Stemson, had been craft gin lovers for years and so we decided to take the plunge and craft our own during the first lockdown of 2020. We spent 12 months creating the brand and our Signature Edition recipe, which was launched in April 2021.”

Ellis’ role in the business covers marketing, branding, and much more. “We do everything in house from bottle design, photography and social media content, to peeling and dehydrating fruits, distilling our gin at our Lancashire micro distillery and attending many markets across the area,” he says. “And we work with the Ribble River Trust so that one tree sapling for every 70cl bottle sold is planted in Lancashire, which is fantastic for our county.”

With his business going from strength to strength, and his gin winning several major awards, Ellis has taken a step back from social media and is now working full time on his business, with plans to open the first Fairham Gin bar in Penwortham shortly. Ellis and his team are also expanding their craft spirit range and have recently launched a special edition gin with fellow UCLan graduate, Georgia-Maia from Georgia-Maia Illustrations, designing the bottle label. Ellis and the team are currently looking for more designers and creatives to collaborate with so we hope to see more UCLan students and alumni working with Ellis in the future.

So, how has Ellis’ university experience helped turn him from student to successful social media professional and businessman? He said: “Going back to my degree at UCLan, I feel like the skills learnt at such an early stage were vital. I really enjoyed doing art, with a countless number of people always asking what I am going to get from that, job wise. It is what you make of it that counts, apply your skills in many ways, get experience any way you can, and just put yourself out there, you never know what could happen.”

Ellis (left) with his business partner, Liam Stemson and fellow UCLan graduate, Georgia-Maia, who designed a special edition gin bottle label
Ellis (left) with his business partner, Liam Stemson and fellow UCLan graduate, Georgia-Maia, who designed a special edition gin bottle label
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