Navigating a steep learning curve while on the job and tapping into lived experience helped branding and graphic design studio MAKER become an award-winning enterprise. Think Business talks to its Creative Director, Kate O’Moore.

What makes MAKER unique?

The name MAKER describes my craft. It’s about the passion and love I have for what I do. I consider graphic design and design thinking a digital craft because we look at the small detail as well as the bigger picture; like how the design will be experienced and picked up if it’s packaging. That consideration is what is unique about MAKER. Technology is a tool in the design process but design runs deeper in a MAKER project.

“I started my business in a Bank of Ireland Workbench. Through connecting with others and the community, I found out about the grants and support that are available”

What encouraged you to become an entrepreneur?

I previously worked in creative advertising but when I was ready for a change, a good friend of mine suggested that I set up my own company. At first I thought there was no way I could do it but it was either setting up my own business or going to London to find a new job. Until I try I’ll never know, that’s my motto.

“The Local Enterprise Office is wonderful. They offer grants and mentoring. Theres a lot of support out there for start-ups”

What do you think of the ecosystem in Ireland for setting up a business and what could be improved?

I come in contact with a lot of start-ups and I was one myself. I have a very positive view on it. I was very lucky and have seen a positive ecosystem throughout my journey. The local enterprise office is wonderful. They offer grants and mentoring. There’s a lot of support out there for start-ups. 

“To people starting a business, I would say enjoy it. Everything can be achieved one step at a time”

I started my business in a Bank of Ireland Workbench. Through connecting with others and the community, I found out about the grants and support that are available. From there I moved to the Fumbally Exchange, where I run my business. Between those places, I experienced a very supportive and nurturing environment for start-ups. In terms of improvement, it would be around communicating what grants and supports are there. I found out about them through talking to people but a government one-stop-shop to guide those starting their own business is needed.

Young woman in blue blouse designing at a computer.

“One lesson I have learned is to remind yourself why youre in business. For me its to experience the freedom of doing what I do best and to help businesses to grow”

What have your biggest lessons and mistakes been?

I have never learned so fast as I have as a business owner. The learning curve is unbelievable but exciting. At the beginning, I took on too much, said yes to everybody because it was a necessity. After a while you ship yourself in the right direction, learning from each project what work you like to do. The biggest lesson was running the actual business side of things; how to manage a project, accounting, administration, customer relationships. I had never done business before; I was a complete newbie. I learned through the social welfare. They do a start your own business course, there are also accounting courses. The help is there; you just have to find it.

“Going from designer to entrepreneur and how to make that work so youre still getting the time to design and manage a business is challenging”

One lesson I have learned is to remind yourself why you’re in business. For me it’s to experience the freedom of doing what I do best and to help businesses to grow through branding and visual strategies. You have to make the business work for you, not the other way around or you can grow fatigued. It’s something I have to work on constantly and would like people to understand that from a realistic perspective entrepreneurship has ups and downs on a daily basis, but that those ups completely outweigh the downs.

“You have to make the business work for you, not the other way around or you can grow fatigued”

What challenges did you face and how did you overcame them?

Running the business day to day. I didn’t know how to do that; I just knew how to design. Going from designer to entrepreneur and how to make that work so you’re still getting the time to design and manage a business is challenging.

The challenge is to keep doing what you want to do on a daily basis and not let the business side take over. People want to work with a professional but they also want to work with a creative. You have to be a ruthless business person as well as a friendly designer. It’s finding that balance of being everybody at once.

“A Government one-stop-shop to guide those starting their own business is needed”

What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

At the beginning, you compare yourself to others, which is natural. To people starting a business, I would say enjoy it. Everything can be achieved one step at a time. No company just gets built. Talk to other people who have been through it and learn from their experiences. Talking to people has been my biggest asset. Ask people how they approached things. If something seems scary, just ask someone who has done it before. I certainly have never looked back. I love running a business. I enjoy it every day. 

Interview by Olivia McGill

Published: 25 September 2020

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