Charlotte had quite a varied career path before creating her own branding and design business. From originally training as a musician, then getting into design, working as a professional musician, quitting to become a music teacher - with quite a few random jobs in between! In this interview I ask Charlotte why she decided to start her own business, how she figured out what she wanted to do and if that's changed, what things she continues to find challenging, when spending time outdoors became important to her and the ways that she works, plus more!
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Ultimately a yearning for freedom, be truly myself and live a flexible, balanced life. I struggled so much working in an office, I felt cooped up and hated the rigid feeling. I also became frustrated with the corporate nature of jobs and the lack of ethics. I remember crusading to get everyone to turn their computers off at night as no-one seemed to care about energy wastage! I also didn’t like the negative experience when designers would moan about clients and creativity seemed to diminish so I really wanted to start a business that was all about collaboration, positivity, ethical principles and creating a kinder business world. I’m also a bit of a hippy so sitting outside and working, burning incense and general flexibility appealed to me!
How did you figure out what you wanted to do and has that changed over the past couple of years?
Recently I’ve realised I would like a little more variety and to blend a bit of the teaching I used to do by developing a course and perhaps look at some mentoring. Since getting my camper van I’ve also realised I’d love to create something and the course fits in nicely with that. Currently, I mostly work with clients and although this is incredible and fulfilling you can feel like you are constantly creating for other people so over Winter I’m looking forward to exploring a few other ideas I have. Branding has always excited me so I naturally fell into that and still love doing it so I guess that is one thing that hasn’t changed. I also wanted to work with businesses who were making a positive contribution on the world, and again, luckily I’ve attracted those businesses and feel part of a positive movement where we are turning the traditional ideas of business on their head and bringing in a more heart-centred approach.
What core values feed into your work?
I’m really passionate about sustainability and being as ethical as I can in my business. I work with clients to suggest sustainable brand experience items, and within my own business, I try and live as minimally and sustainably as possible. Essentialism is also a big value for me - doing the things that matter, tuning in to my inner voice and making sure everything I produce or work on is in alignment with my values. I also think collaboration is really important and I see each project is a collaboration where I’m visualising my client's vision. And I’m also forever trying to have a more 'slow’ business life, to not feel guilty for taking afternoon walks and to really think deeply and work with integrity as opposed to rushing through things and chasing after unobtainable goals. Finally, it’s to ‘work fiercely from the heart’ so that I put passion and purpose into all that I do and hopefully, my clients feel this too!
What's one thing that you continue to find challenging about running your business?
Boundaries! It’s hard to not be too nice and then you end up doing too much for free and getting burnt out! I’m also really sensitive to criticism so it's always nerve-wracking sending over ideas and waiting to hear back. It also means that it can be hard to switch off at weekends when you are wondering what they think to that idea. I’m also naturally someone who likes to help, however, sometimes clients or people can push that so I need to get better at charging for some of the free things I do.
What do people experience when you choose to work together?
A brand is more than just a logo, it’s about the experience and emotional connections people feel towards your brand and my work focusses on evoking a strong emotional response and brand connection. Everything I create has deep meaning and that’s why it takes me many weeks to craft a beautiful and meaningful brand identity. I work very collaboratively and intuitively, sometimes clients say “wow you’ve literally got into my head!” I also bring in handcrafted elements that I’ll create or ‘paint’ on my iPad to create an iconic and unique design experience. I’ve recently realised I offer more than just design as I’ve naturally been mentoring and helping with brand choices and business advice. I think clients appreciate my honesty, if I don’t think they need something I’ll tell them.
How do you approach your work from start to finish?
I pride myself on producing sustainable brands. So that in one or two years a brand identity hasn’t lost it’s wow or feels like it doesn’t fit. And that’s because I really think deeply, spend time uncovering brand truths and strategising before I even start designing. This means that the people I work with won’t just have a trend-driven logo that could easily be mistaken for one of those 1,09893948643 others on Pinterest! I often think of ideas when I’m outside walking, running, or weirdly in the shower - so lots of my deep thinking happens off-screen. I also spend time sketching and use my iPad with pro-create to draw and paint (it’s like having your own art studio!) so I’m producing original ideas unique to whoever I am working with.
