This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
Firstly, tell us a bit about you?
Hey, my name is Amy. I have two gorgeous crazy children (Charlie 4 and Olive 2) and am married to Phil, who runs his own business in the building industry.
I live in Greater Manchester, and before getting married and having children I did a lot of travelling, in fact, I met my husband (then boyfriend) back in 2010, and within two weeks of knowing each other we decided to travel the world, and we haven’t looked back.
Since returning home to the UK we decided to do something BIG every year to keep life exciting, so last year I handed in my notice and decided to take the plunge into running my own business.
I’ve been a graphic designer since leaving college; I’m pretty sure it’s in my blood. I’ve known I wanted to be a designer since high school. I love working with businesses; their ideas really excite me! It’s brilliant to watch them grow and evolve into pretty amazing brands.
Tell us about your business, how did you come up with the idea?
I founded Cheshire Design & Print, a brand design studio to help businesses realise their brand vision and create a visual identity that clients would fall in love with. I work with SME’s on a monthly basis to help them develop so that they can raise awareness and build brand loyalty. I also support start-up businesses who need help finding out what their brand should look & feel like.
What was the moment that everything changed for you? Describe that moment when you decided to fully commit to your idea and the first few steps you took to make it possible.
My maternity leave was about to finish. Two weeks before I was due to go back to work as a Senior Design and Studio Manager, I came to the realisation that I wouldn’t have a good work-life balance. I’d be working long hours for a company I’d fallen out of love with due to a change in both business and personal values.
I decided that my values were just too important, and I needed to make a change. I wanted to have more of a personable relationship with my clients, find out what excites them and lights them up and how to tell their story through visual design.
When I came to this realisation, I gave my notice and officially began the self-employed life. I started to research in myself, decide what direction/route I’d like to take, who I’d love to work with and how I could help them.
What were the initial challenges you came up against, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was sales. I’d little experience of this, I specialise in brand design, not selling. But as every new business owner learns, you need many hats for many aspects of running a business.
I tried direct selling, cold calling, emailing people I didn’t know, and they didn’t know me, it was hard. But you have to start somewhere and keep going until you find that sweet spot. It wasn’t long until I realised this wasn’t working and something needed to change. I joined some communities and business networks to meet new people, build relationships and started to offer value to potential clients so we could get to know each other and talk about what we do. This was a huge step for me, I was so nervous about standing up in a room full of people and talk about how I can help them, but once I stepped into a new positive mindset and started to see some ROI my confidence was boosted, and I fell in love with new aspects of running a business.
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
Within a month of starting my business, I’d already landed a huge client and smashed my income goal x10! It was a brilliant feeling. I still work with them now, and they have become friends rather than a client, which runs in parallel with my brand values.
Did you take the investment route for your business, or are you self-funded? Can you share some insights on your decision and the process?
The investment in my business was very minimal. I’m a bit of a geek and have always been designing at home, even whilst I was employed. To be able to do this, I have a high-end iMac along with the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite – I am just obsessed! Having this to hand definitely made things easier for me. My studio is based at home too, which enables me to have a brilliant work-life balance as well as keeping overheads to a minimum.
What has been your best investment?
My best investment would be investing in myself and my mindset. Initially, I had thoughts that I wasn’t good enough; people wouldn’t want to work with me; they wouldn’t like my work. I was too expensive or too cheap. To overcome this, I worked with a business coach who has also founded a community of like-minded entrepreneurs. It really helped me overcome my negative thoughts and comparing myself to others. I’ve learnt to be authentic, which is now one of my brand values.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
Yes, on one occasion, I offered to work for free in return for recommendations and publicity, which I accepted. I don’t think I have ever been so stressed. I was being contacted at all hours and was asked to do ‘extras’ regularly. At the time, I don’t think I recognised my own value. After a good talk with my husband, I decided to end things with the client. It’s really difficult to say no, but if it doesn’t align with your values and is starting to affect your mental health, then it really isn’t worth it.
What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem, and what in your mind needs to change?
For me being a woman in my industry has been a great experience. I have built a strong community of like-minded entrepreneurial woman who has given me great support throughout my journey. I have also met some amazing men too. I often wonder if they have a strong community as we do? Where they can share not only advice and help on running a business but also the mental side of things too, like being able to talk about our thoughts and feelings in a safe environment. For me, this network is something truly special. I have made friends rather than contacts.
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
The greatest lesson I’ve learnt is my value. It’s not what I can achieve for my clients in a certain time frame, but it’s how I am able to achieve those objectives. I have worked really hard over the past 18+ years, developing skills, gaining knowledge and building up a network of great people in the industry which has been vital to be able to start my studio and offer great brand design.
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
My husband is my biggest role model; he’s my ‘go-to’ when I need advice and helps with anything business-related. He has run his own business for over ten years, and although he does things differently, he has loads of experience, and we are both able to help each other. Often I over complicate my ideas or goals, and I find it best to talk to him so I can refocus.
With the future in mind, where would you like to be/where do you see yourself in the next five years?
For me, my business isn’t about growth and building a huge design agency. From the beginning, I wanted to have a really good work-life balance. I want to do what I love for some brilliant businesses whilst still maintaining a great lifestyle with my family. With that in mind in the next five years, I see myself working with SME’s on a 1:1 basis to help them create visual brands that build awareness so that they can gain new clients and maintain existing ones. I also hope to be maintaining the very first business rule I ever made, and that was to ensure I only work business hours so I can spend the rest of my time 100% with my family.
Can you tell us one of your goals for 2020?
Over the last six months, I’ve been working on a really exciting new digital product, The Branding Kit. The Branding Kit is a bundle of ready-made Canva templates which have been produced with start-ups in mind. I am often asked to create designs for start-up business who just don’t have the budget to work with a designer. This is where the Branding Kit comes in. The designs have been created to ensure consistency which is key to building brand awareness and getting your business out there. It’s also a fraction of the price of working directly with a designer.
The Branding Kit is already available to purchase on my website, but my goal for 2020 is to be invited as a seller on Creative Market so that I can offer this package to a wider audience.
What can our readers do to support your business?
If you know of anyone that could be a good fit to work with me, I would love for you to recommend Cheshire Design and Print. I am available for a friendly chat to see if I can help you with your branding struggles, and if not, I can advise you and where to go or what to do next.
What books, podcasts, or resources would you recommend?
If you want to give a go at DIYing your own branding, I would recommend using Canva, a free online software that allows you to create designs on any device.
Alternatively, you can take a look at The Branding Kit packages which are available to buy now!
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Be sure that your business idea is something you are truly passionate about, do this, and you’ve already won half the battle.
I’ve always known I wanted to have my own studio, but taking the leap of faith was such a HUGE decision. It wasn’t until one of my closest friends took the leap herself and opened her own salon. I was sat with her the day it opened, having a glass of Prosecco whilst she did my hair. I was telling her that I was scared, but I just wanted it so much. She told me to just do it as she knew how important it was to me. As soon as the decision was made I was so happy and excited; I haven’t looked back.
Where can we find you?
If you’d like to get in touch, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org
About your author
Leah Williams is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.
Inspiring founders discuss mental health & mindset, overcoming imposter syndrome, being more confident both in work and life and how to strive for success without burning out
Meet Yoga Mum On The Run blogger, Portia Mead who went on a voyage of self discovery and found yoga and meditation.
Why rest is so important and how to ensure you’re getting enough of it – especially as a new Founder
Resting can feel like a distant memory and if we do give ourselves some time, the guilt starts to creep in.