Take five with Kate O’Moore, Creative Director and Founder of MAKER, the award winning, Dublin based, branding and graphic design studio. In this interview, she talks about MAKER, helping clients getting their brands off the ground and her experiences as a graduate of Design Skillnet’s Designs On Growth programme.
- What were your ideas behind the founding of MAKER?
It’s about being part of that end-to-end process, with the quality and creativity and being part of every process with the client, from concept to creation. I used to be in creative advertising and it was great, but you’re one piece of the puzzle and everyone has their separate spaces. I wanted to be across the whole process. The name, MAKER, describes the craft of what I believe to be involved in the branding process. It is a craft. It is a science and the purpose of MAKER is to inspire confidence in clients to achieve what they want to achieve in their businesses, to help them open their doors and with a new suite of visual assets comes a newfound confidence. That is the purpose behind what MAKER does.
- What type of work do you specialise in and clients do you work with?
MAKER specialises in branding and packaging, and along with that is brand consultancy – brand identity creation, product packaging design and strategic consultancy to help clients build that brand they want to create. The types of clients I work with are very varied, it ranges from small businesses starting out to medium enterprises who want to evolve and the public sector who want to continue what they are doing in a professional way. The common denominator is that they want their brand to look better, feel better, and communicate effectively.
- You enjoy helping small and medium-sized businesses elevate their branding through your agency and MAKER Elevate podcast. What are the most common challenges SMEs face when it comes to branding and how do you help them?
Overall they need direction and strategy to build a brand they are confident in, so I help them build or evolve their visual assets so they can achieve what they want. The confidence I see in clients when they have those assets is transformative because they believe they can open new doors. They just need to step in front of it and say ‘This is my brand. I’m proud of it.’
The MAKER Elevate podcast, which is newly launched, is a way to reach more clients who might not be in a position to invest in design yet. I want to bring them on the journey of how valuable a brand can be. To steal a line from my next podcast, ‘A business tells, a brand sells’. The podcast is to help SMEs in a day-to-day sense and to help change their mindset from building a business to building a brand, as a brand builds loyalty and trust.
- MAKER believes in “the power of collaboration”. How does that work in terms of your business practice and interactions with clients?
Two heads are better than one. I really believe collaboration can bring out more in a project. When you hire someone to do something, you generally sit back and expect them to do it. With MAKER it is better when the business owner is more involved, so although we’re the experts in what we do, the client is the expert in their business. Combining that together makes the client feel part of the process. I involve them in some of the decision-making that traditionally you might not, so that they feel part of the process in the beginning, it’s more likely to be a successful outcome towards the end as they have their fingerprints in the creation of it. You’re helping them build that mindset of this is their brand and guide them towards the best solution. It creates more successful projects in my experience.
- As the owner of an award-winning studio, why did you think it was the right time to embark on a business accelerator programme and what did you want to achieve through the programme for MAKER?
I’ve been running my business for seven years and although I’d seen steady growth, I felt stuck. I felt I wasn’t progressing as quickly as I should have been – that way my own marker of how successful you should be after seven years. I felt I needed a supercharge to grow MAKER. What attracted me to the course was that you could change at your own pace; you were building a business, not just a job for yourself, that you would see real revenue changes; and it was a chance to review everything in your business. I thought, ‘This is for me’. I wish I’d done this two years into my business. What I wanted from the course was clarity, motivation and direction, and I definitely achieved that from it.
- Which modules were the most beneficial for your business and why?
The course exceeded my expectations. I expected just to take notes, not action, but it was all actionable, all something you could take away. The most beneficial aspect for me was the financial sections. I thought I knew how to bookkeep and do numbers, but I didn’t! Knowing my numbers, there’s a lot of power in that. Another huge benefit was the one-to-one coaching. That really helps you take the information from the course and apply it to your own pace and where you are at. There is so much in the course you can get overwhelmed, but the one-to-one coaching dilutes that and allows you to take what you need from it, step-by-step.
- What were the benefits of learning with other Design professionals?
As a design professional, it was nice to be with like-minded people who do what I do. It’s very hard to understand, from traditional jobs, what you do and how you deliver value. The group support, shared experience and industry peer-to-peer advice are invaluable. There’s also group camaraderie, learning from each other’s experiences, feeling like you’re part of a group that understands each other.
- What impact has the completion of the Designs on Growth programme had on the way you manage your business?
The main transformation has been mindset. I know now that I’m growing a business, not just providing myself with an income. I know now how to aim at a profit, not just make ends meet. Understanding my numbers better allows me to make more appropriate changes and feel more in control of the financial side of my business.
- Have you seen any long and short-term return on investment?
I have more confidence in pitching for larger projects. I feel I can deliver the value they are looking for, whereas previously I might have dismissed them. That mindset and confidence change, long-term and short-term, means I’m opening more doors for myself and adapting the services, and being more strategic with the work.
- Why would you recommend other designers enrol for the Designs on Growth programme?
Initially, I saw the cost and was unsure. Now, I wouldn’t hesitate to spend the course cost to invest in myself and progress MAKER. Even if you feel things are going well, you would benefit from this course. There is no downside to joining and you will see benefits immediately. If you feel you are stuck, or not charging enough, or you don’t have enough strategy in your business, this course can be a game changer. It’s allowed me to feel more in control of my business.
- What advice would you give to someone who wants to scale their design business?
I speak from a solo-preneur point of view in that I’m still on that journey of growth and I will continue to be on that journey of growth. It’s about taking bigger leaps than you are ready for; getting a good coach, which I got from the course; and joining the Designs on Growth course.
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