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Pioneer of the Week: Johnny of On a Sixpence

Thought Leader

Pioneer of the Week: Johnny of On a Sixpence

 Tell us 3 important things we should know about you.

  1. My name is Johnny Joannou. I am a London-based artist with a love for sport, movies, numbers and good design. 
  2. I run a business called ‘On A Sixpence’ and sell my artwork on my website, and various high quality gift shops, including the Tomorrow Store in London.
  3. My first job was to paint the numbers next to seats at the Oval, Surrey’s fabulous cricket ground. We all have to start somewhere.


Tell us about your business. How did it start? Did you set it up alone or with a team?

I design geeky art prints to reflect the history of a topic. My objective is to design neatly-structured prints to depict great sporting events and teams, film genres, music and novels. My work includes prints to represent the history of the Tour de France, Arsenal Football Club, Shakespeare and the greatest Horror films of all–time.


The business started because I could not find  a high quality gift for my football mad nephew. I realised there was a gap in the market and a market in the gap. 

I spend a great deal of time researching, categorising and arranging key metrics  relating to the theme and then using an appropriate colour palette to reflect the history of the topic. I was inspired by the wonderful football wallcharts of the 1970s and the periodic-table. 


What do you love most about running your own business?

I love the independence and the ability to follow my own path. I have just finished a design to mark  the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. I am now designing prints to celebrate the greatest hip-hop records of all-time and the legends of the Grand National. I learn so much about very different subjects. I am always looking for new ideas - any ideas from your Pioneer readers will be welcomed, get in touch on Twitter: @onasixpence.


I have met some very kind and supportive people. It is also wonderful to receive great feedback from customers and the public. I have even received kind praise from Hollywood Directors (including Duncan Jones, director of the sci-fi classic 'Moon'), writers and footballers.


Tell us about a challenging experience you’ve faced in the process of starting up your business and how you overcame it.

I wanted to sell high premium prints and therefore finding appropriate suppliers was essential. After weeks of emailing, checking samples and been disappointed, I found a wonderful supplier thanks to the recommendation of a Twitter follower.


What advice could you give to other startups about starting up in your industry?

Start now. Ask questions. Listen carefully. Enjoy. And in the words of the Bard of Avon, ‘To thine self be true’.


Can you share an experience that really helped you take your business forward?

In the last 6 months, I have been commissioned to design a print for the FA Cup Final, a gift for the retiring President of the Princes Trust and for a book on creativity. It is highly encouraging to receive this endorsement and recognition. I have moved on from painting numbers at a cricket ground.



Many people start their businesses at home, where do you work? What do you love about it?

I am launching  a new range of Spiral Designs recording great seasons for different sporting clubs.  Each print will include details  of every game, with a newspaper headline.


Therefore, over the next month, I am spending my mornings in the British Library’s wonderful Newsroom reading newspapers from the 60s and 90s. 


What are three things you know now, that you wish someone had told you when you first started?

  1. Keep accurate records
  2. Always look for opportunities to learn and to help others
  3. Be bold

Is there anything specific you’d like to ask or share with the Virgin Media Pioneers community?

I am always looking for new themes for my prints. If you have an idea, let me know via twitter I would also like advise on how to use Facebook to promote and sell my artwork.


Finish the sentence: To be an entrepreneur… you need a good sense of humour and good quality coffee.


Like the sound of On a Sixpence? Check our their website, follow them on twitter or browse their Instagram.