CL Designs is a creative studio that helps businesses and other entrepreneurs realize their vision and connect with the people most important to them. A number of years ago, I had owned and operated my own streetwear apparel brand called In Lieu Of. I learned a lot throughout the process but I honestly didn't anticipate being my own boss again in the future. As I was exposed to the startup world, particularly during my time assisting a tech startup (MeU), it had provided me with so much value in what I could learn and enjoyed doing. Having learned first-hand the challenges faced by startups through my own journey (sometimes the hard way!) and through freelancing and assisting with others, I wanted to provide lean and efficient graphic design and branding services that would free businesses to push on with what they're best at. Having worked in both a startup culture as well as a corporate one, it revealed systems and behaviours that I take into consideration to how I operate my business and offer my services. It was a natural progression to continue to freelance, work with a variety of clients and continue to build genuine connections.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Imposter syndrome is a huge and natural feeling to have when you're starting out. As you surround yourself with like minded individuals, you're constantly supported and understand that you're really not alone in this journey. Gaining traction can be difficult as you're gaining confidence to ask for the rates you deserve to setting boundaries with your clients. Having that sustainable flow of clients and growth is a constant work in progress. Knowing why you're offering what you're doing in order to help others, even if it doesn't work out, will help keep in perspective what your value is even when others may try to diminish your light. I was listening to a podcast recently that mentioned that the sustainability aspect may always be a challenge but by having the good and your fair share of bad clients, it really is telling if you are casting your net wide enough.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I'm currently reading the "Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women" by Otegha Uwagba. It's an easy read that has really wonderful and actionable tips that you can incorporate to your daily routine, today. My go-to recommendation is "The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything" by Neil Pasricha. This philosophy and equation is something I live by and appreciate. I truly believe it starts with you first.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
It's a constant struggle to let go of societal pressures as well as the voices of some of members of your inner circle. I appreciate their concerns and it's instinctual to do when you care about someone. I don't expect everyone to understand why I do certain things in my life, but I try to communicate mutual support and unconditional love for their pursuits as well. Surrounding yourself with good people whether they worry and really communicate that to you or are super supportive in your endeavours; these are the people who care about you most in your life and should be appreciated.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
I owe a lot of my success to the people I choose to work with. Honestly their success is mine as well. With an abundant mindset, you're creating opportunities to be optimistic and to build genuine relationships with people. I am so proud of the clients and the collaborators I surround myself with. They continue to inspire me with their work ethic, their respect and dedication as well as their passion for their craft. If you're not excited about what you're doing, you should reflect and ask yourself why. Transparency, clear communication and integrity are the core values of how I operate my business. My clients are my biggest cheerleaders (and vice versa) due to our mutual respect and awe for one another. Word of mouth is honestly the best marketing tool!
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Busy is not a badge of honour; it's a choice. It's easy to get caught up in not having the confidence to say no or to feel like you have to say yes to the projects you hate or people who don't respect you in order to pay the bills. Beyond financial goals, our self care and well-being in order to not burn out is priceless. As difficult as it can be to state your value, worth and boundaries, it will help refine who you attract and inevitably choose to work with.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Start! There is never a "good time" but the sooner you "eat the frog" and fail, you will get to the moments where you will really begin to rise and define your value. Knowing your why will really drive your motivation when you come across lulls in business, have drops in financial stability or any struggle you may be dealing with. As you continue on your journey, if you aren't passionate about it, if you're not learning or growing, then you should really ask yourself why you're doing it.
Photo credit: Daisy Qin