How is it Friday already. Seems like Monday was just seconds ago or is that me?
Couple of things before we get down to business, I’m delighted to have my Online Retail Class on board,and hope everyone has enjoyed their first week! I so wish this kind of course was out then when I started but then I guess that would have meant I never would have written this class right, so things happen for a reason!. Lastly we have a Flash Sale on right now as our own label is due in in big quantities in a few weeks. We are relocating the warehouse to a massive premises with fork lift trucks and huge units etc which I find extremely exciting. I said to G we are becoming a mini Amazon, he just raised his eyebrows! I however think it is exciting. To think we started out with our so called warehouse in my spare bedroom where we had to lug things up and down four flights and managed with barely any stock at all. We used to order 5 vases from a supplier, now we are producing our own and ordering 600 and sending them around the globe everyday – so it is exciting right! Well at least I think so.
Biz column time. For today’s biz column I would like you to meet Sofia Ekman of SWdesign. Sofia designs mostly residential projects for a wide range of clients and has been operating since 2009. I whizzed some questions over to her to drill a little further down into her business.
Your company has been operating since 2009, what have been the highs and the lows in running your own company?
The lows: the insecurity with having your own company is that you never know what the next month will look like, will I have new projects, new clients, and how much work I have to do. When you are employed at a company you know what your daily routine will be and what your monthly income will look like. I think when you work for yourself you always have to push yourself to do better and come up with new solutions. It can also be hard to make large decisions on your own and at times you might wish to have a partner or boss to discuss various solutions with. Once I worked with a young professional couple, I used to put together the schemes and ideas with the wife. When we then went to seek approval from her husband we most often got rejected. It was hard to get decisions made and it could take weeks to months to get them to agree on finish and color schemes between them. I ended up dealing with both of them on separate bases and managed to convince both of them to meet half way. It was a real sense of accomplishment when we completed their amazing house in London and they where both very happy and proud of their new home.
The highs: You are your own boss and you always manage your own time. Work hard when you have more to give even if it’s in the middle of the night and make up for the hours you lost in the morning. To me it’s the most motivating thing knowing that all your hard work is paying back and its all your own creation. It’s an amazing feeling. There are no restrictions and nothing stopping you – you have the freedom to think outside the box and push the ideas that you believe in. There are lots of fun furniture fairs around the UK and Europe each year that can inspire and also provide you with great bargains. I normally visit the furniture fair in Paris Maison & Objet twice a year its something to recommend, it will give you inspiration and also meet with suppliers and see the new things coming for the season. One of my favorite Eurasian clients spent the day with me in Paris visiting the markets and also the furniture fair we were bouncing ideas and being creative together. We made her house fantastic and we really went the extra mile by playing with crazy ideas and developing them to more livable solutions.
I also love when you try to make the thing you thought was impossible happen. Like installing a 1000 sqm. flat in the middle of Monaco one week before the Grand prix F1. Most of the town was closed down and we had huge problems getting the furniture in the lift through the windows. Parking and road restrictions through out town the furniture trucks had to stop outside the border of the city and furniture had to be picked up by smaller vans. I had the biggest smile on my face when we finished the flat 2 hours before one of our biggest clients cocktail party with 150 guests arriving.
What is a typical day like?
My day always starts with a long early morning walk with my dogs in the park. This helps me sum up my tasks for the day and I create a plan and a to do list. This also helps me deal with the stress of managing my own time and company. I then I sit down and answer the most urgent emails and also send out anything that needs my immediate attention. I then normally rush off to see suppliers or going to site meetings with project foreman. We will re-view the project and go over any problems, potential changes, or finishing touches.
If lucky I am then back in the office and in front of my desk dealing with issues, ordering materials, or designing or preparing for up coming client meetings. I am also sourcing furniture and accessories for other clients as well as preparing presentations for future projects.My days are never long enough and always go quicker then expected, but I think it’s important to be happy with the day’s achievements.
Do you actively market your company or are referrals through word of mouth?
So far I have never used marketing and all my clients has come to me through word of mouth. It’s therefor very important to me that my clients are happy with my services as its through them I will receive my future work. I am starting to use social media instagram, Facebook and pinterest more and more and will keep on working on developing my blog. I am also updating my website and will hopefully be able to show more of my recent work there in the near future.
What skills and lessons have you learnt along the way?
I have learnt to never give up and that hard work and dedication always pays off. I also believe that you must love what you do both for yourself and for the client/customer. If you take pride in what you do and you put your soul into it you are likely to instantly have a positive response. You also have a great outcome and a successful project.I have also learnt to try to be open-minded and see things from all different angles. I work with a wide variety of clients from different cultures and backgrounds. You need to try to understand and read people to create a bond and a good working relationship. I also try to learn by mistakes instead of taking them to hard. I always stand up again and try harder; making sure I always improve and deliver a better service. It is important to do things in new ways and develop – change is always for the better. Never stop looking, creating and dreaming.
I am working on setting up an e-commerce site with products that I have sourced around the world. I would also like to create an SWdesign furniture line. I have previously created (designed and produced) one off pieces for my private clients and I like to work more one these previous designs and make them available on my new e-commerce website.
Any advice you would give to others thinking of setting out?
Think about what you like to do and what you are good at. Are you willing to do this 150% of your time. If you are sure of this then never give up and work hard and it will pay off. If things do not work, adjust, think outside the box and find new opportunities. Be positive and smile it will help you on a daily basis and also long term when running your business. Be open, network and meet new people. Contacts are key and something that will really help you. You never know when a new opportunity will be presented to you.
I always say to people I meet who want to set up on their own but are too scared to leave their current permanent position; JUMP – take a chance, if you never take a risk you will never win. I was very nervous and scared leaving my previous employer before setting up my company. I had to think hard about it for a long time and I was pushed by a friend to resign and try it out. I was told you can always go back and take another job if it does not go as you planned. It’s been challenging at times but also the best thing I have done and I have no regrets.
Back later with my biz column which drills into ways to keep sales high in quieter months. See you in a bit