Welcome to the third post in our #FemaleFounders series. We’re thrilled to have Non Wood, founder of Non Wood Design with us for this post! We can’t wait to share her motivation behind starting up her own business, and how she has overcome the challenges that she has faced as a #FemaleFounder.
1. Why did you start your business? What spurred you on?
I was working for an agency as their Creative Director, but found their focus for high quality design had lessened, so I started searching for alternative positions. I found that because I’d reached such a senior level at a fairly young age, I was competing with much more experienced candidates. It was at this time that I also found out I was pregnant!
I didn’t feel in all consciousness that I could apply for jobs without revealing that information, and felt that it would hinder my chances of obtaining roles. I wanted to get back to hands-on design. So, I contacted everyone I knew and started designing. Thankfully, I steered this into a niche offering and I’ve not looked back.
2. What are the unique challenges you have faced as a female founder?
I guess juggling motherhood with running a business is the main challenge — I do think it’s fairly unique to women founders * ducks for cover! *. Although the traditional roles of mothers/wives/women have evolved significantly, I think it’s more often the case that childcare and household organisation falls to females. So working ‘part-time’ but actually being available almost 24/7, fitting in full-time hours (UK clients day, US clients evening), and giving my daughter the attention she deserves is my biggest challenge. Fortunately, I have a very awesome husband who provides our daughter and I with a lot of attention and support.
3. What were the steepest learning curves during your first year in business?
So many! The most memorable would probably be don’t say yes to everything just because you need the cash in the early days. Although this really helped me carve my niche specialism — working out what I was best at, what I enjoyed most, and what I could charge decently for — it caused me a lot of stress when I needed it least.
I think the other learning curve that’s closely linked was finding my dollar value, which I’m still learning and forever will I expect. I found it difficult to put a price on my work – it’s always been my least favourite part of the job because I love what I do, it doesn’t feel like work. And I think I’m only just starting to feel like “Hey, you know what, I actually know what I’m talking about!”.
I found it difficult to put a price on my work – it’s always been my least favourite part of the job
An example of Non’s information design (above).
4. What is your favourite thing about founding your own company?
Definitely the freedom of choice — when, where and how I work, the clients and projects I take on. The fact I can do things like ‘stay and play’ at my daughter’s nursery at 10.30 on a Wednesday morning and don’t have to get permission or feel like I’m putting somebody out. The freedom to go and walk in the fields round my village at lunchtime. Those things I really appreciate having been stuck in the 9-5 (or 7am-9pm!) machine for over 10 years in agencies.
I can do things like ‘stay and play’ at my daughter’s nursery at 10.30 on a Wednesday morning and don’t have to get permission or feel like I’m putting somebody out.
5. What is the best business advice you have been given by someone else?
When I first started out on my own two and a half years ago I met with someone who has long been an informal mentor and inspiration to me, who I consider to be a friend too. I showed him my business plan. He told me to aim higher, and said I could achieve more. That had a huge influence on my income and work, and still does.
Speaking with people who are not only experienced in business but also know you personally can have a really big influence on how you proceed, both the good and the bad. I like people who speak honestly and feel confident enough to tell me when I should think about changing my approach.
6. What business tools can’t you live without? i.e. software
Adobe Creative Suite is the obvious one. But on the business side I use MyHours to help me with tracking and pricing — it’s free online. And Xero for my accounting, the latter of which is a new addition to my suite but invaluable already.
7. When you’ve got a tough business decision to make what would be your first steps to solving the problem?
- Panic and have some chocolate
- Write down my idea in a spider diagram, listing out the pros and cons
- If necessary, research the subject and reach out to a few trusted peers who could help me make my decision
8. Who are your heroines and why? Give us two.
I have one. My mum. She’s been such a huge influence on my life — she is intelligent, funny, creative, social, generous — all values I admire hugely and try to emulate within my own life. She has supported every venture I’ve embarked upon since being young, and is always on the end of the phone if I need help. I’m very lucky to have some really strong women around me — both friends and family.
An example of Non’s information design (above).
9. What piece of advice would you give yourself if you were starting your business now?
Have more confidence in yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Pick up the phone and ask for advice. Speak to people and build your network. It’s something I’m still working on.
Have more confidence in yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
10. What’s your go-to marketing tactic for your small business?
Up until now I haven’t done any ‘marketing’. I’ve been lucky enough to have a great network of people who share recommendations, and most of my work has been through word-of-mouth.
However, the growth plans I have in place mean I’ve needed to start being more proactive. I set up my website in January, and started building my online portfolio. What I do is very niche, so the types of businesses and people I need to reach are very specific. At the moment I carry out thorough research into who I want to work with and approach them directly via email and phone. This is fairly labour-intensive but effective. I’m looking to broaden my reach through social media to raise awareness of the specialist skills I offer (with the help of Matchstick Creative of course!)
Be sure to check out Non’s website, nwc.design.
Follow our #FemaleFounders series
We’re super excited to share all of the Female Founders that are going to be facing our hot seat! Be sure to keep an eye on #FemaleFounders on Instagram and Twitter, and if you haven’t already, check out our last post with Chelsea Slater from Liverpool Girl Geeks.