I wrote a post on Instagram the other week about failures being a part of our successes, and it rang true with so many of you:
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Thinking back I mused over my past failures. I’m going to let you into a little secret. This is my third business. Version 3 of the same thing.
I’ve set up the same business twice before but both times they gained some traction but nothing compared to what I’ve achieved through setting up Oohlala Studio.
Design Business 1.0
Let’s go back to when I was in university studying Interior Design. The passion for the degree soon left me after not seeing eye to eye with a couple of the lecturers. Design is SO subjective and well I’m a little… bold with some ideas. It led me to start up a side hustle, that continued after my degree. I was designing and (badly) coding websites and brands for a handful of businesses.
When I graduated I put the Interior Design degree to the back of my mind and concentrated on the things I was passionate about. I spent a good couple of years designing, learning, evolving my process. I’d put the first business to bed and took what I’d learned and like a phoenix rebirthed it into version 2.
During this phase I was picked up as an intern for a local design company which came at a defining moment in my life, I wasn’t focussed or in the right headspace. Working for someone never really suited me either.
Design Business 2.0
After finishing up a 6 week internship I started putting together business 2.0. This was a giant leap forward from where I was back when I graduated. I was more intune with my style, but still I had no plan. Still learning, trying things out and practicing. After around a year I was asked if I wanted to interview for a junior design position at a local agency. We’d just moved into our house and the idea of a monthly income was appealing. Plus this was going to be a good exercise to learn.
I spent 4 years acting as a sponge. Learning everything to do with branding, websites, how to run (and not run) a business. Understanding client relationships and developing confidence. After having my little one I’d spent enough time pondering running my own business and planning it in my head that I didn’t return.
Throughout iteration 1 and 2 of the business, I’d seen a gap in the market. A gap for other small business owners like myself, not being served as equals. Specifically female entrepreneurs. Design was a heavily male dominated industry (still true within agencies) so I wanted to make design and websites accessible with a no nonsense approach for other business owners.
Design Business 3.0 – Oohlala Studio was born
Knowing I’d set up a business once I’d left agency life, I had a while to ponder. I wanted to wait until Hugo was a year old. (I have no idea why I wanted to wait but in my head this made sense). I’d been following a lot of mum accounts on Instagram and one day someone put out a request for help with their website. I’ve always been deep in WordPress as I still had 3 of my original clients from business 1!
This particular woman is fairly well known so I popped her a message and said I could help. We had a call and I got to work.
The panic then set it. I hadn’t actually started the business, I had no name (which meant no domain name, no professional email address or anything!) I got thinking and wrote a load of names on a piece of paper. Scoured through dictionary and thesaurus pages. I knew my target audience, and it needed to be something they could relate to. Something they’d be proud to share and something that said what I did without actually saying it.
Oohlala Studio was born. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor with my notebook. Proclaiming it was the one! Mr M responded with: “I don’t like it”.
My response? “Tough, I’m going with it”.
I had this gut feeling that it was the one. I loved the letter formations of oohlala when it’s lowercase and uppercase. It was something I felt I could evolve. It had legs and with that I purchased the domains, set up the socials and began.
Year 1 was better than I could have imagined. Helping all of these small businesses achieve their dreams made my heart sing. I was achieving what I set out to do. In an extremely male dominated industry I wanted to give visibility to female entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey so they could experience the turning point I did when I discovered my own courage and had clarity of exactly what I was going.
Each year I list out my dream client. Not necessarily by name, but by job or industry. These relate to my client personas but I get a bit more specific.
Year 1 my first client was my dream client. And she’s still with me now and supporting her on her journey fills me with so much pride.
Year 2 my dream client was a florist. When I had a florist pop into my inbox I was beaming with joy! I still work on and off supporting this client with website and design projects.
Year 3, this year has only just begun and it’s going to be a big one. I’d had in my head that I wanted to be working with a hotel or accommodation based business.
Spoiler alert; I have 2!
Really knowing your client, understanding how to talk to them and how to position yourself is key for business growth. In the last 2 years I’ve worked with over 80 female entrepreneurs, taking the chaos out of brand and website building. Learning from the past versions of my business really honing in on the brand foundations has put me in good stead for the years ahead.
The next year is a cruical one for Oohlala Studio. I’m focusing more and more on making my work more accessible and helping as many female entrepreneurs discover their courage and clarity.
I look back on my businessn failures and iterations with fondness at what they taught me, how they shaped me and my business and the foundations they put in place to allow Oohlala to be as successful as it is today.
I have put together a free brand roadmap for you that will take you through some of the key stages of my signature framework.
This is the same route that I take my clients through when they work with me to build a stand out brand (and the route I’ve used myself in version 3 of my business)! Follow the steps in the roadmap to help you on your way to transforming your business into a solid brand.