When did spending time outdoors become important to you?
I’ve always loved being outdoors but didn’t really realise how much I needed it until recently! My business name Creative Wilderness is inspired by my love of nature as when I am in the wilderness I feel at my most creative and at one with my true self! I love the aliveness I feel when I’m hiking up a mountain or swimming in a freezing lake. I also find it hard to switch my busy mind off from work but when I’m out in nature I feel absorbed and truly in the present. If I don’t get outside much I feel down, hemmed in and out of touch with life. It’s incredible what even a 20 minute afternoon walk amongst the trees does to my mind too, I’m just in awe of the power of nature.
Where did the idea come from to run monthly business support sessions for conscious entrepreneurs?
It was on the way to a yoga day with my beautiful friend and yoga teacher Daria (@high_on_yoga). We were chatting about how soul-sucking we found networking and also that we wanted to share the books and podcast and business ideas we had with others. We were also passionate about how ‘conscious’ activities such as yoga, meditation, nature, etc really helped form and shape our businesses. We often found networking a waste of time, nothing learnt just business cards and over-selling in our faces! We started off in Chorlton and grew through word of mouth and via Instagram and now we hold mostly zoom sessions and welcome people from all around the world. It’s quite amazing that someone from India logs on and we share our struggles and come away feeling connected and positive! Each session starts with a meditation, then an inspiration share, then collective knowledge where we come together to help each other solve problems or work through ideas. I look forward to the sessions every month and feel I have a business family there to share my joy and also business pain with!
What important things have you learnt through your experience of setting up and running your business?
One thing I learnt last year was that I had to listen to my body and inner voice and rhythms when running my business otherwise my creativity diminishes and everything loses its spark. It can be hard not to push yourself on especially when comparison is everywhere we look. For me freedom, passion, purpose and joy are why I wanted to start my business, money was never really a big motivator. And I could quite easily say ‘yes’ to all the enquires that come in wanting me to start ASAP and earn double the amount, but when I take moments away on runs, meditations, long hikes or journaling I know that I want to work fewer hours but with more purpose, than more hours with frantic energy. I’ve also learnt how you can’t do it alone, so the @consciousmcr community and my self-employed friends I’ve met on the way have been such a support through the difficult times. I’ve also learnt that running a business is one of the most inspiring/difficult/fun/challenging/mind-blowing things I’ve ever done in my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
What question would you ask somebody who has tried out a few options along their career path but feels like they haven't found the right thing for them yet?
What are you passionate about? When you are relaxed and in the flow I’d encourage you to ask the question ‘what is my purpose’?
Sometimes I find vision boards work really well for getting in touch with your subconscious so I’d suggest also creating a vision board of what their dream career looks like. Once those core values and passions are defined then it can become easier to look at the more concrete aspects such as jobs, or businesses. I’ve had quite a varied career path, from originally training as a musician, then getting into design, working as a professional musician, quitting to become a music teacher, going freelance and then starting my own branding and design business -(with quite a few random jobs in between from working in a bakery to a residential outdoor teenager charity job). I’d say don’t be scared to experiment and sometimes we need to take a few paths before we find the right one that leads to the top of the mountain.
You can visit Charlotte's beautiful website Creative Wilderness and keep updated on the launch of her course where she'll also be sharing some exclusive extras by signing up to her 'Thoughts from the Wilderness' mailing list.
Hear more about Charlotte's work on these podcasts and soon we'll be recording an episode together too!
Conscious Entrepreneurs offers an alternative antidote to traditional networking where the focus is on connection and inspiration as opposed to self-promotion. It's an opportunity to make meaningful connections with like-minded entrepreneurs and businesses, listen to inspiring talks, take part in meditations and empowering business activities. Follow on Instagram for updates on monthly virtual meetups, walks in the countryside, and more.
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